The topic of including Driving Skills in an IEP is one that hasn't been talked about enough. Services for people with ASD often stop at 21 years of age, and it can leave someone feeling alone and anxious. We believe that transitions programs should be including life skills such as driving in an IEP. Even if driving isn't for "right now," working towards driving is something that can help build confidence and motivation for the future. Many of our students with ASD don't begin the driving journey until their mid-20s. However, there is much that can be worked on outside of the driver seat.
How to Ask
The first step in getting driving included is bringing it up with the IEP team. Set driving as a goal and work together to build driving skills into the therapy plan. This is also a great opportunity to include your son/daughter in the IEP process. Since driving is a step into adulthood, ask them to state driving as their own goal to the IEP team. Note that driving skills are not often asked for, so the initial response may be one of surprise. However, you can absolutely make your case. Driving skills are necessary for many job placements. Outside of major cities, there are very limited safe public transportation alternatives. Working towards a driver's license is absolutely a life skill that can lead to greater independence. And most importantly, it's a realistic goal! Drivers with ASD are amongst the safest drivers on the road. So to get started, ask your IEP team, and if they fight you about it, stand your ground.
What to Ask For
I'll make some broad recommendations here, but if you want a thorough write up, I recommend getting a clinical evaluation by a Certified Driving Rehab Specialist. This will provide you with a clear writeup of driving skills to be worked on and specific therapies to go through.
- Permit Practice Tests and Preparation. Ask the IEP team to include Learner's Permit Prep in your plan. This will introduce driving topics and help the new driver start to think about driving.
- Travel Training. Sessions in learning about maps, the highway system, road names and directions can go a long way.
- Driving Simulators. There are some good Apps for iPads specific for people with ASD. Or many states have low or no cost simulators as part of their state rehab offerings.
This is a subject matter that we are constantly looking to grow. If you've had experience or successes with your IEP team, share them in the comments here. We will continue adding to this and creating other blog entries to help make driving skills a new normal in the IEP process. Good luck!