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Your autistic teenager wants to drive


Two-thirds of teenagers with a high-functioning autism spectrum disorder (HFASD) who are of legal driving age, are currently driving or have plans to do so. In the first study of its kind, child development and teen driving experts at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Center for Child Injury Prevention Studies looked closely at driving as it relates to teens with HFASD.

How HFASD affects driving

HFASD is differentiated from ASD by more subtle impairments in social interaction, communication, motor skills and coordination, and by a difficulty in regulating some emotions. For the young driver, all of these can come into play when driving a car.

“Little is known about how HFASDs affect a person’s ability to drive safely,” explained lead author Patty Huang, MD, a developmental pediatrician at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).

“Over the past decade, the rate of children diagnosed with an HFASD has increased, meaning that more of those kids are now approaching driving age. Car crashes are the number one cause of death for teenagers, so it is important that we understand how HFASDs impact driving and how to develop appropriate educational and evaluation tools.”

A first step was to look at the families of 300 licensed HFASD kids to see what the predictive characteristics were. Most of the kids were at least 17 years old. They were enrolled in full-time regular educational programs while all had plans to apply to and attend college. Most of them held part-time jobs and had a parent who had taught other teens how to drive. Their schools had also included driving related goals in their individualized education plans (IEP).

Readiness is key

To determine if a HFASD teen is ready to drive, consult a professional, such as an occupational therapist or a driving instructor. They may be able to break the lessons down and help with any intimidation the teen might feel. Readiness is key to success.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics

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