Driving is one of the keys to independence to adults, and this certainly does not exclude those with the unique ability of autism. Research does show, however, that adults with autism take a little longer to acquire their driver’s license for reasons that are only known to those who have this unique ability. For example, an adult with autism may be on the high-functioning realm of the spectrum but may have difficulty with reactionary times, making fast decisions, and reflex challenges.
If you have a teen with autism who is of age to drive, you have a few choices. If you feel your teen is ready to embark on this journey, you can enroll him in driver training. Several factors will be dependent upon this, such as his willingness to learn, motivation, and social and emotional ability. This is okay, because in drivers education this can be taught, but it may just take a little longer. Adjusting to many of life’s challenges can be taught and practiced by a young adult with autism.
Find a Good “Behind the Wheel” Program
Your teen will most likely take the classroom version of driver education at school. He may also be able to practice driving through the school as well. However, this does vary from school district to school district, and some parents would rather have another driver education company teach their teen to drive. Search around your area for a good “Behind the Wheel” program. This program does vary from state to state. Some behind the wheel programs are completed at the school, and there are some that are completed outside of the school. There are also both options, and this does depend on what your area has to offer.
If your child has passed the Behind the Wheel, and, in turn, has passed the driving test by the DMV, that is great news! This shows that your teen is able to drive and is ready to be on his way. However, you know your teen better than anyone, and if you still don’t feel comfortable in allowing your new driver to drive in certain areas, such as the city, then go with your gut instinct. It is much easier to allow your teen or young adult to drive in certain areas, but you may still feel doubt in areas that are unfamiliar to him. This is normal.
Yes, you can still be in control of your young adult’s or teen’s driving. You can have him only drive specific routes in which he is familiar with. Take him out on a driving run, just you and him, and have him drive in areas he is completely familiar with. This includes yielding places, light changes, traffic routines, and whatever you know he can handle. It is completely okay to let him drive independently in areas he has practiced. Even you, as an experienced driver knows how confusing it can be in a larger urban area where you have never been! Avoid these areas for now, and let your new driver drive where he is comfortable.
Be sure your child is confident behind the wheel and understand that if he is not, it is okay to wait. Even though he may pass a test stating that he is okay to drive, you as an involved and educated parent knows if your young adult is ready. It is much better for your teen and other drivers on the road to be protected, and if you feel that you need to keep practicing, then that is what should be done.
Driving is an enormous responsibility, and many teens on the spectrum drive very well. However, every teen with the unique ability of autism is different, and with many of life’s milestones, each teen achieves them at different rates.