Police interactions are probably the number one concern we hear from new drivers with ASD and their parents. Police interactions can be nerve racking for any driver. Then you add in that people with ASD are bothered by bright lights (sirens, check), loud noises (sirens, check) eye contact (officer, check) and social interactions (officer, check), well now we have a perfect storm for a meltdown.
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.
One of the biggest challenges surrounding driving with Autism Spectrum Disorder is the stimulus that you can encounter from the driver's seat. While it can seem like a lot, it is all manageable, especially if you have a plan. I'll highlight some quick tips here, but recommend taking Andrew Arboe's webinar series if you are interested in a deeper dive into stimulus behind the wheel. There are 3 main senses we will focus on: touch, sight and sound.
Traffic makes you inevitably late for your morning appointment. Loud sirens with bright lights are coming from behind you. You get out to your car and your tire is flat. Driving isn't predictable nor scripted. The only known is that these unknowns are going to happen to you eventually. In Andrew Arboe's Driving With ASD Webinar Series, he goes into great detail on how you can prepare for and create scripts for these unexpected yet inevitable situations. Here, I'll give you a few quick tips to get you started.
Perhaps your young adult is asking you about driving, but you aren't quite ready. Or perhaps you desperately want your son or daughter to begin driving, but they have no interest. Driving for a neurotypical teen causes stress and fear in families. Autism adds another layer of complexity.