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Driving With Autism Spectrum Disorder: Transitioning to Greater Independence

Jul 17, 2018
image of a girl driving with her dad

Driving a car can pose big obstacles for individuals with autism spectrum disorder. It requires gradual merging into the mainstream of everyday life that others take for granted. There are huge “adult” consequences to driving, but it can be an amazing experience that gets your child to where they want to go in life. 

Individuals with autism spectrum disorder may have difficulty with response time, dealing with unexpected events, and managing numerous variables while driving. Alternately, individuals with autism may be exceptionally skilled at such things as following the rules of driving, noticing important details, and understanding vehicle mechanics.

When considering the world of driving, there are a number of tips that can be helpful to make sure that your child with ASD is ready to drive, and that you are comfortable with this big next step in the transition to adulthood and greater independence:

  1. Get help! Take classes! Practice, practice, practice! It’s ok for your child to get several temporary driver’s licenses before they are ready for the driver’s test. It’s worth the time and the cost so they are safe on the road.
  2. If you’re not sure if your child is capable of getting a driver’s license, check for local resources who may be able to assist. For instance, The Ohio State University has a driving evaluation service that can evaluate reflexes and concentration skills.
  3. There’s no magic age when driving makes sense for everyone, so start the process for your child when you think they are ready.
  4. Teach your child about cost and finances. Driving is expensive. It costs money to get the temporary license, the actual driving license, to take in-car driving classes and to take the online or classroom driving lessons, as well as car insurance.
  5. Driving is DANGEROUS. Educate your child that they are maneuvering a very heavy machine full of fuel and there are other people on the roads in cars and pedestrians all around. It takes concentration and responsibility to keep themselves, others, and their car safe.
  6. Start small! Start driving on small, very specific and safe roads to one or two places to start and gradually move on to bigger roads.

Your child will be proud of themselves and have fun as they gain more independence and get to see the world from behind the driver’s wheel!

For more information on Big Lots Behavioral Health Services at Nationwide Children's Hospital, click here

Featured Expert

Cara Inglis, PsyD
Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.