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.

Are People with Aspergers as “Logical” as They Think?

Balancing the left and right brain: the role of emotion and mood

One of the hallmarks of Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) is that individuals often have strong points of view, and they have trouble seeing other points of view as equally valid. Most see themselves as extremely logical and therefore right in their conclusions; for them, the points of view of others can seem illogical. This is often perceived by neurotypicals as being oppositional, stubborn or lacking empathy.

Brain hemispheres sketch

What’s interesting is that often when people think they’re being logical, research shows that their emotions can be driving their cognition. Emotions are frequently substantial influences in people’s thinking without their knowing it. In his eloquent writing for LinkedIn, Kristopher Jones makes clear what is my experience as well:

People with AS can have very strong feelings.

People with Aspergers Become Multi-Talented and Mentally Strong When They Expand Their Interests and Keep an Open Mind

Growing your interests help widen your skills

Surely, anyone who has or works with Aspergers Syndrome has received encouragement of the idea that people with Aspergers and their closest acquaintances (i.e. parents and teachers) ought to discover and to nurture that ONE thing that they know or do best. Such an interest is indicated by extreme focus on a particular topic or series of topics in which the person with Aspergers is able to memorize it down to the last detail and able to recount any detail imaginable.

Ideally, a person with Aspergers uses this to his/her advantage in order to get a head start on his/her education and career, as well as to generally enjoy life. Therefore, such strong interests are also therapeutic in the sense that they help people with Aspergers to confidently tackle their daily challenges within secure comfort zones.

As beneficial as they are, however, restricted interests do not always ensure that people with Aspergers achieve long-term personal development and sustenance. More specifically, restricted interests can take away from the ability to develop mental strength.

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.

Interview with a Mother and Son Team Making a Book About Excelling with Differences

“Grant the Jigsaw Giraffe ~ Different is More!”, written by Julie Coy Manier and illustrated by her son with Asperger’s, Grant Manier, is about a young giraffe who is born with jigsaw pieces instead of spots, but follows his passion to paint despite his challenges. “Grant the Jigsaw Giraffe” is a heartfelt story that resonates with anyone who feels different, but not less.

A new baby giraffe is born at the city zoo. Grant, the baby giraffe looks like a giraffe, but he’s different. His spots are not spots at all, instead he has jigsaw puzzle pieces. He looks different, he acts differently, and he has some physical challenges. But, Grant doesn’t let his differences stand in the way; he has big dreams!

Grant the Jigsaw Giraffe wants to be a talented paintbrush artist, but how will he hold a paintbrush with hooves? Grant is initially discouraged by the idea that he may never become an artist and paint colorful masterpieces. Then, he sets off on a journey through the zoo with his trusted friend, Ms. Judy, to explore the world around him in hope of finding his talent.

Follow Grant’s journey and get ready to be amazed by what different minds can do.

Employment Resources for College Students with Disabilities

ASTEP - Asperger Syndrome Training & Employment Partnership

ASTEP offers an important list of resources for college students with Aspergers, who are looking for employment or internship opportunities. Read through the summaries of what each organization offers, and click on the names listed to go to their websites. You can find the original post on ASTEP here.

Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities is a professional association comprised of more than 600 colleges and universities, and over 500 major national employers. COSD’s mission is to improve the employment rate of college students and recent graduates with disabilities on a national basis, by forming collaborative relationships between campus’ Disabilities Services and Career Services offices, and assisting employers in providing internships, recruiting, and hiring college graduates with disabilities.

How to Have a Successful Interview with Aspergers: Tips for Asking Questions

ASTEP - Asperger Syndrome Training and Employment Partnership

Dr. Temple Grandin once told my son Sam: “when you’re looking for employment, you must show your work. Indeed! For someone diagnosed with High Functioning Autism or Aspergers Syndrome, you must rely on the merit of your work, because oftentimes challenging social cues can override a large portion of the interviewing process.

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Asperger Syndrome Training and Employment Partnership provides a very good checklist to review before you go through the interview process.

Suicide Prevention for Those with Aspergers: Understanding Common Triggers

As dramatic as it may sound to some, the challenges aspies face can lead them to have countless reasons to give up on themselves and their lives. This can often lead to thoughts of suicide and attempts, too many of which are successful. Bullying, grave misunderstandings, absent and abusive relationships of any kind, long-term unemployment, and mental illness are all common reasons why suicide occurs among aspies.

suicide prevention

Aspies often tend to keep quiet about their troubles, typically under the belief that no one will truly understand what they experience; not only in a given environment, but also in their mind. Therefore, even though an aspie appears happy and productive in their life, they can still anonymously harbor difficult thoughts and emotions; sometimes until it is too late.

25 Key Lessons about Companionship that Every Aspie Should Learn

Cultivating healthy long relationships can be difficult for everyone, whether they be romantic or platonic. This important life skill becomes a special challenge for those with Asperger’s who can often have trouble making and keeping connections. However, there are ways in which the Aspie can learn to actively create beneficial companionship.

companionship

All of these habits do not come naturally to everyone and should be learned in order to create the best relationships.

Read Reese Eskridge’s 25 key lessons about companionship:

Overcoming Isolation, one of an Aspie’s Most Terrible Realities

A life with Asperger’s in a neurotypical world is, not surprisingly, difficult. Aspies must overcome countless necessary challenges that have to do with three big categories of stimuli: environments, the brain, and relationships. Unfortunately, aspies too often face unnecessary challenges; terrible burdens on their already heavy shoulders.

Any kind of imbalance in or between the three big categories usually stems from and causes isolation. Isolation is a primary example of trauma to an aspie, regardless of age, traits, or background. Isolation primarily encompasses the relationship factor and its damaging effects on the brain, the psyche. This isolation can cause the aspie to become petrified of their environments.