Aspergers and Driving Judgment – Planning to Make it Clear

Driving with Autism

Aspergers youth process information differently than their neuro-typical peers. More specifically, they generally think in a visual, concrete, detail-oriented manner for every task. They like to know every detail about something, especially when it is critical to survival and to excellence at a given task; driving encompasses both survival and excellence.

Driver’s education courses and books serve as necessary and insightful preparatory activities for the inexperienced and exceptional driver. Further, each driver has different habits and preferences, good and bad. When a driver or parent uses these habits advantageously, they serve as indicators for level of comfort and as foreshadowers of future mistakes.

Among the most common and serious issues that Aspergers youth face is the fact that many of them do not always think fast enough to make snap decisions. This issue especially applies when Aspergers drivers travel in unfamiliar places in general.

For example: an Aspergers driver who usually travels on two-lane in-state roadways near his home would likely have trouble navigating through a series of one-way city streets in Baltimore, MD, considering that he does not typically watch out for one-way signs there. As a safeguard, they desire to stick with the same few routes every day because they fit into their pre-established driving parameters. These parameters could include the avoidance of bridges due to fear of heights or bumpy roads due to sensory overload caused by bouncing in the seat.

Let’s face it, unpleasant stimulation and loss of direction often triggers meltdowns and panic attacks in the Aspergers driver, thereby further clouding his judgment. Behind the wheel, one bad situation leads to another. To resolve these issues, there are actions that parents and Aspergers drivers can both take to make judgment clear in order to ensure safe travels.

First, prepare for the specific route. Ideally, a driver wishes to know where he will go and how exactly to get there with minimal effort. There are a few techniques for this:

  1. Create an overview of the route to understand the driver’s potential “trouble spots” and how to work through them. Working through them includes looking for road signs of various kinds before each spot to emotionally prepare for it; during each spot to feel determined to efficiently and safely drive through it, and after each spot to stay on the planned route. Signs are checkpoints and arrow-pointers. Use them!
  2. Obtain a GPS and make it so that it remains situated in one spot for the driver to clearly see, while not excessively obstructing his view; after placement, the driver ought to form the habit of listening to the GPS voice and looking at the screen only when he imminently makes a turn. This makes navigation smooth. After all, that is what a GPS is for!
  3. Take into account rest areas and gas stations in order to refuel both the body and the car for more driving. The driver needs energy to be attentive and decisive.

Second, give the opportunity for the driver to adjust everything in the car. The driver must make such adjustments beforehand. They include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. All mirrors
  2. Seat and headrest
  3. Steering Wheel
  4. Dashboard (climate control, radio)

Third, use calming and enjoyable activities for the car. Techniques for this include the following:

  1. Have casual conversations with passengers while concentrating on the road. As long as the ones speaking are the only voices that the Aspergers driver can hear and such voices have adjusted volume and pitch. It’s always great to make the most of quality time in the car; just remember to allow the driver to focus on what is around his vehicle.
  2. Listen to the radio. If an Aspergers driver listens to his favorite music, he will feel relaxed and comfortable. However, this is not a good technique if the driver feels distracted by such noise input.

Aspergers drivers must know what to expect whenever possible and to expect the unexpected, as a responsible driver does. They can draw up questions and make observations at all times for the purposes of creating safe trips, navigating efficiently, improving their techniques, and taking pride in driving and all of its privileges. Youth with Aspergers who make themselves aware and self-aware excel at driving and have nothing to fear.

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

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“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.

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Reese Eskridge

Driving Judgment – Making It Clear was written by Reese Eskridge, 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

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Jennifer Allen

After an extensive career broadcast marketing, Jennifer and her husband searched for answers when their oldest son hit the kinder years with great difficultly. After finally learning that their oldest son had Aspergers Syndrome, she left her career in television and became a full time mother to both of her sons. Jennifer elicited the participation of her sons and together they produced several independent programs including a children’s animated series titled Ameriquest Kids (now distributed by Landmark Media) as well as her documentary and book titled, Coping to Excelling: Solutions for school-age children diagnosed with High-Functioning Autism or Aspergers Syndrome. The need for more information encouraged Jennifer to elicit a team of autism experts to provide weekly, original content to a website free to anyone seeking to live their best under the diagnosis of High-Functioning Autism/Aspergers Syndrome… appropriately titled: Aspergers101.com.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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2 thoughts on “Aspergers and Driving Judgment – Planning to Make it Clear

  1. If you’re wondering if this is even possible, I used my son’s “rules-based” judgment to our advantage. Before even getting on the road, we took things step by step.
    1) While driving I pointed out what I was doing and why.
    2) We learned all the signs of the road first.
    3) The next step was learning “right of way”.
    4) He had to be able to verbalize these while I drove.
    5) He had to be able to explain all the mechanics of the car’s tools used, e.g., turn signal, wipers.
    6) He practiced driving initially in parking lots, followed by empty side streets.
    6) We graduated to slower side streets and, finally, main streets.
    7) Because of the confusion in processing some questions, the test was read to him one on one.

    I stressed the #1 rule: Arrive safely. He religiously does not drive while eating or speaking on the phone. He is a stickler for the rules of the road, noting when others don’t follow and will always surrender to the person not following such. He is anxious about driving on the expressway, but this is okay. He allows himself plenty of time to get to his destination, usually arriving at least 15 minutes early. I also purposely built into our “lessons” taking different routes so that he could see more than one option just in case of street closures, etc. He, of course, will take his “usual” route, but is confident with his alternate routes.

    • This is definitely a great approach for the inexperienced Aspergers driver. Of course, every driver is unique and there is no one system that works for everybody. My article here merely provides techniques for those who indulge various types of stress while driving. Sometimes, none of the things mentioned have much of an impact on them, but that is not to say that some Aspergers drivers have SPD, ADD, or similar comorbidities that cloud clear judgment. All the matter is getting experience, identifying the best and worst habits, and going from there.