Autism Spectrum Australia

Driving That Aspie

  • Posted: 02/10/2014
  • Author: Thomas Kuzma
  • Comments: Loading.. .

Hey! Fancy seeing you here! It’s great to see you back here at Aspire. I’m coming to you from the Quarantine Zone today, I am afraid the sickness I have been fighting off has now consumed me whole and I am drowning in honey and lemon tea like a frat boy chugs beer and I am talking to my Optimus Prime mask whilst wearing my doona, trying to re-enact Shakespeare. I just wish I could drive so I could pick up some cold and flu medicine.

One of the many challenges we face on the spectrum as adults is driving. I might be overdoing it by saying it’s a challenge. Now driving can seem like a simple task for any neurotypical, but the obstacles that we face behind the wheel can be quite different for someone on the spectrum. Let’s try and shift this blog into 5th gear and talk about how we can help our fellow aspiring aspies drive happily into the sunset.

A Professional Opinion

Riding along in my automobile, I talked to the Psychology Department about being behind the wheel. Here is their collective response on the matter.

The concept of driving comes with its fair share of challenges. When it comes to driving there are two big questions someone on the spectrum must ask themselves:

  1. Do you want to?
  2. If you do, will you be able to?

It isn’t just about driving, but also about being a safe driver. You need to know if you can be a safe driver when the time comes. Having or autism also means there is an extra step to getting your license. You need to fill out the disability section on the Driver’s License form and hand it to your doctor to sign.

Your GP also needs to determine if you are safe to drive or not. There are assessments with driver-trained occupational therapists to deal with too.

Here are some things to think about:

  • Are you ready to accept instruction and constructive criticism?
  • Do you feel able to take the responsibility for driving, bearing in mind the safety of other road users?
  • Are you ready to learn the rules of the road?
  • Are you able to maintain attention for a reasonable length of time?
  • Are you able to problem solve and react quickly?

Trying to get your license is a hard process, sometimes even for neurotypical people. Here are some suggestions to get you through this:

  • Remain calm – practice some breathing exercises or use your own coping mechanisms to compose yourself before getting in the car
  • Use a professional driver trainer
  • Break down skills into small steps – lots of repetition and practice.
  • Talk aloud as you are driving, explain what is happening on the road and what you are thinking and how you are planning ahead.
  • Talk through or role play possible social situations related to driving e.g. what to do if pulled over by police, what to do in the event of an accident.

Some young people with autism have the necessary skill set for driving and choose to do so. Some young people with autism are unable to drive. Others may be able to but choose not to, most often because they find it anxiety-provoking.

My Two Cents

I have to admit, this has been a hard one for me. With my snoz doing the best impression of a leaky hand sanitiser and the fact that I don’t know how to drive.

That’s right; the great Thomas Kuzma can entertain, but ask him to drive down the street and he will try to open the car door with a donkey. I am 23, I have glorious hair, but I don’t drive. Why? you ask. Well I have a fair share of reasons.

The first one would be my family’s history with automobiles. I have lost a family member from one, and almost lost another. I know I am an open person, but that is a private matter.

The second reason is that I have seen what a car looks like trashed. After a near accident at high school, our grade was brought in front of a totalled car and taught what happens after a car crash. Obviously there were no bodies in the car, but an Aspie’s imagination can fill those blanks in.

The third one is I know myself too well. I am a man that when gets something new, will abuse it until it can no longer function. The reason I no longer use my old Mp3s is because they have seen enough action to make motorbikes question what is rough.  So I realise if I start driving, I will use and abuse that privilege until my car is so tyred it says “You’re driving me up the wall!”.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

In Conclusion

120 years ago they launched the Benz Velo. It looks like a Victorian motorized wheelchair. The car has come a long way, it has changed, grown a shell and now comes with custom leather. Through all the exciting changes there has always been one constant; driving. We could have driverless cars in 20 years but that won’t change the fact that there will always be people who either want to or have to drive.

So why learn to drive if some machine is going to do it for us in the future? It’s because we have to. There was a time when our kind had to kill a beast in order to cook its flesh from a dead and bloodied corpse. We once had to craft our own tables, chairs and things to enjoy sitting down. There are plenty of people who don’t worry about things like these today because there are machines that do it for us.

We have an obligation to learn and adapt to the changes in our world, so driving is obviously on that list. Now some changes, like learning to drive can be horrendously hard, but there are ways to make that easier, like the tips in this week’s Professional Opinion. So I guess I can’t stay to my word without doing this. Starting next week I will start working on getting my driver’s license, every week you will get a mini update from me and my journey to getting my Ps. I hope you enjoy it more than I; I am terrified by it! See you next time

 

I hope this riddle isnt an mountain scale battle for you! 

What is greater than God,
more evil than the devil,
the poor have it,
the rich need it,
and if you eat it, you'll die?

 

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Driving That Aspie