Autism and Driving

My wife and I were talking the other day and we somehow wandered into the topic of driving.

Gavin is very quickly approaching the age where most kids are thinking about their drivers license or at the very least,  their temps. 

The thought occurred to us,  will Gavin ever be able to drive? Forget willshould he be allowed to drive? 

I realize that I may offend some by asking this question but that is not my intention,  at all.  I’m very serious.  Should my Autistic son be allowed to drive when he reaches the legal age?

My gut tells me that he will never drive.  The reason I say that is because I don’t think that Gavin has enough control over his own body,  how could he safely control a vehicle?

I’m certainly not trying to say that Autistic persons shouldn’t or can’t drive. 

What I am asking is, how do you know if your Autistic child should be driving?
Are there state laws that address this?  I know that many people with Autism live happy,  productive lives and are more than capable of driving. 

When I look at Gavin,  I see someone that,  at this point in time,  should never be behind the wheel of a car.  Things could change in the next few years but I highly doubt anything could change enough to allow me to feel comfortable enough to let Gavin drive.

He talks about driving and I always just listen to what he has to say.  I haven’t told him he couldn’t drive because I don’t know that to be the case.

However,  as much as I would love for him to be that independent,  I have to also think about the other people on the road.

Gavin can’t push a grocery cart without running into someone. I can’t even imagine what he could do with a 2000 pound car. Does that make sense?

Do any of you have Aspie’s at home that are of the driving age?  How have you handled the whole driving thing? 

I would appreciate any feedback on this.

This discussion is going on right now in the support forums as well. Feel free to hop on over and join in. 

www.lostandtired.com/autismsupport

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anonyMOUSE333

Yes. If they are physically and mentally able, they should learn how to drive unless they want to pay millions of pounds per year on taking the bus to work andthe shops. If they do not have a severe learning disability, then with the right help, they will do it. It will save them millions of pounds especially if they don’t work and they get only 20 pounds of disability allowance a week because they are physically able with a mild mental disability and they live on their own or have to pay board and lodgings because they live with you everyday.

sj58142
sj58142

I would drive with Subaru’s eyesight camera system, it provides me the ability to increase my awareness and react accordingly,. it is a stereoscopic 3D camera, great help. would it help me as an autistic?

Steven Jordan

I would love to join in, I keep actively seeking this yet it can not ever happen unless im released from my guardianship. its written where driving can’t happen. it says nothing about selling cars anywhere in it, this would be a good path for your son as it is a memory based task. autistics can excel at that area and he should try this.

Im 22 Rob and i still want to pursue this, but i have gradually accepted the reality this doesnt happen until im released. since again it says nothing against selling them as opposed to driving them i can pursue that. Gavin can pursue this as once again its memory based, he will probably be capable of memorizing all the prices, the technology inside the cars, how to do what a salesman would do normally, and how to make his customer happy. this is a great alternative to driving as it would give you all good piece of mind.

it will than minimize the cause of Gavin having a collision/crash/accident/or the even worse scenario of him being dead behind the wheel of a 2,000 pound vehicle or more than 2,000 pounds.

If he still wants it, get him one that can protect him, minimize death (in a standard used with no protective aids he will be dead, don’t get him that get him one with help, train him on using them), has plenty of safety features, driver aids (mandatory beginning in 2012, to have features to protect the driver), and even prolong its life thanks to the vehicle assisting him.

By my worker i was suggested the chrysler 300c, it made me smile from ear to ear. it takes a lot for a car to make me happy, it fits my personality completely. but the make i sat in is more than 7 years old, i need one with aids if i want it.

what is the car he is seeking, if the make he is seeking is without aids, he will be dead. if it is with aids, he will be safe. don’t worry.

Lost and Tired

Thanks for jumping in Steven. Those are some really good suggestions. It’s funny that you mention this because when I was car shopping a few years ago, the was a young man working on the lot that was Autistic. The sales guy was telling just how amazing this kids was.

He was basically in charge of organizing the cars on the lot and he loved his job.

Very cool. Thanks for sharing Steven.

Steven Jordan

your welcome, the reason why i am suggesting one of those newer cars for Gavin is so he is safe, that many of them can help him and respond in situations where he might not know the right response to give. many will save his life by hitting the breaks for him if he is involved in something disastrous and some will even panic on their own in circumstances where he would.

wow, this kid did very well at his job and pulled sensational things, of course. he has a great ability to organize by make and model and the year.

if he wants one that bad, i would look for one that is designed with the intention of protecting him and prolonging his life as opposed to ending it (one of the newer ones), one that will react if he does not know how to react in a timely fashion as driving is an activity where your son will be putting his life at risk and the lives of many others.

Look for one with a camera in both the front, the back, or one that spans all the way around so it is always seeing what is going on. self helping tech (where the car will act if he does not act on the road), a safety and telematics system, traction and stability control, and many more features designed to keep your son safe and you with piece of mind.

I would sit Gavin down and say “son, as your parents we love you and want to keep you safe, we will give you a car, the car we will give you is one that is designed to protect you and help you make the right judgements as you may not be able to make many yourself as the wiring in your brain prevents many from being made, the car we pick will help increase your situational awareness and reactionary time, it will react when you do not react, it is here to help you and to further you”. that is how i would give him a car, he is at that age where he wants it.

many have protective systems in place, Ford and its system is the most common Mykey which saves his life (go read about it) this also sets itself up with a vehicle running MyLincoln touch. the only downside is in the trucks, they can’t have MyKey in place.

Chevy’s is 2nd most common and probably would be very useful to you folks, it is Onstar and this does everything it can to help him and guide him to the right decisions on the road, it will provide everything he needs including help if in a dangerous or tight spot.

Hyundai’s is 3rd most common and it is called BlueLink which serves the same purpose Onstar does.

there are many other ones, go out to a dealer and learn about them all and you can pick the vehicle suited to his needs. i am not listing every possible telematics system because there are too many,

how i would do the right fit test is involve your son, let him pick the car suited to his personality, the size he needs is determined by his build, how long his legs are, among other factors.
let him choose and sit in the one that makes him the happiest, and whatever it may be you can feel free to buy it.

the car should fit the personality of the owner, depending on what personality he has, it will be very simple and the car will fit him and his needs.

i would involve your wife as well and let her have a say in this as well. i hope this helps Gavin in his dream of wanting to get on the road.

Lolita

Thanks a lot for letting me know about this stuff!!! Pretty informative and valuable. That helped me!

Stephlton

Well, I am 20 (21 in a week) and I have Asperger's. I got my license about 5 days ago. I think driving is more of an individual thing. My ex boyfriend also has AS, and he was driving when he was 17. Prior to this year I was extremely tense behind the wheel. Terrified, even. It was a nightmare. When I took driver's ed when I was 15 I scared the crap out of the instructor. I could not control the car, I nearly hit quite a few mailboxes…it was really bad. I think…it would have helped if I'd had SOME experience. I never even did bumper cars or drove powerwheels. My non-car transportation was limited to skateboards and bikes. Maybe you could take him somewhere really secluded and let him drive. That is how I practiced. Empty parking lots. And I mean COMPLETELY empty. No shopping cart spaces or poles sticking out of the ground. And go during AMPLE daylight. And, for me, short practice runs were best. Stop if he gets anxious or just seems to be "done" for the day. Empty spaces are good for practicing safety and focusing attention. We Mom tried just throwing me into driving on the road…i was a nervous wreck. I know money is tight…but a REALLY good way to practice would be to get a small 4-wheeler or a golf cart. it would be a lot safer than using your new van (also…it is a new van and accidents can happen…so IF something were to get hit, at least it wouldnt be your means of transportation).

Lost_and_Tired

Thank you so much for sharing your story. I appreciate your help. 🙂

Bonnie Stewart

Glad to see this subject addressed. I feel pretty alone, since my 19-yr-old aspie son is the only one of his aspie friends who is allowed to drive. The other parents I know just don't really go there. I think there are a lot of confidence issues about getting in that passenger seat, compounded by the fact that these teens are very nervous themselves.

My son took driver's ed and the instructor was the best! She put a lot of effort into teaching him and I feel responsible not to let him get out of practice. I try to have him drive mostly on 4-lane high-ways since we live far from town. That way passing and being passed is not an issue.

I must admit that the terror never really goes away and I'll tell you why. I have two younger sons also with autism, the littlest one, very severe. I want to come home to them-because they could never find someone to replace their mother. So I have to choose between being in control and giving my oldest son his independence. Believe me he will need it because he is not my only special needs kid!

God makes no guarantees that I will always be safe because I am needed. He only makes promises and that is what I take with me. But I keep my son driving because I believe it's the right thing, and I think to myself. "Perhaps God will intervene on my behalf."

Lost_and_Tired

Bonnie,

Thanks a really good point. It think for me, the toughest part is finding a balance without feeling like I\’m playing favorites. Best of luck 🙂

Silachan

I'm 20, HFA w/ my fair share of sensory issues, and I know that I can't drive right now. I'd love to have that kind of independence, but it's just not happening yet. There's a lot to go into it, more than just operating a machine. There's being able to make quick judgements and reactions based on others actions, based on the specific scenario you may be in. How quickly can you react to a sudden change? If a driver suddenly loses a tire in front of you and they start driving erratically in front of you, how quickly can you assess the situation and know what to do? I'm personally not good at last second judgements like that.

I also get 'tunnel' vision while driving. I hyperfocus on one part of the road in front of me and I don't notice anything around me.

I also can't get a feel for how much or how little to push down on the gas or break pedals. I accidentally was going 40 in a 30 mph area and I couldn't even feel it. I also nearly gave my bf whiplash by stopping way too hard at a stop sign. >_> (Over exaggeration but you know what I mean.)

All these account to why I'm not driving at 20 years old…

Lost_and_Tired

I totally appreciate your honesty here. We share the same concerns with our son. Thank you for putting them into words so well. 🙂

Silachan

You're welcome, I just figured it fair to share my side of it all. I was also kinda thrown into it for my first experience, with my mom's friend in the passenger seat trying to backseat-drive and correct all of my mistakes. It was actually very overloading. That and I don't handle adrenaline well (it overwhelms me very easily and I breakdown from too much), so driving with people around me made me very anxious and just not good. My bf keeps pushing me to drive, but I think I will do so when I feel like I won't be a hazard to myself and others.

It also doesn't help that my first time on the road, I turned into the wrong lane because I have difficulty with lefts/rights, and I was driving on the wrong side of the road for a good few minutes… lol.

Lost_and_Tired

Thank you so much for helping me better understand my son 🙂

Jarnich

I receive newsletters from the NYU Child Study Center and they had an article about this exact topic. Statistics show that children on the spectrum are actually better drivers than typical peers. They are less likely to take risks. You should read the article.

imawestie

Here I'm wondering the same thing, from ten years out, as my nephews and nieces go through the stages of becoming a fully fledged driver in Australia.
And at the same time, my brothers, sisters in law, etc, are starting to look at my parents and wonder: when do we take back their licence, their independence, and say "enough, the risk to others is now too great"?

I think that the answer at least is "thousands have already made this decision before us", so at least we should be able to find the answers, somewhere.

CAN he learn to drive? Real question.
If it becomes clear to him that he can't pass the appropriate test, then it's a decision you never have to impose. Cowards way out? You bet.
My recent post Transport Tuesday

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