Preparing the Autistic Driver for the Road: A Look at Motor Skills

Aspergers101 asks the experts about driving safely with Autism. In this blog we focus especially on preparing to drive with motor skill challenges.

Dr. Berenice de la Cruz, Training and Research Director at the Autism Community Network, offers a great overview into the differences of the Autistic brain and how those differences affect the skills it takes to drive.


Dr. Berenice de la Cruz/Training and Research Director/Autism Community Network

There are three structural differences in the Autistic brain. These differences will most likely affect:

  1. motor skills
  2. communication (social) skills
  3. sensory processing

Both fine and gross motor skills are typical challenges for many diagnosed with High Functioning Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome. implicit_learning_hero

So when it comes to learning to drive, or at least considering if driving may be an option, it is imperative to overcome the challenges that can impede safe driving.

Dr. Temple Grandin asserts that if she did not have the ability to drive she would never have been able to visit all of the feed/stock yards to do her prep work for her cattle handling designs. When learning to drive motor skills can be a challenge, especially with multi-tasking, but not impossible to overcome.

Dr. Grandin’s advice is to practice, a lot:

Free 4 You: Driving With Autism webinar kicks off Thursday

by Lynette Vega, SBG San Antonio Monday, November 18th 2019

WOAI News 4- San Antonio

SAN ANTONIO — An initiative in Texas is creating safer interactions between law enforcement and those on the autism spectrum. It’s called the Texas Driving With Autism Initiative and a free webinar will be held for the public to learn more about it.

To register for the free webinar, CLICK HERE.

WEBINAR: Driving with Autism Texas Initiative

Sign Up Here For November 21st Webinar sharing all components of this trail-blazing initiative. Oh…it’s free!

Register Online Now for the Texas Driving with Autism Webinar! The Driving with Autism initiative is a first-of-its-kind program out of Texas that is improving interactions between law enforcement and drivers diagnosed with a communication challenge. Now we want to share the entire initiative with other states, law enforcement agencies and organizations who desire to duplicate the successful program. The One-Hour webinar will be hosted by Ron Lucey, the Executive Director of the Texas Governors Committee on People with Disabilities. Join Jennifer Allen, Executive Director of Aspergers101 and the force behind the initiative, Jeremiah Kuntz, Director of Vehicle Titles & Registration of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, and Skylor Hearn, Lieutenant Colonel of the Department of Public Safety as they cover the development and details of the program. Templates, videos and downloadables will be provided. There is no cost. A Q&A will follow the presentation.

What You Will Learn

1) “Communication Impediment” on State Driver’s License and ID: Offering this restriction code on Texas Driver License and State ID’s cover many diagnosis including Autism and the Deaf community. We will discuss all the diagnosis, the internal process and how to effectively market this message statewide via TV, radio and within every DPS Driver License Office. Templates included
2) Texas Law Enforcement Training: We will go over training materials and how Texas is reaching all it’s law enforcement agencies regarding understanding those with a communication challenge during a traffic stop. Also discussed will be overview of a medical study (poster) published on the effectiveness of the training on mental disorders with Texas State Troopers and what the findings mean to law enforcement agencies.
3) New Option for Disclosure in State Law Enforcement Telecommunication System: With the recent passage of the Samuel Allen Law, Texas drivers now have the option to place “Communication Impediment” in the Texas Law Enforcement Communication System (TLETS), which will alert officers prior to approaching the vehicle during a traffic stop. What does this mean for both officers and drivers and how did we pass legislation.
Bonus: Texas Driving with Autism Camp – Aspergers101 teamed up with Texas DPS Training Facility in Florence Texas to develop and offer it’s citizens a “Driving with Autism” Camp. This unique day long camp offers a one-to-one participant to trooper ratio, allowing participants hands-on experience with a law enforcement pull-over situation with no cost to the family or participant. We will share it components with you!
 

When: Thursday, November 21, 2019 at 10a – 11a (CST)

Presenters:

Jeremiah Kuntz
Director of Vehicle Titles & Registration @Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (TxDMV)
Jennifer Allen Founder & CEO Aspergers101 & “Driving with Autism’ initiative

Skylor Hearn Lt. Colonel @Texas Department of Public Safety

Overview of the Texas Driving with Autism Initiative:

KXAN -TV Sept 2019: Texas Driving with Autism Initiative





Dr. Temple Grandin on Driving with Autism: Practice!

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.

San Antonio Family’s Autism Education Efforts Lead to New State Law

by: Roseanna Garza/Rivard Report
August 29th 2019

“A patrol officer driving on a local freeway came across a young man wielding a two-by-four in the middle of the inside lane as cars zoomed quickly past. Upon approaching him, the officer, whom SAPD declined to identify, quickly recognized the youth had a cognitive impairment and was not suffering from mental health or substance abuse issues.

Using communication skills learned from the Allens, the officer talked the young man into putting the piece of lumber down, and then helped him get off the freeway and return safely home.”

-San Antonio Police Chief William McManus  (for the rest of this story, click on the link above)

BONNIE ARBITTIER / RIVARD REPORT

New Law Protects Texas Drivers diagnosed with Autism, Deaf or Hard of Hearing

EXPLAINED: The New Process and Form(s) for Registering your Vehicle as a Person with a Communication Challenge in Texas

Effective September 1st 2019: The Samuel Allen Law (Senate Bill 976) enacted by the 86th Legislature, adds Transportation Code Section 502.061, allowing an applicant to voluntarily indicate at the time of initial registration or registration renewal that they have a health condition or disability that may impede effective communication with law enforcement.

Samuel Allen/Spokesperson Driving with Autism Initiative

Present the completed certification below to your local county tax assessor-collector’s office when applying for initial registration or renewing registration. Presentation of the completed certification will authorize the addition of a communication impediment notation to your motor vehicle record. This notation will inform law enforcement you have a health condition or disability that may impede effective communication with a peace officer.

Background

The Samuel Allen Law will allow a person challenged with communication, (Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Deafness, Hard of Hearing, PTSD, Parkinson’s disease, Mild Intellectual Disability and more) the option for disclosure when registering their vehicle through the Texas DMV. Communication Impediment will be privately placed in the Texas Law Enforcement Telecommunication System (TLETS) thus alerting the officer of the challenge PRIOR to approaching the vehicle in a pull-over scenario. This unprecedented law will not only save lives by alerting law enforcement for better communication, but will also keep the diagnosis hidden from public scrutiny as opposed to bumper stickers or license plate designations. Note: Texas DPS already offers “Communication Impediment with a Peace Officer” as an optional restriction code on State Driver License or ID. 

Form VTR-216 (below) must be completed by a licensed physician if the applicant has a physical health condition or a licensed physician, licensed psychologist, or a non-physician mental health professional if the applicant has a mental health condition. Form VTR-216 is available online at www.TxDMV.gov or you may click on the form below to download here.

Click on Form to Download

If you choose the option to disclose a communication impediment to be placed privately in the Texas TLETS, you will need to submit Form VTR-216 at time of vehicle registration renewal with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. The Samuel Allen Law takes effect September 1st, 2019 in the state of Texas.

What constitutes a Communication Challenge (Impediment)? 

Most common diagnoses include: Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Mild intellectual disability, Deafness, Speech & languages disorders, Expressive Language Disorder, Down Syndrome, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Deafness, Brain Injury or Parkinson’s Disease

For more information on the Texas Driving with Autism initiative and the Samuel Allen Law click here.

For questions regarding the process of vehicle registration with the Texas Department of Vehicles, you may contact:

Caroline Love/Director of the Government and Strategic Communications Division for Texas DMV
Caroline.Love@txdmv.gov (512) 465-1484

Samuel Allen Honored at Texas State Capitol

Effective Sept. 1st 2019, The Samuel Allen Law will allow individuals with conditions that may affect their communication abilities, the option to disclose that information when registering a vehicle with Texas Department of Motor Vehicles

AUSTIN, TX (August 15th 2019) Samuel Allen speaks to the media from the Texas State Capitol/Governor’s Press Room

AUSTIN, Texas — Aspergers101’s Samuel Allen was honored at the Texas State Capitol yesterday for his work pushing for an act that helps individuals with conditions that may affect their communication abilities better interact with law enforcement.

What this Means to Texas Drivers

Senate Bill 976 (SB 976), also known as the “Samuel Allen Law,” allows a person with a condition or disability that may cause them communication issues – such as Autism, Asperger’s, Deafness or Hearing Impairment, PTSD, Parkinson’s and more – the option to disclose that information when registering their vehicle through the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles

If an individual with one of these conditions has elected to make that known on their vehicle registration and then they are pulled over, the Texas Law Enforcement Telecommunications System will alert the officer prior to approaching the vehicle that the person may have trouble communicating.

The act also removes the need for a bumper sticker or license plate marking so the driver’s condition is kept private. The Samuel Allen Law, which goes into effect September 1st, will be the first of its kind in the nation.

Jennifer Allen, Founder/CEO of Aspergers101 and championing the “Driving with Autism” initiative, said that the passage of SB 976: The Samuel Allen Law is the remaining piece of the puzzle for the program she began almost 5 years ago with Texas DPS. Supported by the Texas Governors Committee on People with Disabilities, Allen’s “Driving with Autism” initiative has three (interacting) working components to better communication between Law enforcement and Texas citizens with autism or other communication challenges:

  1. Driver License – Option for Texas Drivers to place “Communication Impediment” as a DPS restriction code directly on the Driver License or State ID with state-wide marketing campaign including placing informative posters and brochures in all Texas DPS offices.
  2. Law Enforcement Training – Texas Law enforcement training modules placed directly in TCOLE (the online training for all Texas law enforcement) to better understand drivers diagnosed with autism and/or other “Communication impediments”
  3. TLETS- Option for Texas Drivers to acknowledge a “Communication impediment” upon DMV vehicle registration thus alerting officers privately through Texas Law Enforcement Telecommunication System (TLETS).

What constitutes a Communication Challenge? 

Most common diagnoses include: Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Mild intellectual disability, Deafness, Speech & languages disorders, Expressive Language Disorder, Down Syndrome, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Deafness, Brain Injury or Parkinson’s Disease.

For more information on the process of registering your vehicle with Texas DMV, please contact:

Caroline Love/Division Director/TxDMV Government and Strategic Communications 512.465.4019 Caroline.Love@TxDMV.gov

Click here for more information on The Samuel Allen Law and the “Driving with Autism” Texas initiative:

More on Driving with Autism Initiative

For Drivers with ASD A Visual Checklist for Complete Vehicle Maintenance

The importance of understanding how to maintain your car

Drivers with ASD, especially those who have little experience, often neglect to learn about vehicle maintenance. They do not receive car maintenance information in driver’s education courses and may feel persuaded to initially think that it does not matter.

Car Speedometer Symbols

Unfortunately, when lights come on in their cars or if their cars unexpectedly die on them, they may become confused as to how to deal with such situations. Parents must educate their driving children, especially those with Aspergers, about the various situations that could arise when transportation fails. These issues include schedule changes and a dependency on alternative transportation.

Behind the Wheel with Autism: A Personal Perspective

Having lived in several different cities, I can attest that it most certainly is not a regional thing: you’ll run into idiot drivers no matter where you live. It isn’t profound at all; many casual conversations begin with a gripe about traffic on the way to someplace or another, or end up there eventually. Driving is a serious source of stress for many, even under the best circumstances. And for people diagnosed with Autism, they are already functioning under decidedly less than the best of circumstances, and the idea of getting behind the wheel can cause anxiety.

I found that I did not have a great deal of difficulty behind the wheel. Having a nice, large, rarely-traveled stretch of land to practice on, and taking as many opportunities to practice, is the first thing I recommend for those who are diagnosed and want to drive. It certainly helped me. After enough practice, it became second-nature.

Contrary to the assumption that driving is the natural enemy of the Autistic because it demands multi-tasking, it really isn’t so difficult as all that. It has a nice and structured set of regulations, and your task is simple: start at one location, and control the vehicle in order to safely reach the next.

Anyone who has ever played a game, whether analog or digital, can tell you that while rules and setup are intimidating at first, once you see how it’s done and try it for yourself, it isn’t as hard as all that.

To the Autistic person who wants to learn to drive but feels rather intimidated, just think of it as a video game.

Tips for the Asperger Driver When Being Pulled Over by an Officer

AS101 Driving with Autism

For many with Autism a fear of driving stems from anxiety that can result from being pulled over by an officer of the law. In some cases, fear of just that very scenario is the reason many never pursue obtaining their driver’s license.

pull over, police officer

Good communication skills and actions are key to making an already stressful situation go without incident for anyone, but with the diagnosis of autism, Aspergers, or speech impediments misinterpretation is almost a certainty. Dr. Louise O’Donnell, who specializes in Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology at UT Health Science Center in San Antonio Texas, offers suggestions to make a ‘pull-over’ go without incident.


Dr. Louise O’Donnell/UTHSC : Part 1

Things to remember when you are pulled over: