While not all teens on the autism spectrum can handle the challenges of driving, research shows that over 60% of high-functioning teens plan to drive or already know how. Building stability and focus in day to day life is the best way to prepare your student driver for the challenges of the open road. Try at least one of these six tips to help your autistic teen gain a new sense of independence by getting their driver's license.
Get A Medical Exam
Depending on state regulations and requirements, you may have to disclose your teen's medical conditions and provide documentation from a doctor verifying they're capable of driving. Don't try to hide your child's autism diagnosis if your state requires disclosure, or your new driver could end up paying penalties if the cover up is discovered. The teen's doctor should test that your child has the appropriate skills for navigating traffic, which include
- Well-developed fine and gross motor skills
- Social interaction and cue reading abilities
- The ability to predict what other drivers might do
- Executive functioning skills for processing and executing complex actions at a rapid speed.
Add It To The IEP
While many parents know fairly early if their child has enough executive and intellectual functioning to pursue an independent adult life, goals like driving are still left off many individualized education plans (IEP). Aiming towards a goal of driving while the child is still in elementary or middle school provides ample time for building up confidence and polishing any skills that are still lacking. Discuss your child's future with the educator in charge of your teen's IEP to make adjustments now so that there's less work to do after your child reaches the age requirement for your state.
Recent research conducted on high functioning autistic teens show that successful drivers share a few common traits. Drivers tended to work their own jobs outside the home in addition to being enrolled in full-time education and planning to pursue further training. The confidence boost and demand for focus that even a part-time job requires is ideal for encouraging good driving habits. It's also helpful when the teen can afford to pay for their own maintenance and repairs on the vehicle, since this prepares them for taking care of themselves even if they don't plan to live independently at this point in their lives.
Focus On Education
Don't forget about getting outside help for the actual driving lessons if being in the car with your child is too stressful. Well-equipped driving schools give your teen a chance to study the subject from every angle, including through simulations and videos of real traffic situations. Look for a facility with experience in training drivers with special needs to make sure your teen's education is tailored to their needs. Keep in mind it may take two or three times as long for an autistic teen to learn the same skills from a driving school, even with one-on-one instruction.
Train Motor Skills
There are plenty of ways to practice the motor skills necessary for driving before putting your child behind the wheel of a car. Grab a video game with realistic cars in it, then pair it with a steering wheel and pedal controller set to give your future driver some hands on experience without all the risks. Learning to ride a bike or drive a go kart also provide realistic practice.
Manage Risk Factors
Finally, make sure your child's other health risks are under control before allowing them to drive. Many autistic teens also suffer from occasional or regular seizures. Even a tiny seizure can cause a life threatening accident if it occurs while driving, so give your child plenty of time to verify they're healthy enough to drive.
For more information, visit driving school sites like http://www.a1peckdrivingschool.com.