Utah’s autism awareness license plate could vanish

Posted at 7:38 PM, Apr 02, 2013
and last updated 2013-04-02 21:38:34-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- More children in the U.S. will be diagnosed with autism this year than with aids, diabetes and cancer combined, but one tool used to spread awareness of autism could be in trouble.

The state of Utah offers drivers several custom license plates for a small fee, including one for autism.  The extra money paid goes to the organization associated with the plate, but the Autism Council of Utah may see their custom license plate become a thing of the past if enough people don’t purchase them.

World Autism Day was Tuesday, and Cheryl Smith, who heads the Autism Council of Utah, spoke about the importance of raising awareness of the condition that affects children like her son.

“We call autism the invisible disability because they look just like beautiful kids, but when you see their behaviors you wonder, you know, ‘what are their parents like?’ or, 'What's going on with that kid?'” she said.

The Autism Council of Utah began selling their autism awareness license plate through the DMV three years ago. Smith said the plate costs about $25 extra to get, and she said 100 percent of the money they raise goes back to the community.

“We've funded a program in Bountiful for Sahara Cares for their carnival,” she said. “We've funded an adolescent program in Utah County. We have funded exercise equipment for an adult program here at CTA in Salt Lake City.”

But Smith said the unique source of funding could soon come to an end.

“They passed a law that said you have to sell 500 license plates, and so far we've only sold 275 in the state of Utah,” she said. “We need to sell 500 by June, or they can say, 'you're done' in the next legislative session.”

The license plates can be purchased at the Department of Motor Vehicles, or by visiting the Autism Council of Utah’s website. The cost for the plate is $25 annually. A $10 special plate fee, a $5 new registration and decal fee, and a $3 postage fee also apply when the plate is obtained.