To Drive Or Not To Drive That Is The Question
For young people on the spectrum and for their families, this is a BIG question.
Our son is almost 21 now and has had his driving license for two years. So we are able to reflect back on our decisions at the start of his life behind the wheel. And there are definitely some things we wouldnât do again.
Here are our familyâs top tips for people who are wondering whether learning to drive is for them.
No need to rushWe waited until our son was asking to learn to drive. This happened when he was almost 18, much later than his peers.
When he was younger I sometimes encouraged him to do things that his peers were doing but which he wasnât ready for, like joining sports teams. That was all about me not him.
So these days thereâs no rush, when he is ready to make some change he asks by himself.
Does your son or daughter really need to learn to drive?This depends on where you live of course. Our house is deep in the Sydney suburbs and a long way from the nearest bus stop. It makes our sonâs life so much easier to drive. It makes mine and my husbandâs much, much easier too.
Our son drives to his supported workplace four days a week. It isnât actually a long drive, maybe 15 minutes. But it would take over an hour if he went by public transport plus walking to the bus stop.
We gave him lifts up and down to the bus stop for years and itâs splendid not to, especially since we are still flat out with the younger kids.
Driving With Autism Resources
Driving Is A Huge Responsibility And Not For Everyone
Driving is a huge responsibility that one must be ready to handle. After I got my drivers license, I reluctantly drove for a few months. I then made the decision it was too overwhelming to me, so I stopped driving.
My mom became my official chauffeur. My mom was not the least bit upset at my decision. She sensed my intuition was correct. My classmates found this all quite hilarious and was great fodder for even more bullying. None of that was going to motivate me to drive. I simply knew I wasnt ready.
I didnt start driving again until I was 40. I still didnt know I was autistic, but I felt ready to take to the roads again. So, as if Id been doing it my whole life, I began to drive again. The more I drove, the more confident I became. I follow all the rules of the road and obey all the traffic laws.
Carry On The Conversation
Thats all I have to say for today. Now its time to hear from you. If you are autistic or if you know someone who is, have you got any stories which prove the mindblindness theory wrong? I would love to hear them in the comments below.
Also, if anyone has any further questions to ask Carolyn then send them my way and I will see if I can corner her into another interview.
As always, I can be found on Twitter and via my email: .
If you like what you have seen on the site today, then show your support by liking the and signing up to the Autistic & Unapologetic newsletter .
Thank you for reading and I will see you next Saturday for more thoughts from across the spectrum.
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We Cancel Plans At The Last Minute
Its always a bit of a gut punch when youre all dolled up ready to head out and, suddenly, your partner in crime cancels. But, whats more frustrating is when that person comes out with some lame excuse for why, i.e. my car broke down whilst I was on the way to wash my hair and I suddenly came down with the flu as my dog ate my homework
In reality, the autistic person in question would probably prefer to have had all the above happened as, the truth is, they likely have been hit by a truck of anxiety. This has been the case for me on so many occasions and, believe me, no matter how disappointed you are with us, we are likely to feel twice as bad about it ourselves.
So, if this happens to you, try and not pile onto our woes and maybe encourage us to open up about the thoughts holding us back. If we mention that we do want to go out, but are anxious about the unexpected, offer us a get out of jail free card by saying something like We can leave whenever you want . Furthermore, if the anxiety really is too much, why not move the evening plans to a lesser packed venue, such as someones home? Fun doesnt always have to involve overpriced drinks.
Autistic Spectrum Condition And Driving
You must tell DVLA if your autistic spectrum condition affects your ability to drive safely. This includes Asperger syndrome.
You can be fined up to £1,000 if you do not tell DVLA about a medical condition that affects your driving. You may be prosecuted if youre involved in an accident as a result.
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Teaching Your Child With Autism How To Drive
If you have a child with autism who has expressed interest in learning how to drive, it is important for you to know that they can do it. Learning to drive is an important step in the transition to adulthood for many adolescents.
Young adults, with and without autism, have personal, social, and employment-related reasons for wanting to learn to drive. For autistic individuals, its essential that their support team is fully on board with them learning to drive. Consult with your childs doctors and therapists before to embarking on this journey.
The process of teaching any teen or young adult to drive can be stressful. Parents of autistic children may face additional challenges in this process. Here are some tips for parents of an autistic child who is learning to drive:
The most important thing when teaching your autistic child to drive is to allow the learning to happen at their pace. Always stay calm, and do not worry if it takes your child longer than you think it should for them to learn a new skill. Its tough to see progress on a daily basis, but if you look at the growth over weeks or months, youll see they have come a long way.
There is no timeline for how long it should take to learn to drive. Let your childs motivation drive the learning process and do your best to support them along the way.
Autistic Kids Most Likely To Drive
Assuming all other factors are equal, there are some indicators of which kids and young adults with autism will do well driving and which ones will not.
The ASD diagnosis plus these factors indicate they are more likely to drive well:
- Driving goals as part of IEP
A parent with experience teaching another teen will more likely be better prepared to also teach their autistic child to drive too.
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I’m Not Staring I’m Actually Completely Dissociating From My Vision I’m Not Looking At You That Thing Or Anything That’s Just Where My Eyes Happened To Be Pointing When I Went ‘inside’ I Also Dissociate From My Vision Whenever I Am Actively Listening
“It wasn’t until I was 19 that someone pointed out that I was always ‘staring at their tits’ whenever I was talking with them. No, lady, your tits are just ‘down and out of the way,’ where my face is always pointed. Nowadays, I usually have the presence of mind to add ‘off to the left’ to my ‘down and out of the way.'” u/Jarhyn
Rules Of The Road: Driving And Asd
Getting behind the wheel of a car is a rite of passage for many teenagers, but for high-functioning individuals with autism spectrum disorders this task may prove particularly difficult. Along with the impulsivity, inexperience, and other traits of adolescence and young adulthood that can make driving a challenge, an individual with ASD may find him- or herself struggling with potential obstacles posed by autism itself. Can he or she quickly intuit and react to the “big picture” of any given driving situation? Can he or she interpret and respond to the actions, attitudes, or intentions of other drivers? Can he or she keep calm, neither overly anxious nor angry? Can he or she avoid “zoning out”?
This is an important area to explore, particularly as the high number of children with ASD1,2 transition to adulthood. Related research in the area of mobility of individuals with other disabilities, or of the elderly, shows that driving is an important aspect of community living and self-identity, enhancing the independence so key to physical and emotional health.3 From an economics perspective, mobility also can reduce the need for public supports. Many jobs require driving, and in many areas, public transportation may be unavailable or inconvenient.4 After all, to keep a job, you have to be able to get there.
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Challenges Experienced By Autistic Adolescents
Specialized driving instructors described the challenges encountered as varying from student to student, sharing If youve seen one kid with autism, youve seen one kid with autism. Theyre all so different . They explained that many of the symptoms of autism, such as poor motor control, sensory processing challenges, and visualmotor integration deficits, present challenges in learning to drive. One participant described that students have difficulty with bilateral integration, doing activities that involve coordinating their left hand and their right hand or integrating their upper body with their lower body , and another noted that there is difficulty with coordinating steering patterns, for example. They might do the pretzel arms where their two hands are glued on the wheel . Many students had limited experience with other forms of transportation or vehicle use, such as bicycling or lawn tractors, which contributed to challenges in controlling speed, maintaining lane position, and managing oncoming traffic.
Beyond the physical challenges, specialized driving instructors extensively described social challenges that could impair driving ability, including strict rule following and mental inflexibility, challenges in observing social cues, and distractibility or inattention. One participant detailed how this influenced their teaching approach:
Master Each Skill Before Moving Onto The Next
On average, autistic teens need more time to master skills and get their licenses. Spending the extra time developing these specific skills is worth it for their growth and safety. In addition to mastering existing skills, its important that the teen feels confident driving in familiar areas before they begin applying their skills in new areas. Once they feel fully confident in their existing skills and experience, it will be easier for them to begin learning more advanced skills.
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Determining Readiness To Drive
For autistic individuals, the decision to learn to drive is often a family decision. Getting a drivers license offers a certain level of freedom to get around on ones own, and it is a rite of passage for many young adults.
The discussion about driving readiness should include your developmental pediatrician or primary care physician and any other important members of your treatment team, such as occupational therapists, behavior therapists, counselors, and school staff members who contribute to an Individualized Education Plan.
Driver rehabilitation specialists who specialize or have training on working with people with special needs can also be consulted prior to starting lessons. They can provide behind-the-wheel lessons when the student is ready.
Ultimately, determining readiness to learn to drive is a personal and family decision. It also depends on the individuals interest in learning to drive. If an autistic individual doesnt have a desire to drive, there is little reason to embark on the endeavor.
Consider these questions in order to determine driving readiness:
Were Too Honest For Our Own Good
You would think that being truthful was something you would want to promote but, in the interest of sparing someones feelings, apparently, were expected to lie from time to time and, whats more, if you dont then youre the jerk!
Known as a white lie, this is something many autistic people have struggled with, due to our literal way of thinking. However, recent studies into autistic people and lying have suggested that its not quite as simple as we wont lie because we cant. Instead, reports fromQueens University have found that, when autistic people do speak out of turn, its because we see the make-believe as mean and often believe that it will be less upsetting, to tell the truth .
Given the reasoning behind this, I think it would do more harm than good to try and change this behaviour in autistic people. So, if you ask us a question you dont like the answer to, just remember that this is an opinion an opinion which, though indisputable in our eyes, is not necessarily fact.
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We Dont Always Follow The Rules
There are many rules in life which we have to learn that are never taught. For example, we say thank you for a gift regardless of whether we like it, or asking if someone else wants the last slice of anything . The problem is, these subtle social guidelines are everywhere and, more often than not, autistic people break them without a second thought.
Obviously, it is not an autistic persons intention to break these rules, its just that, as the autistic mind works on absolutes , it can be a challenge to understand many of these acts wherein nearly all cases they go against how they would seem i.e. if someone asks how are you? they dont always actually want to hear how you are, they just want you to say fine and then you can move on.
Nevertheless, whilst autistic people arent great at getting the message when the message hasnt been made clear, we are incredible at memorizing what we are told and are brilliant at following instructions to the letter. Therefore, if theres some kind of rule that an autistic person doesnt seem to be following, just tell us. its not like we want to be naïve to this and, whats more, if you know we struggle and arent doing anything about it, well that, my friend, is perhaps more rude than anything we do.
Do People With Autism Struggle With Driving
In the first pilot study asking adults on the autism spectrum about their experiences with driving, researchers at Drexel University found significant differences in self-reported driving behaviors and perceptions of driving ability in comparison to non-autistic adults. As the population of adults with autism continues growing rapidly, the survey provides a first step toward identifying whether this population has unmet needs for educational supports to empower safe driving a key element of independent functioning in many people’s lives.
“Previous research in my lab has included extensive research in driving capacity with people who have a variety of conditions such as multiple sclerosis or who had experienced traumatic brain injury,” said study co-author Maria Schultheis, PhD, an associate professor of psychology at Drexel. “When we investigate whether and under what circumstances a condition or neurological difference might affect driving ability, as a standard starting point we want to go to individuals and find out from their perspective what problems they are having on the road, in their real-world experience. That question is pivotal to shape and inform the goals of long-term research and is especially important when we turn to look at a developmental difference like autism, where there has been too little research to establish yet whether widespread driving difficulties exist.”
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What Its Like Being In A Relationship With An Autistic Person
With this is mind, I thought it would be a good idea to end todays article with a quick discussion of what its like to actually be in a relationship with an autistic person .
The interview which follows was carried out with my girlfriend and although I am in no way saying that our relationship in the benchmark, I thought it would serve as a solid example of what it can be like.
James: What did you think when you found out I was autistic, bearing in mind that I didnt tell you I was autistic, as I was beaten to the punch by our blabbermouth friend?
Carolyn: I didnt really care but then I didnt understand what autism was either. I had already got to know you at that stage cause we had been dating for at least a few months, so I dont think it would have made a difference even if I did know as much about it as I do now.
I was annoyed that you hadnt told me though, that was what surprised me most. I wish you had wanted to tell me sooner, so you could have been the one to explain how it affected you personally, instead of hearing it off someone else it shouldnt have been something you wanted to keep from me.
James: Would you say I have struggled to understand emotions and how has it affected you?
James: A need for routine has always been a huge part of my autism, how has this affected you?
James: Do you believe you have had to make any adjustments in life to stay with me?
James: MOVING ON.
James: How do you feel about all my hobbies and obsessions?
Autistic People Angry At Having To Disclose Diagnosis To Dvla Even If Driving Not Affected
EHRC says consultation about change in policy should have taken place
The National Autistic Society is challenging a decision by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency to force autistic people to inform them of their diagnosis even if it does not affect their driving.
The surprise change in policy which was not communicated to any autistic people, charities or medical professionals emerged after a person with autism contacted the NAS and told them the DVLA website said drivers must disclose if they have an autistic spectrum disorder.
Until recently, the website has simply said that drivers must tell the DVLA if they have an autistic spectrum disorder and it affects your driving. This is standard for many conditions. The final clause has been removed and is now in a separate paragraph warning of the risk of a £1,000 fine or possible prosecution if these drivers are involved in an accident.
The Labour MP Jess Phillips joined in with criticism of the decision and said she would take the matter further, tweeting: Believe me when I say I will be asking the Equality and Human Rights Commission to look into this.
Sophie Walker, the former leader of the Womens Equality party whose daughter is autistic also called for the EHRC to investigate. This is discrimination, she said. Im furious. I am going to follow this up next week.
We always keep our advice under review and work with our independent medical panels to do so.
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