Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders


Aspergers Teens and Driving a Car

When teens get their driver’s license – parents get worried! And this worry is justified!! Here are the alarming national teen driving statistics:

  • 16- and 17-year-old driver death rates increase with each additional passenger.
  • 16-year-olds are 3 times more likely to die in a motor vehicle crash than the average of all drivers.
  • 16-year-olds have higher crash rates than drivers of any other age.
  • About 2 out of every 3 teenagers killed in motor vehicle crashes are males.
  • About 2,014 occupants of passenger vehicles ages 16-20 who are killed in crashes are not buckled up.
  • About 2,500 drivers between the ages of 15 and 20 die in motor vehicle crashes every year.
  • About 31% of drivers ages 15-20 who are killed in motor vehicle crashes are drinking some amount of alcohol and 25% are alcohol-impaired (i.e., have a blood alcohol content of 0.08 grams per deciliter or higher).
  • About 37% of male drivers ages 15-20 who are involved in fatal crashes are speeding at the time.
  • About 63% of teenage passenger deaths occur in vehicles driven by another teenager.
  • About 81% of teenage motor vehicle crash deaths are passenger vehicle occupants.
  • Among deaths of passengers of all ages, 19% occur when a teenager is driving.
  • Crashes involving 15- to 17-year-olds cost more than $34 billion nationwide in medical treatment, property damage and other costs.
  • Drivers age 15-20 account for 12% of all drivers involved in fatal crashes and 14% of all drivers involved in police-reported crashes.
  • Hand-held cell phone use while driving is highest among 16- to 24-year-olds.
  • Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among 15- to 20-year-olds.

Now, throw Aspergers into the mix – and parents really do have something to worry about. It may take an Aspergers teen quite a bit longer to learn all the implications of driving. What may be a problem for the young driver is the ability to judge what other road users, pedestrians, animals, etc. might do and how this should affect his driving. Understanding that not all drivers and other road users obey all of the rules all of the time is a real challenge for Aspie drivers.

Neurotypical teens effortlessly talk on their cell phones when driving. They smoke cigarettes, eat a sandwich, sing to the radio, and nonchalantly discuss all sorts of topics with their passenger-friends. While they are doing all this multi-tasking, they also have to watch out for other cars in front of and behind them, shift gears, reverse, use the windshield wipers, brake, and so on.

However, for Aspergers teens to perform all the above tasks simultaneously is very difficult due their input system. When performing a task which requires concentration, most Aspies prefer total silence (or at least very little noise). They may not mind listening to a bit of music, but usually don't like someone talking to them because they have to (a) listen to what the other person is saying, (b) think of an answer, and (c) reply.

So how can parents ensure that their Aspergers teenager will not end up killing himself while on the road? Below are some critical tips to consider.

Driving Tips Specifically Related to the Aspergers Condition—

1. Long before driving comes into the picture, be sure to help your child learn how to ride a bike. Learning to ride a bike as a youngster is a very good foundation for anyone with Aspergers. Bike-riding skills will help the child become more aware of the possible actions of other drivers and pedestrians. Also having an instructor who is aware of the anxieties and other issues that Aspergers teens will have goes a long way toward positive lessons where what is taught and being learned is remembered and recalled.

2. Have your teen take driving lessons with a driver education instructor, but double the amount of physical driving practice to help him really get used to reacting to normal driving situations.

3. Ask the instructor to allow your teen to take frequent breaks during driving instruction sessions.

4. Ask the instructor to use physical cues to help with estimating speed and distance. Also ask that the driving instructions be broken down into small sections.

5. Bring information that can help the driving instructor adapt strategies to help your Aspergers teen understand better.

6. Don't let your teen use computer simulation when practicing to drive. The Aspergers teen may not generalize the information well enough from computer to real life situations, plus it could confuse him.

7. Have a driving instructor assess your Aspergers teen’s visual/motor skills. You want to know how easily he gets distracted.

8. Have you teen drive along familiar routes as often as possible. New routes and not knowing where they are going can easily distract and upset Aspergers teens.

9. Have your teen continue to practice his driving skills even after he has already passed his driving test.

10. Help your teen apply for a driving license at the normal legal age, but be sure to put down Aspergers on the application at the DMV. It's against the law not to declare this on the application, but it won't disqualify your teen for getting a license.

11. Simulate situations in an empty parking lot that require avoidance steering, emergency breaking and distractions like loud music, water on the windshield and pedestrians until the teen driver is comfortable.

12. Teach your teen to remain calm when other drivers break the rules of the road. Aspergers teens follow the rules of the road and the signs concretely, sometimes to a fault. Help your teen anticipate the actions of other cars by observing their behavior.

With the above information in mind, parents should be able to have some peace-of-mind knowing that their young Aspergers driver will make it home safely with nothing more than an occasional fender-bender.

The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook


Anonymous said...

My son has mild Aspergers but like the original post, is just to afraid to drive. I ended up moving with him to another state and made sure he got all his college studies finished. He has a brilliant mind for animals and I found Pikes Peak Community College in Colorado Springs has a great 2 year Zoo Keeper program. He has finished the coursework and still has 3 internships to earn his degree. He tried one internship but didn't feel he fit in and had some pretty bad supervisors. He has since worked a few months at Target and has a stronger work ethic so I think he will be more successful in his next internships. Unfortunatly since we live in Wyoming and it has no Zoo's, we will probabloy have to move again to complete the degree and find him perminate work.

Ness said...

Yeah, this would be useful if my instructor knew I was an aspie...

StephenH said...

I am a person with autism who has been driving for 15 years. In fact, I drive a car with a manual transmission. Driving was not difficult for me. I have not had a speeding ticket. What helped me was two things:

1) Previous Knowledge of Physics (yes many of the drivers book rules are based on Physics)

2) Learning the rules of the road

3) Knowing the area at first. This was helpful. Although now I have enough experience to drive almost anywhere (About 4 months ago I did a 11 state road trip, driving from California to Illinois and back!).

4) Getting a good instructor. Unfortunately the person the disability system sent was not the right match for me, so I used someone else I found.

DeLana Parker said...

My daughter is 18 and has Aspergers. Hers is particularly with anti-social behavior and thoughts. My entire family is ridiculing me for not forcing her to get her drivers license, but she is scared and doesn't want to. Should I force her to? Am I wrong?

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the Aspergers child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

Click here to read the full article…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Aspergers Children

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and the Asperger’s child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

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Parenting Defiant Aspergers Teens

Although Aspergers is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager with Aspergers are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the Aspergers teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

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Aspergers Children “Block-Out” Their Emotions

Parenting children with Aspergers and HFA can be a daunting task. In layman’s terms, Aspergers is a developmental disability that affects the way children develop and understand the world around them, and is directly linked to their senses and sensory processing. This means they often use certain behaviors to block out their emotions or response to pain.

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Older Teens and Young Adult Children With Aspergers Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with Aspergers face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

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Living with an Aspergers Spouse/Partner

Research reveals that the divorce rate for people with Aspergers is around 80%. Why so high!? The answer may be found in how the symptoms of Aspergers affect intimate relationships. People with Aspergers often find it difficult to understand others and express themselves. They may seem to lose interest in people over time, appear aloof, and are often mistaken as self-centered, vain individuals.

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Online Parent Coaching for Parents of Asperger's Children

If you’re the parent of a child with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism, you know it can be a struggle from time to time. Your child may be experiencing: obsessive routines; problems coping in social situations; intense tantrums and meltdowns; over-sensitivity to sounds, tastes, smells and sights; preoccupation with one subject of interest; and being overwhelmed by even the smallest of changes.

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Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

Parents, teachers, and the general public have a lot of misconceptions of Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism. Many myths abound, and the lack of knowledge is both disturbing and harmful to kids and teens who struggle with the disorder.

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Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

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My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content