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Fewer Than a Third of Autistic Teens Can Drive

From Science World Report.   Striking statistic for some, not so surprising for Age of Autism readers. Only as few as... means fewer than 33% of teens with autism have a drivers license. A license means independence. It's a hug step toward leaving the nest. It's an assurance you can find a job in a wide radius from home (assuming you have access to a car.) A license in America is a GIVEN. Not for autism.   So, Sesame Street...

In the United States, teens 16 years old and over could drive a car. However, teens with autism could not hit the open road as much. A new research revealed that only about one-third of autistic children can get their own driver's license.

Allison Curry, a senior scientist at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, said that despite the pros of driving for teens with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), little is known about the rates of actually obtaining the said license. In her study, however, she found that although a substantial number of children with ASD do get a license, only as few as 1 in 3 of teens with ASD but no intellectual disability do so.

WebMD noted that teens on the autism spectrum do not always pursue a driver's license. Nonetheless, this increased mobility and independence can also contribute to their long-term opportunities, including post-high school education, employment or even social involvement. Still, while not all of them get their licenses, most do by the age of 21. There is a 90 percent of those who apply do get their license to drive. Although it seems late, they are only delayed by about nine months, which is not too bad.

According to NJ.com, driving can be complex for autistic teens and can be quite challenging for them. Patty Huang, a co-author of the study, said that although they are good at following rules, they have subtle impairments that involve their interaction, communication and motor skills. They also lack coordination and the ability to control their emotions, which could be dangerous on the road.

Still, becoming a licensed driver could be an important milestone in their lives, which is why it is necessary for families to make the decision. Parents can learn more by scheduling a doctor's appointment to ask about specific driving concerns or getting a driving teacher who has been trained in working with teens who have special needs.  Read more here.


Aude Sapere

I am a retired MD/homeopath in my 70s who diagnosed myself with Aspergers about 10 years ago. I didn't get my driver's license till I was 20. I never enjoyed driving. I am uncoordinated, have no sense of direction, and lack depth perception due to severe astigmatism in one eye. I never felt safe driving and arranged my life to do as little as possible. I usually got lost driving to a new place, which was very scarey. There was no GPS or cell phones back then. Young people with autism who don't drive may have some of these issues.


Alexandra unheard of in the UK I cant think of one of my friends when I was younger sitting it in an automatic.Over here you arent allowed to drive a manual geared vehicle if you sat your test in an automatic - new phenomenon a rise in teenagers using automatics . The driving instructor confirmed it was due to disabilities when I asked him.

Pharma for Prison



angusphiles--I learned how to drive in 1990 and we used cars with automatic transmission. Detroit area. I learned how to drive manual in 1992.


Driving instructors are needing more automated automatic cars rather than manual driven cars due to disabilities.This I was told by my old friend a driving instructor of 30 years he has a manual and an automatic now- where 10 years ago it was almost unheard of for a teen to sit a test in an automatic.

Pharma for Prison


Jeannette Bishop

So, this 1 in 3 is in teens on the spectrum without intellectual disability?

One of the excruciating aspects of learning for me was it was illegal to practice until you could take certain programs that weren't adequate (or were extremely frustrating) for some (maybe it was just me) who found it an intense "crash" course. I think one of the unwritten assumptions was that you already had practice (illegally and/or on some expanse of private property--which I'm not sure made it "legal"--which might be the case for some growing up on farmland, etc) before you officially had to try it in the state provided program. And the simulators did very little to give me an idea of what to really expect. Then practicing with parents was pretty stressful for both student driver and tutor... I did get a license, though I wasn't sure it was worth the process for a couple of years.

I suspect the process of learning to take in and coordinate multiple sensory input needed to drive, learning how to filter or discount what is distracting and yet be open to input that is needed for quick decision making, and the physical coordination of both feet and hands, etc, while likely doable for these teens, may take a much longer, slow-going with understanding that slow is ok if not best for the process than might be provided in some regions. And then there's possibly more frustration with how little rules are actually followed on the road, or drivers respected when they follow rules, so that one can't assume things will be predictable, or one might come to assume perhaps things will be rather predictably stressful...


My son is 15, here in Ohio kids can start learning at 15 1/2 (in my son's case that would be June, since his birthday is in December). My son is on the spectrum, teacher things Asperger's, and he's expressed an interest in learning to drive, maybe because he sees other kids at church learning.

What do I tell him? This is a kid who knows more than what he lets on. He might be able to operate a car, but traffic rules would be an issue.


My cousin's granddaughter is not on the spectrum. Well, at least the schools never deemed she was. She is a tall, pretty, quiet and pale little thing. She graduated from college last year, with a bachelor degree in something to do with computers.

She has never driven. When her mother mentions driving, she has a severe anxiety attacks, to the point her Mother has stopped asking. .
Now, if they know that a third of the kids that have autism, but no intellectual disability by 16 years old is not driving, do they know what it is for the whole population?

By the way; my son got his; at age 23, and the happiest day of my life. It equals my other Four happiest days; making it a grand total of my five most important days of my life.
My son by the way did not receive his at 16, at 17 he passed the written test. IT was not until he was 23 that he received his license. Of course having seizures kind of holds ya up.


One transportation alternative that's appealing to some folks is driverless vehicles.

Not so fast, I say. Sending one's child off in driverless tech would be a nonstop source of anxiety especially for parents who've already lost part of their children to another flawed work-in-progress -- vaccines.

I am not in any hurry to offer up my progeny as a guinea pig meat sacrifice to beta-test a public transportation experiment. One view of that Tesla hitting the semi is enough for me.

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