To drive or not to drive is not the only question parents of children with Asperger’s Syndrome should ask themselves and their sons and daughters. The issue is more complex than a simple “yes” or “no” consideration. How can you be certain that driving is a safe option? Is driving under specific circumstances, such as only with another adult or for short distances, a good alternative? When is the right time to learn? Who is the best teacher? These are just a few of the topics parents and children must discuss.
Driving with Asperger’s Syndrome
Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) is a neurological disorder on the autism spectrum that affects many areas of development. Symptoms vary and range in intensity but often include difficulties with social communication, sensory sensitivities, poor motor coordination, and intense interest in and knowledge of certain—andsometimes unusual—subjects. Each person experience with Asperger’s is unique; therefore, each person’s decision about seeking a driver’s license is unique.
To gain perspective on the topic of driving and AS, TeenLife Media interviewed Nancy Schwartz, the mother of a young adult son with Asperger’s and a member of the staff of the Asperger’s Association of New England (AANE) where she co-coordinates a project funded by the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC), the state agency that helps individuals with disabilities secure employment. Nancy shares seven considerations that have helped her manage the process with her son.
Considerations for Driving with Asperger’s
1. Not every adult with AS does or should drive.
Some teens with Asperger’s have profound sensory sensitivities, visual-spatial issues, anxiety, or poor motor control that makes driving unsafe for themselves and others on the road.
2. Seek assistance to determine aptitude.
If a parent isn’t 100 percent sure driving is a good option for his or her child, find an organization, such as a hospital that offers driving-readiness assessments. In Boston, the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center offers DriveAdvise, a pre-driving assessment program utilizing a multidisciplinary team approach to evaluate driving readiness and capacity.
3. Follow your son or daughter’s lead.
Not every teen—even those without AS—is interested in pursuing a license right when he or she is eligible. Don’t rush it.
4. Perseverance pays off.
It often takes longer for a teen or young adult with AS to pass the written and/or on-road exams. Manage expectations and reinforce life lessons about the benefits of perseverance.
5. Find the best-fit teacher.
In addition to standard driving schools, there are also adaptive driving schools designed to assist people with disabilities. Whichever type of driving school you employ, perhaps the most important success factor is finding an instructor with a good personality match with your child. Call different schools and share whatever information you believe a driver’s education school needs to know. Have your child meet with the proposed instructor to ensure a good fit.
6. Embrace public transportation.
Whether your children drive or not, teach them how to use public transportation to encourage independence.
7. Carry an Asperger’s Syndrome Wallet Card for first responders.
Once a person with AS obtains a license, carrying a wallet card identifying the diagnosis ensures that in the case of an emergency, or even a routine interaction with a police officer, the official understands the most productive ways to interact.
The AANE confirms driving is a hot topic for parents of teens and young adults with AS. Please share your experiences and other helpful considerations.