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Driving With Special Needs

Driving With Special Needs

If you are the parent of a teen with special needs that may affect his or her ability to drive, you are not alone. According to CHOP research, two-thirds of 15- to 18-year-olds with a higher-functioning autism spectrum disorder (HFASD) are currently driving or plan to drive and 1 in 3 adolescents with ASD (without intellectual disability) receive an intermediate license by age 21.

Your teen may view receiving a license as an exciting milestone in his or her transition to adulthood, but you may approach this time with fear as well. Many services received as children are no longer available, and the thought of driving may be overwhelming.

Adolescents with ASD or ADHD may have characteristics that place them at risk for unsafe driving behaviors, like inattention or getting lost in the details of the road. On the other hand, they may also have characteristics that promote safer driving behavior, such as a vigilance to follow driving laws.

Here are some questions to ask regarding your teen's driving readiness recommended by experts at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia:

  • Do you feel your teen consistently demonstrates good judgment and maturity at school, around peers, and at home?
  • Is your teen receptive to constructive criticism and instruction?
  • Does your teen demonstrate knowledge of the rules of the road and other skills taught in driver education classes? If not, does your teen need specialized instruction or a driving assessment?
  • Is your teen agreeable to practicing driving with a skilled adult prior to driving independently? If so, is there an adult who is willing and able to serve in this important role? Previous research showed that teens with ASD were more likely to be licensed when they had a parent who had previously taught a teen to drive.
  • Are there any medical or behavioral conditions (such as untreated seizures) that may prevent your teen from driving safely?
  • Are there medical interventions that may be needed to ensure safe driving behaviors?

If you and your teen are ready to start the learning to drive process, CHOP experts recommend that you:

  • add goals about driving into your teen’s individualized education plan
  • seek the advice of a certified driving rehabilitation specialist or occupational therapist who specializes in driving
  • consider treatment with ADHD medication if your teen has symptoms of ADHD

Read more about developmental disabilities and driving.

Read a blog post about ADHD and managing crash risk.

Read a blog post about ASD and licensing.

Watch a Medscape video about what clinicians should know about teens with ASD and driving.

Watch a Medscape video about what clinicians should know about teens with ADHD and driving.

A driver with special needs. 



Access information to help support teens with ADHD transition to adulthood, including driving advice, on the Center for Management of ADHD at CHOP website and on the Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists website.

Access information to help support teens with ASD transition to adulthood at, including an article on Driving and ASD: Determining Readiness.

Download the TeenDrivingPlan Practice Guide, an interactive resource based on years of research, to help you effectively supervise your teen's driving practice, and a Goal Guide and Logging and Rating Tool to keep you on track.


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