Learning to drive requires persistence and the acquisition of several new skills, such as quick judgment capabilities, multi-tasking, flexibility to changes (especially during construction), and non-verbal communication with other drivers. People on the autism spectrum may find driving difficult, due to issues with anxiety, visual-spatial discernment, reaction time, and more. But, while the task of teaching your autistic teenager or young adult to become a good driver may seem like a daunting one, there are some things you can do to ensure that your child is successful.
Only about one-third of people on the autism spectrum who don’t have an intellectual disability get their driver’s licenses before the age of 21. Not every person with ASD wants to drive or is capable of driving, but many do and are. If your child falls in with this group, don’t let their anxiety about learning to drive or your own anxiety about teaching them get the best of you. Instead, take a look at the tips below and see what you can do about making the experience a little easier on both of you.
Before you begin, be sure your child has the skills needed to learn to drive, such as the ability to pre-plan a route, focus, multi-task, prioritize, be flexible to change, and control his or her sensory sensitivities. If you’re not sure whether your child is ready to learn to drive or not, talk to their healthcare team. You might also try enrolling them in driver’s education and see whether the instructor believes they are ready to drive.
8. Acknowledge their skills.
You may find that your child already has a lot of the skills necessary to drive, such as attention to detail and strict adherence to rules. Boost his or her confidence by acknowledging these abilities and assuring them that, while learning to drive may not be easy, it is doable with hard work and perseverance.
7. Give them time to prepare.
Many people with autism struggle with change and can get easily overwhelmed by having too much sensory input all at once. Combat this by finding some information on how to drive for your teen to help them get comfortable with the basics of driving in preparation for driver’s training.
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Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?