Learning to drive when you’re on the spectrum
Learning to drive and getting your license is a rite of passage for most teens. It certainly was when I was growing up. I passed my learners as soon as I turned 16, begged my parents to take me out to practise as much as possible, and then went for my P’s aged 18. It’s what most of us did back then. We wanted our freedom and independence and that’s what being able to drive gave us.
My son seems to be a different kettle of fish. He is completely non-phased and unmotivated to get his license. It may be to do with being on the autism spectrum, or maybe not. I’m not sure. He tells me he’s worried about crashing and he thinks he must be a bad driver because he’s no good at driving in video games.
He went for his Learner’s Permit last year, and passed the exam first time, which was great. But that’s where it stopped. He’s only been in the driver’s seat once since getting his L’s and that was during an OT assessment which led to him receiving funded driving lessons through his NDIS plan. With the plan only being approved in March and then COVID-19 restrictions being placed upon Victorian’s since then, he hasn’t been behind the wheel all year.
We’re hoping that lessons will start in October, which will be exciting and scary all at once. Whilst I really would like him to be more independent, I worry about his capacity to stay focused on driving and not become easily distracted or aggravated by other things and people on the road or in the car.
People on the spectrum learn differently to others and I feel that this is going to be one of those processes where it’s going to take him longer to gain the skills and confidence than it would his peers.
It will take a specialist driving instructor to work with my son and help him learn. The instructor will need to build report and trust and understand my sons unique learning style. Fortunately, there are driver training schools that have specialist instructors who are trained to work with teens with autism and other special needs.
Not all teens who are on the spectrum will have the capacity or the desire to learn to drive. However, for those that do, it’s important to know that they can learn in a supported environment. It may take a bit longer to get the hang of it all, but there’s no reason why, with practise, an autistic teen would not be able to drive just as well a non-autistic teen.
My recommendation is to do your research and find a local driving instructor who can help you with your child’s specialist needs. Also note, that there are some driving instructors who are NDIS Registered Providers, perfect for those who have NDIS funding for driving lessons.
SASI Guest Parent Blogger
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