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Learning to drive, a rite of passage for all?


Many of us take learning to drive for granted. The question is not “if” we will pass our driving test, but “when?” and then we focus on “what new car will I get?” Driving allows for greater freedom and increased independence. We expect that we will be using our cars, go to work, school, see friends and run errands without depending on others. Driving marks our progress to adulthood, for most of us a part of life we just assume will just happen.


However, for adults on the Autism Spectrum, it is not that simple. There are many factors the person with Autism and their family has to consider when determining if driving is a viable option. For those who are suitable to drive, steps to ensure that the person can be a safe and responsible driver, is important. One thing is for sure; that learning how to drive provides an opportunity for person with Autism to reduce challenges associated with mass transit and increases their independence. Driving, once they pass their test, prevents the inconvenience of navigating public transport. It also prevents long wait times and long walks to the bus stops, which can be a particular challenge for people who are walking home late from a college class or work. It also helps the adult with Autism to increase self- confidence. Also of importance, driving allows the person to fit in with their peer group, who are also learning to drive. Being able to meet the developmental expectations, similar to their peers, can help them to feel accomplished and confident.


Generally, supporting the person with Autism and giving them the tools needed to drive safely and responsibly, can increase their independence, increase work opportunities, and promote socialization to go places with friends!


Below are some questions to consider when deciding whether the adult with autism is ready and able to drive.


  1. Am I able to stay focused long enough to drive safely?

  2. Can I multi-task and process a variety of information at one time?

  3. Can I learn and recall safety procedures when needed?

  4. Can I problem solve what to do when an unpredictable traffic incident occurs?

  5. If I have difficulty problem solving, can I pull over, follow a safety plan and call someone who can guide me?

  6. Do I have strong enough language skills to communicate clearly and get my needs met?

  7. Can I try to keep calm if a road rage incident occurs?

  8. Am I willing to learn basic vehicle maintenance?

  9. Am I motivated to learn to drive? Why or why not?

  10. Can I afford to learn to drive and buy a car? Can a loved one help me create a financial plan for this?

  11. Am I conserved? If so, do my loved ones agree that I am ready to learn to drive? Are they willing to sign the paperwork to provide permission for me to drive?


Consider any challenges to these questions and determine which skills need to be developed in order to allow for safe driving. Creating a pro vs. con list can be a great place to start. Lastly identify a driving school that is familiar with working with Adults with Autism to help provide them with the right support.


If you know someone or a family who is interested in exploring driving or other developmental goals, please feel free to contact Nicky Palmer, L.M.F.T #44087 at 562 298 0603. nicky@asdconsultancy.com

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