“Driving with Autism and other Communication Impediments”

:30 Public Service Announcement

We at Aspergers101 would like to thank all who’ve taken part in getting the “Driving with Autism and other Communication Impediments” initiative state-wide in Texas! Through your comments we’ve edited the final Public Service Announcement, added closed captioning and it is now airing across Texas on both TV and radio stations…thank you! The framed posters and informative tri-fold brochures are now in all DPS Driver License Offices informing citizens of their option to utilize the restriction code informing law enforcement of the diagnosis of: Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Deafness, Parkinson’s Disease, Mild Intellectual Disability, Down Syndrome, Mutism and other communication challenges. You will begin to see other diagnosis highlighted, we will have someone whose been deaf since birth sign in a PSA similar to Sams. What a blessed journey this has been for our family…to God be the Glory, great things he has done.  – Jennifer Allen/Founder & CEO Aspergers101

 

So what is a communication impediment with a Peace Officer? 
Most common diagnosis 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.

How can you get Communication Impediment with a Peace Officer on your Texas driver license or state ID?

Only two actions required:
1. Have your doctor complete and sign a Physician’s Statement, Form DL101, affirming the Autism, Asperger, speech disability or other appropriate diagnosis.
2. On driver license application KL14A/S be sure and complete line 7 on the form.

For more information contact Jennifer Allen at: jallen100@att.net or go to: https://aspergers101.com/drivingwithautism/  

Aspergers and Driver’s Ed: The Options Available to You

Driving with Autism in Texas

This blog was originally published when Jennifer had initially discovered the discrepancies in the Texas State DPS system when it came to the “Communication Impediment” as an option for those with Autism. Since then, Jennifer and Aspergers101 have worked tirelessly to change current laws and promote this beneficial option for drivers with Autism in Texas. To learn more about what Jennifer Allen and Aspergers101 have done for drivers with Autism in the state of Texas, go here:

Driving with Autism Initiative

Having a son with Aspergers Syndrome is always a learning curve. I haven’t had a living template from which to go by. Every small milestone in Sam’s young life has seemed so much larger hurdling than it was in mine or my husband’s life. So as we approached the driver’s education opportunity in high school, we rolled up our sleeves and got busy in research. Though gifted with a high intellect, oftentimes those with Aspergers Syndrome or High functioning Autism are 2 to 3 years behind on an emotional level. Emotions often play into driving (ie…people with road rage) so I took that into account when Sam approached the typical 16 year old age of driving.

While we wanted him to go with his class, we held back a bit and it didn’t seem to bother Sam.

We waited a year for Drivers Ed and I went to the district, before he began, and spoke to the Director of Student Driving about Aspergers Syndrome.

They were aware of it but I made sure the driving instructor assigned to Sam knew about how sarcasm, loud noises from fellow student drivers or impromptu journeys would not fare well. Though a bit older than the other student drivers, Sam did well and completed the course.

The next big step was the actual test at the DPS. Here is where I want to share valuable information!

Through persistence on our part, we were able to have “Communication Impediment” put on the restrictions section (where they list use for glasses and such) of Sam’s Drivers license. This offers some security for when/if Sam is pulled over by a policeman and the officer is threatening to him. The officer will see on Sam’s license that he has Autism, and difficulty communicating as we know could be misconstrued for bad attitude.

Please check into this for yourself or for your child’s sake! You might have to put on your investigative hat (our local DPS office had never heard of this). But, when they checked with the state level (we’re in Texas) it was confirmed you could put Autism in the computer with “Communication Impediment” on the backside of the license under restrictions.

Sam is 19 now and just got his first vehicle.

He drives to the nearest community college and to work by himself. He is a good driver but by holding him back a bit (let the emotion catch up) and mapping out a driving route with least potential issues, this hurdle wasn’t so high after all.

by Jennifer Allen

Understanding and Managing Sensory Issues While Driving

Driving with Autism

Every inexperienced driver can get nervous when they first begin to drive. In the case of Aspergers drivers, those nerves jangle even more, as they take in a lot more stimuli in the driver’s seat. Tension arises due to many, and frequently simultaneous, stimuli input.

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These include general anxiety, excessive sunlight, car and traffic noises (i.e. horns honking), bumps, high speed, and excessively high and low temperatures in the car. Any one of these stimuli potentially triggers meltdowns and panic attacks; not ideal when behind the wheel. Fortunately, there are methods to manage and control such stimuli to make them pleasant, instead of unpleasant.

First, allow the Aspergers individual to practice driving while paying attention to the stimuli that s/he finds most unpleasant and pleasant. Then, make a plan to control it all.

Temperature and Light

With regard to stimulus management, simple adjustments often provide the necessary resolutions. For example, climate control adjusts temperature, while sun visors and sunglasses can protect against excessive sunlight and glare.

In the case of night driving, excess light comes in the form of headlights of oncoming vehicles. Looking away and using the road lines helps, as long as the driver pays attention to traffic, signs, and lights as well.

Seatbelt

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

Aspergers101 Driving with Autism

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:

Aspergers Drivers Can Use Their Detail-Oriented Thinking for Challenging Situations

Driving with Autism Series

For the typical driver, it is no problem to carry out the basic modes of driving, such as changing lanes, driving at night, in precipitation, on ice, in fog, off-road, or in heavy traffic. However, the Aspergers driver usually has significant difficulty with any one of these things, if not all of them. Fortunately, there are strategies to overcome all of these obstacles. An Aspergers driver, like any other driver, must get experience because of the countless possibilities for any given scenario. After all, every situation is unique. Yet, even the inexperienced Aspergers driver can get a mind for it all using simplification in techniques. Among these techniques are:

driver

For any situation

  1. Be sure that you do not rely on quick glances or peripheral vision, even though an Aspergers driver’s eyesight may be 20/20. Instead, analyze what you see and be prepared if something or someone moves in front of you (forward) or behind your vehicle (reverse) and do not use the accelerator when just starting to drive unless necessary for reverse movement; keep brake covered as much as possible and come to a complete stop before shifting gears.
  2. Know which window or mirror to use in a given instant
    • Ex: Side mirror + blind spot mirror and looking over your shoulder to change lanes

For lower-visibility situations

At night or during inclement weather:

  1. Do not solely rely on plain judgment if eyesight becomes less dependable; use tricks, such as watching for cars with no headlights on or using the shoulder line technique when oncoming lights are excessively bright;
  2. NEVER stare into any lights at night; it impedes vision;
  3. Know the different colors and flash frequencies of various kinds of lights and combine them with sounds to identify what occurs in a given instant; ex: yellow flashing lights could be tow truck or other work vehicle;
  4. Use high beams, but not to disturb other drivers, pedestrians, or people inside buildings upon which the beams project;
  5. Always use headlights when darkness falls, when street lights come on, in inclement weather, or when use is required by law in a given area;
  6. Use various frequencies of wipers, depending on how much precipitation covers windshield every second; not too slow and not too fast.

These are a few of the many examples of how Aspergers drivers can utilize their own strength of detail-oriented thinking to break down relatively complex driving issues. Such a mindset ensures that the driver does not miss important details that can save many lives.

Learn more about AS101’s “Driving with Autism” here!

Please consider donating to help support this initiative.

DONATE TODAY

drivig-with-autism-decal-with-texas-2

“Driving with Autism” is an Aspergers101 series that educates and empowers the driver diagnosed with High-Functioning Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome. Aspergers101 has teamed up with the Texas DPS in training Texas State Troopers about the uniqueness of Autism and understanding the Autistic driver. This partnership is garnering encouraging results.

by Reese Eskridge

Reese Eskridge

Reese Eskridge is a Production Technician with Fairville Products, who is passionate about working in the sciences (biology) and wishes to take his work experiences further into the fields of Educational Neuroscience; Science Fiction; Freelance Writing; Disability Advocacy; Public Speaking; Leadership and Entrepreneurship. Aspergers101 is proud to offer the insights and perceptions of the talented Mr. Eskridge, who is obviously living life on the spectrum to it’s fullest!

You may contact Reese at: reeseesk@udel.edu

Dr. Temple Grandin: Practice Prior to Drivers Ed

AS101 Driving with Autism

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.

Tips for the Aspergers 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:

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.

The Aspergers Driver and Keeping Focus

Driving with Autism Series

Parents often find that they must explain things in full detail and repeat the same things many times for their Aspergers children. This stems from the fact that Aspergers individuals often forget things that lie outside of their general sense of familiarity or that they spontaneously lose their focus when they fixate on a particular sight.

In addition, Aspergers individuals often take caution when dealing with matters unfamiliar or unsafe to them. They want to know all details before tackling something new, challenging, or risky. This is especially true in the case of the inexperienced Aspergers driver.

Of course, any typical vehicle has everything necessary to allow the driver to observe his surroundings by default. The real issue is that the driver often has trouble effectively using those tools across a wide variety of scenarios, such as lane-changing, crosswalks, hills, and sharp turns with limited forward visibility.

Whether the issue encompasses infrequent use or misuse, the Aspergers driver takes unnecessary risks when they fail to use the proper techniques that ensure safe travels.

There is one simple three-step solution to this issue:

  1. The driver must educate themself before taking to the streets
  2. The driver must get experience in using all features of the car to their advantage in every possible way
  3. Always know where to look in a given moment when driving; use all mirrors frequently and know when to use each of them the most

Learn more about AS101’s “Driving with Autism” here!

Please consider donating to help support this initiative.

Or buy your own “Driving with Autism” car decals and magnets!

DONATE TODAY

drivig-with-autism-decal-with-texas-2

“Driving with Autism” is an AspDriving with Autism logoergers101 series that educates and empowers the driver diagnosed with High-Functioning Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome. Aspergers101 has teamed up with the Texas DPS in training Texas State Troopers about the uniqueness of Autism and understanding the Autistic driver. This partnership is garnering encouraging results.

Article by Reese Eskridge

Reese Eskridge

Reese Eskridge is a Production Technician with Fairville Products, who is passionate about working in the sciences (biology) and wishes to take his work experiences further into the fields of Educational Neuroscience; Science Fiction; Freelance Writing; Disability Advocacy; Public Speaking; Leadership and Entrepreneurship. Aspergers101 is proud to offer the insights and perceptions of the talented Mr. Eskridge, who is obviously living life on the spectrum to it’s fullest!

You may contact Reese at: reeseesk@udel.edu