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

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“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.

Texas Driver License Now Recognizes Those Who are Deaf or Hearing Impaired

Aspergers101 Exclusive

If you reside in the state of Texas, you are now able to get a restriction code directly on your driver license (or State ID) stating you are hearing impaired or deaf. It’s called Communication Impediment with a Peace Officer and it is available to anyone challenged with communication such as Deafness, Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Parkinson’s, Mild Intellectual Disability, Down Syndrome, Mutism, PTSD and more.

This is the same campaign Aspergers101 initiated over 2 years ago resulting in Texas Legislative changes, however now the campaign is alerting residents statewide of the broader options, notably, the 7% who are hearing impaired.  Emma Faye Rudkin, has graciously accepted the role of spokesperson in our statewide Public Service Campaign now airing throughout Texas. Emma is profoundly deaf since an early age illness but has become a major advocate for those who cannot hear. She is the founder of the non-profit organization Aid the Silent, in 2017 became Miss San Antonio and San Antonio Woman of the Year in the SABJ 2018 class of 40 Under 40.  Her faith in Jesus is her strength and her passion for others drives her onward. She is inspired and inspires. We at Aspergers101 are grateful for Emma’s participation in the Driving with Autism and other Communication Impediments initiative in alerting others of the new driver license code.

The :30 PSA, as seen below, notifies drivers of the code and how it may save them in a pull-over scenario.

Our interview with Emma Faye Rudkin below:

AS101: Why do you think this new Texas DPS code is a good thing for those who are deaf or hard of hearing?

Emma Faye Rudkin: The new restriction code is crucial as a deaf person. My biggest anxiety while driving is being pulled over and unable to understand the officer. This removes a lot of barriers for deaf people and it is clearer than the old code. Officers need to be notified right away as they look at my license instead of me struggling to explain that I am deaf and need help communicating. The new code makes it obvious for the officer at the beginning to understand I cannot hear his instructions and questions.

I read a horrifying story of a deaf man being killed in Oklahoma by a police officer because of miscommunication and not following his instructions. That could happen to any deaf person if 

Unlocking the Potential: A Day with Dr. Temple Grandin

Part 1: Driving with Autism: Luncheon with SAPD

Last week Aspergers101 was proud to host a day of Autism awareness and enlightenment in San Antonio Texas. First we co-hosted a luncheon alongside San Antonio Chief of Police, William McManus regarding the
Driving with Autism statewide initiative. Over 25 law enforcement agencies were represented as well as city officials.  All came together to hear about the new Texas driver license restriction code, Communication Impediment with a Peace Officer and how that may look in a pull-over scenario. Though Dr. Grandin’s plane was delayed, she made her entrance to speak to the officers just as the luncheon drew to a close..a great way to end on a high note!


SA Police Chief William McManus (R) discusses Driving with Autism with Aspergers101 Senior Editor Gabriela Lemos (L)

Jennifer and Samuel Allen present understanding Autism and those with a communication challenge.

Dr. Temple Grandin stands alongside SAPD law enforcement


Jennifer Allen and Samuel Allen presented the impact of the Autistic Brain when encountering drivers displaying the new code. Below lists some of the topics covered to the full house of law enforcement officers:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Temple Grandin spoke on the importance of allowing the person with Autism the time to respond. “A person with a communication impediment is like a computer that slowly scrolls to catch up. You’ve got to allow them time respond when confronted with an officer of the law.”

 

Unlocking the Potential: An Evening with Dr. Temple Grandin

Tickets Now on Sale!

Photo: Matt Nager Photography

It is with great enthusiasm that we will welcome Dr. Temple Grandin to San Antonio and South Texas during Autism Awareness Month, April 19th, for an insightful and encouraging evening titled: Unlocking the Potential. We can hardly wait!

Dr. Grandin will share her personal story and insights on how to prepare for a productive life of independence living with Autism. Attendees will also hear from Chief People Officer Tina James to learn how local industry giant HEB is launching an innovative program that utilizes the talents of those on the spectrum. Mr. Ron Lucey, the Executive Director of the Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities will open the evening with a message from our state’s capitol.  Asperger101’s Unlocking the Potential will be an evening well spent for those seeking encouragement and concrete guidance for living to the highest potential with Autism and Asperger Syndrome.

We hope you enjoy!     -Aspergers101

Evening Line-Up
5:30p – 6:30p 
VIP Meet and Greet with Temple Grandin, Tina James, and Ron Lucey
 
Hors d’oeuvres in the mezzanine catered by Page Barteau
(VIP Tickets Only)
  • Three cheese stuffed mushrooms topped with panko breadcrumbs
  • Fresh tomato, house pulled mozzarella and basil skewers drizzled with a balsamic reduction
  • Chicken wrapped in bacon and stuffed with jalapeños
  • Beef tenderloin sliders served on a yeast roll with raspberry chipotle
Book signing beginning at 6p
 
6:30p 
Doors open for general admission & continued book signing 
7:00p – 8:45p 
Speaker Presentations:
Jennifer and Samuel Allen
Co-Founders of Aspergers101 and Driving with Autism
  • Evening Co-Hosts
Ron Lucey
Executive Director of the Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities
  • Equal Access to Independence (How Texas is leading the nation in supporting citizens who have diagnoses that could cause communication impediments with a peace officer on the road)
Gail Saltz, MD (special pre-recorded video)
Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the New York Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell School of Medicine and a psychoanalyst with the New York Psychoanalytic Institute
  • Pre-recorded video: The Power of Different (Dr. Saltz will not be present but has recorded a special video for the event referring to her latest book, an illuminating and uplifting examination of the link between brain differences and aptitude)
Tina James
Chief People Officer at HEB
  • Bridges: Connecting Extraordinary People to Career Opportunities (Announcing a new program placing college graduates with High-Functioning Autism or Asperger’s in the IS department at HEB)
Temple Grandin, Ph.D.
Inventor and Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University
  • Diagnosis to Adulthood: Preparing for a Life of Independence (Dr. Grandin’s personal story and guidance in building a life of independence for those with Asperger’s)

Drivers with autism encouraged to put extra info on license

By: Wes Rapaport

As the Aspergers101 “Driving with Autism” initiative sweeps Texas, we are thrilled to have been featured in a news report by Nexstar Broadcasting reporter Wes Rapaport.

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A new public service announcement was unveiled urging drivers with autism to consider applying for a note on their driver’s license that informs law enforcement about potential interaction challenges. The video message informs Texans about the “communication impediment” restriction code.

Samuel Allen, who is on the autism spectrum, said having the marker on his driver’s license feels “like a big safety net,” and makes him more comfortable when he gets in his car.

“If I showed [it] to the officer, they are going to know that I have autism or some kind of impediment that will keep me from communicating properly with the officer,” Allen explained.

An example of a "communication impediment" note, listed on the back of a sample driver license. (File photo)

An example of a “communication impediment” note, listed on the back of a sample driver license. (Jennifer Allen photo)

Legislation was passed in the last session that took effect in September, allowing brochures and posters highlighting the “communication impediment” code, in large part due to work done by Aspergers101, which Allen’s mother Jennifer founded.

“I’m just a mom of a son with autism that I want him to be protected, and it just happened to be there are open doors to make policy changes that make commonsense,” Jennifer Allen said. She added that she worried about her son being pulled over or having some other need to interact with an officer, and not having the tools necessary to successfully navigate those challenges.

“We can’t rely on other cards and things that they can reach and give to an officer of the law because that could be misconstrued as they’re reaching for a weapon, so if it’s directly on the driver’s license then that is indeed a safety net,” she stated.

Join Aspergers101 as we skate for Autism/Asperger Awareness! Let’s all go to a true San Antonio’s landmark…The Rollercade for one more roll around the rink before school sets in. The nostalgic wooden rink will take you back to a day long gone and owner and USA Sports Roller Hall of Famer, Verna Quaranto will keep it a sensory-friendly skate for our 2-hour designated celebration! 100% of entry fee(s) will be donated to the outreach programs offered through Aspergers101…come see us!

 

Date:August 17, 2017
Event:Skate for Autism/Asperger Awareness!
Venue: The Rollercade
(210) 826-6361
Location:223 Recoleta Rd, San Antonio, TX
San Antonio, Texas 78216
United States
Public:Public

We Need Your Help to Fund Our Statewide Driving with Autism Initiative

conference img 3Want to be a part of something big? Aspergers101 has come so far with our Driving with Autism initiative. Now we need to get the word out about the opportunities available for Texas drivers with Autism, and we need your help.

We’re raising funds for the awareness of the new Texas “Driving with Autism” initiative! This program informs and trains law enforcement on best practices for handling people with a Communication Impediment such as Autism, Aspergers, brain injury, Parkinson, deafness and in some cases, Down Syndrome.

Your contribution will help us place these informative brochures and posters into every high school, library, and Autism organization across the state. 100% of the funds raised will go toward printing and mailing costs. We have come so far but we are on our own in funding these crucial resources.

If you believe in what we do and would like to help Aspergers101 in our groundbreaking Driving with Autism initiative, please consider donating today.

To make a contribution go to our Facebook fundraiser:

https://www.facebook.com/donate/10207220018280772/

or our donation page:

Donate

A note from our founder and president, Jennifer Allen:

My son, Sam, has a form of High Functioning Autism called Aspergers Syndrome. We embarked on a program to help those with Autism and other communication impediments drive without fear from a law enforcement encounter. The Texas DPS responded by stepping up and providing “Communication Impediment with a Peace Officer” directly on your driver license or Texas ID.

In addition, we have teamed up to provide new Texas Trooper Recruits training when encountering those with Autism. It’s working! We are now in production for video reenactments showing what “Autism” may look like in a pull over situation. These will be made available to law enforcement state-wide!

Now we have brochures and posters outlining how to get the new driver license restriction code, as well as informative tips from Autistic expert, Dr. Temple Grandin. These will be distributed to High Schools and education centers (free) statewide.

We need help in raising funds for video production for Texas Trooper training, as well as printing and distribution of the posters and brochures statewide. For these costs we are on our own. For more information on the “Driving with Autism” program, including a full video of our announcement from the Texas State Capitol Press Room please go to: https://aspergers101.com/media/

Thank you!