Autism Spectrum drivers make great drivers. You just need to spend enough time and energy teaching them to drive. Many need about three times as much support at drivers not ‘on the spectrum’. An Autistic learner driver must learn everything to do, everything not to do then learn that no-one else will drive that way.
One of the biggest challenges is learning to cope with other drivers doing the wrong thing. This can be over come with the right support and training. Once it is understood that most drivers will crash at least once in their life then there is good reason not to drive like most drivers.
When teaching someone to drive, it is easy to make assumptions. As experienced drivers we take for granted that a learner will just know certain things or be able to work them out. This is not the case for most learners and particularly for Autism Spectrum learners. It can never be assumed that having learned how to do a lane change to the right that these skills can be transferred to a lane change to the left. These are two completely different skills for many spectrum drivers and often must be taught and learned separately.
Making it real
Autism Spectrum learners also learn best in real situations. A hill start must be learned on a steep hill, especially for automatic cars. The hill must be steep enough that the car will definitely roll back if you get it wrong. Trying to teach it on a gentle slope doesn’t work. The car does not roll back so it does not make sense. Why would you do all this extra stuff if the car wouldn’t roll back any way. Making it real is the trick.
The other big trick is to demonstrate good driving habits. This is both true in driving lesson environment and when you are driving. Spectrum learners who have grown up in a family with a good driving culture find it much easier to learn safe driving skills. The opposite is also true. Your Autism Spectrum son or daughter will drive exactly like you do. Better hope you are a good driver. If you are concerned, have some coaching from a good driving instructor so that you can learn to pass on good habits.
Demonstration in a lesson environment is also super effective. An Autistic learner who watches their instructor demonstrate five or six good reverse parallel parks is likely to just get in the car and do a perfect park. Helping the learner understand the value of watching how something is done can be a bit tricky but worth doing. You also need to help them understand just what to watch while you are demonstrating.
Autism spectrum drivers drive like machines
Autism Spectrum drivers who have been taught well and experienced enough real life driving situations drive brilliantly. They drive like machines. Everything is done correctly, laws are never broken and the biggest challenge is coping with other drivers doing the wrong thing.
When asked who was the best driver she knew, the younger sister of an autistic driver did not hesitate. She said “my autistic brother. He is the one I feel safest with”. While learning, her brother had driving lessons every two weeks for more than two years. After nearly two years with the instructor he started driving with his parents. They drove every where with him working hard to make sure he experienced everything possible. This process may not be true for you or your learner but the message is the same. Spending time and effort will pay off.
Teaching an Autism Spectrum learner is not always easy. If you are an Instructor you will be tested beyond anything you have ever experienced. You cannot afford to be wrong. Every answer you give must be backed by solid fact. If not, it will come back to haunt you. The response “but you said” will be common. This will leave you needing to remember just what you said previously and how that situation differed from the situation you are currently discussing.
Be ready to answer great questions
A question about how the air conditioner works may not be sufficiently answered by explaining which switch to turn on. You may be expected to know how it makes the air cold. Great questions need great answers. You will be expected to know the answer. You are their teacher. Your Autism Spectrum leaner will not understand that you don’t know everything. Be ready to find out answers to great questions and get back to your leaner with great answers.
Teaching Autism Spectrum drivers is extremely rewarding. Watching the journey is amazing. If you have any questions about helping your new learner become a brilliant driver go to our website or call and talk to us. We are happy to help.