Drivers Ed for People with Special Needs
Many parents wonder can people with special needs drive? If you're working with parents of teens with special needs or challenges that may affect their ability to drive, let them know they are not alone. In one CHOP study, two-thirds of 15- to 18-year-olds with a high-functioning autism spectrum disorder (HFASD) old enough to drive in their state are currently driving or plan to drive. The first step parents should take in the drivers ed for people with special needs process is to discuss the following with their teen’s doctor before allowing their child to apply for a learner permit:
- Do you feel your teen consistently demonstrates good judgment and maturity at school, around peers, and at home and is receptive to constructive criticism and instruction? Is she ready to accept responsibility for her safety and for those around her?
- Is your teen demonstrating knowledge of the rules of the road and other proficiencies based on lessons learned in driver education classes? (To find out, ask your teen to comment while driving with you.) If your teen is not doing so, is he not ready to drive or is he in need of specialized instruction?
- Is your teen agreeable to log at least 65 hours of adult-supervised practice driving before taking her on-road test for a probationary license? Are you or another trusted adult willing/able to serve in this important role?
- Are there any medical or physical issues, such as untreated seizures, significant uncorrected visual impairment, uncontrolled diabetes, amputation or concussion, that may prevent your teen from driving safely?
- Are there any behavioral or neuropsychiatric issues, such as drug dependence, depression, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), or intellectual disability, that may prevent your teen from driving safely?
- Are there any medical interventions that may be needed to ensure safe driving behaviors, such as stimulant medication for treatment of ADHD?
Let these parents know if that even if they answer “yes” to these questions, there is still much to consider before allowing their teen to start driving. Besides discussing any concerns they may have with their child's pediatrician, it may also be a good idea to seek the advice of a trained occupational therapist or driving instructor.
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For more information on specific special needs of teens and driving, steer parents to the following websites:
Read this blog post about developmental disabilities and driving