Though driving with an Autism diagnosis is not for everyone, many do decide to obtain their driver license and go on to live independent lives. Aspergers101 teamed with Dr. Temple Grandin to provide helpful information when considering if driving is for you, or your teen.
Long before driver education, Temple suggests first mastering your skills by practicing on a bicycle (coordination, motor skills). Then tackle driving in a safe remote area such as the country or large parking lot. You’ll begin mastering such challenging tasks, such as multi-tasking, prior to any driving on congested roadways.
One suggestion she has is that before you take a driver education course, you need to find a safe place and practice, and after that, practice even more! Getting the ‘knack’ of driving includes working on your coordination, motor skills, and multi-tasking which all come into play when learning to drive, even more so for those on the autism spectrum.
Anxiety can often be reduced (for the driver with Autism) by lots of driving practice in a safe remote location.
– Dr. Temple Grandin
Once you’ve mastered working the brake, blinker, gas and other essential tasks while driving, you’ll then be ready to be thrown into a group/driver education training.
Another recommendation from Dr. Grandin is to practice a role-play scenario as if an officer of the law were approaching your vehicle. Practice the steps of rolling down the window, then keeping your hands in view of the officer (a good place is the steering wheel). Once the officer asks for your driver license, let the trooper know that you are now going to reach for your purse or wallet to get your license.
Practice, or role-playing certain scenarios that can occur while driving will help keep the Autistic driver’s anxiety down. Surprises are scary, so the more prepared the driver is, the less chance there is for a panic attack or even a meltdown. Taking it slow and honing in on the basic driving skills prior to taking a public or private driver education class is key. You can then slowly move to practicing on a more congested highway system. These skills will be instrumental for a life-long confidence while driving.