The topic of including driving skills in an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) is one that hasn't been pursued enough. According to the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act,) which are federal guidelines to ensure students with disabilities are provided a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE,) transportation is a "related service" and can include travel to and from school. This is a great jumping off point for a discussion about including driving an IEP. Driving, and skills important for successful driving, such as anxiety and sensory management, are life skills. Life skills are important for every student, and should be part of the post-secondary transition planning for students utilizing special education services until the age of 22. The argument can easily be made that driving is a life skill, critical for gaining employment, independence and social connections, and should be included in the IEP. 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, and skills related to driving, as a goal(s) . This is also a great opportunity to include your son/daughter in the IEP process through self-advocacy. Since driving is a step into adulthood, your student can request instruction as part of post secondary planning. Note that driving skills are not often asked for, so the initial response may be one of surprise. Driving is 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!
What to Ask For
We recommend getting a clinical evaluation by a Certified Driving Rehab Specialist as a great way of establishing a baseline of pre-driving skills. It can provide you with a clear writeup of driving skills to be worked on and specific therapies to seek out if necessary.
- 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.
- Establish a goal around learning about maps, and how to read them, the highway system, road names and directionals.
- There are some good apps for iPads specific for people with ASD, which can simulate driving. 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!