UNIQUE NEEDS REQUIRE SPECIALIZED KNOWLEDGE
Driving & Transportation with Autism Spectrum Disorder
At Planning Across the Spectrum, we want everyone with Autism and other disabilities to live as independently as possible.
The Next Street is uniquely positioned to serve the autism community with Driver Training. With a robust driving school program already in place as well as on staff occupational therapists trained in medically assessing drivers, we can help anyone on the autism spectrum navigate their road to independence through a driver’s license.
The Autism community is significantly underserved in the transportation world across the country. We do not have a model we can copy and thus will have to build one from scratch. However, the model that we do build will be scalable to any state that we choose to operate in and may even be able to be licensed to other driving schools across the country.
Students must be at least 16 years old to begin however we will work with any new driver after they turn 16. For many on the Autism Spectrum, motivation for driving doesn’t happen until their early to mid 20s. The goal of the program is to help people on the Autism Spectrum obtain their driver’s license and achieve the beginnings of a broader independence in life.
Autism can affect an ability to drive in many ways.
- Stimuli can be difficult to take on. Loud sounds such as sirens or screeching brakes, the feeling of the seatbelt against your skin and even the radio can cause discomfort and make driving challenging.
- There are many rules, and although individuals with ASD prefer to follow rules and stick to a routine, anyone who has been in a car, let alone behind the wheel understands that many other drivers do not follow the rules.
- It is not just about anxiety and physiological reactions. Physical demands and coordination are a big part of driving. It will be important to help an individual with autism develop skills to improve response time and coordination.
Whether you are a parent, or an individual yourself, you are probably wondering if it is possible.
Everyone with an ASD is unique. We have some questions that might be helpful to ask yourself about yourself or your child.
- How flexible is the potential driver when they be when they encounter changes?
- Is the potential driver able to adapt relatively quickly, or do sudden deviations from their expectations cause them severe distress?
- Does the potential driver have the motor skills needed to safely operate a vehicle’s controls?
- How is the potential driver able to handle distracting environments while still making quick, appropriate decisions, such as handling the noise of a radio, the visual stimuli of cars and billboards, and still reacting to a vehicle cutting them off?
- Does the potential driver have sensory processing issues that would result in anxiety when they encounter lots of noise or shiny moving objects?
- Is the potential driver able to maintain focus on a task for long periods of time, or will they get quickly distracted from driving and forget what they are doing?
- Can the potential driver maintain focus while being aware of their surroundings?
- Can the potential driving maintain enough awareness to notice potential obstacles and plan how to react to them?
Next Streets program for Driving With Autism includes a clinical evaluation by a Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist. They will assess you or your child and help you determine if they are ready to drive, as well as help you develop a plan to reach their goal.
What preparation or strategies can be done with on your own or with your child?
- Have the potential driver sit in the front passenger seats and verbalize directions to the driver. This will help to learn the roads, traffic control devices and lane markings. You can make a game of it!
- As skills of driving begin to come together, break these apart into smaller steps. For example, instead of just trying to start the car, take small steps, You must select the right key, put it in the ignition, turn it to the right until they hear the engine turn over, and then let go of the key.
- Teach your child or yourself about GPS and other options. However, be careful about sensory overload. For example, using an application on a phone can create notifications and distractions while driving.
- Have someone point out drivers that do not follow the rules of the road. Although we would like to believe everyone is a perfect driver, we must be realistic in what the new driver will encounter on the roads. People not following the rules can lead to a rage incident but talking through this can help.
- Going over what to do when things do not go as planned. It is ok for example to keep going if you miss a turn and to navigate and turn back around. What happens if there is an accident, or a flat tire.
What if Driving ends up not being right for me or my family?
- That is ok! At least you tried, and although we believe in learning to drive there are other means of transportation and the skills that were learned will be useful in all scenarios.
- Learning the signs, directions and how the rules of the road work is useful for everyone.
- There are buses, subways, and Uber and Lyft and become more popular. Do not feel that you failed. An important step towards independence was taken. The motivation to want to drive is the most important piece, and nobody can take that away from you.
So why is a Financial Planning Company working with a Driving School again?
- As we have said before, transportation and driving is one of the most important factors to being an independent young adult. Our mission at Planning Across the Spectrum is to help everyone live as independent and financial free as possible. Being able to get to your new job, see friends, and have the security of getting around on your own is invaluable.
- Since driving is one of the first and most important steps many individuals looking to be independent strive to achieve, we want to help them through that. We understand that this is just the beginning of a path down the road of independence.
- And this is just the beginning, and we want to be there with you and your family from your first car, to your last. This means we commonly help with:
- College Planning – Finding the right college and taking advantage of all financial opportunities.
- Guardianship – Many times there are less restrictive options then guardianship and conservatorship
- Government Benefits – Navigating the maze of government benefits, not just for today, but to plan for years into the future.
- Insurance – Not limited to car insurance! (Although that is important too) Making sure there is proper disability and life insurance coverage if needed is vitally important.
- Coaching – We have partnered with an amazing coach to help you live your best possible life and coach you on what is next. This is not just financial and money management. This is helping you be your best self.
- Saving and Investing – We advise and help with ABLE accounts, retirement, investments for the entire family.
- Legal Options – Although we are not attorneys, we work with ones around the country who help not just establish a Special Needs Trust, but really go into the details as to what you are looking to do, and where you want to go. Then we will help you get there.
You have taken the first step towards independence. Life is a journey and we want to be the (hopefully not annoying) backseat driver with you.