Learning to drive is a significant milestone in many people’s lives, symbolizing independence, and freedom. For individuals with autism spectrum disorder, the process of obtaining a driver’s license can present unique challenges and opportunities. In this blog post, we will explore the experiences of Andrew Arboe, an individual with ASD.

Andrew is an autistic self-advocate with over five years of professional experience helping autistic individuals be empowered in their lives by sharing his experiences in public speaking and freelancing work with organizations. Andrew believes that collaboration is key to solving issues with transitioning to adulthood and transportation. He focuses on transportation because it can affect various milestones and can impact both the social and work worlds for individuals. He knows how it feels and how limiting it can be to not have a reliable transportation option. Andrew helps individuals find their path to finding what works for them.

Can you describe your experience with driving and any challenges you may have faced while driving?

There are internal and external barriers that I face when driving. Internal barriers refer to anxiety with driving and external barriers are things that I face when driving on the road. Regarding the internal barriers, I do a few things to work with the anxiety. The places I want to go to are my motivation. If I don’t have my favorite coffee shop close by, I am motivated to drive there so I can get that coffee. I also had a weekend job and needed to drive to that. The ability to do more things motivates me to drive.

Finding support for driving has been a big help. There are not a lot of resources in Connecticut, and it took a while for me to figure out how to find those resources. Because of this lack of resources, I created the Autism and Driving Resource Database to help others find driving resources across fifty different states.

How do you manage unexpected situations or changes while driving?

I use a mounted GPS from my phone and follow that. Google Maps is a great help, it will give me a heads-up when the route or traffic changes. Other advice I would give is to leave early and give yourself enough time. If tolls are difficult for you to drive through, you can find routes to avoid those. I prefer toll-free roads. When I was a young driver, I did not go on the highway. I took my time and did not go on the highway until about 7-8 months after getting my license. I would say take time to get comfortable by yourself and then see if you want to move to the next step.

How do you manage sensory sensitivities or distractions while driving?

Music helps me. I play video game soundtracks in the car. I also like cinematic movie soundtracks and music from other shows that I grew up with such as Studio Ghibli. For me, music gets me hyper-focused. I also like to drink coffee to stay focused, however, that is just my tip. If coffee crashes you don’t drink it while driving. I also wear a scarf that helps to regulate me while driving. I like sunglasses when it is sunny and nighttime glasses for nighttime driving. Some people have sensitivity to looking at high beams at night. You can check your local Pharmacy to see if they have them. You can also take a break if you need to. You can pull over at a Gas Station or a McDonalds to take a break.

Can you explain how you plan and navigate routes to unfamiliar destinations?

I like to research ahead of time. Map it out before you go. Google Maps will give you the plan so you can know what to expect as far as drive time and what is nearby. It is also a good way to discover new places that you might want to go to.

How do you communicate with other drivers on the road, such as using turn signals or responding to honking?

This took time for me to learn all the different ways to communicate with other drivers. I found out you can use your high beams to let people go. I used to just wave to them, but I found out it is easier to use high beams. You can research other ways to communicate with drivers if you want to learn more.

Can you describe a situation where you had to make a quick decision while driving and how you handled it?

When I was a young driver, I had a car with engine issues. The car engine light would turn on. When this happened, I had to think about where to pull over. I was near a hospital and decided to pull into the hospital parking spot. I called AAA Roadside Assistance and they helped.

What advice would you give other individuals with ASD who are thinking about getting their driver’s license?

I would say to try it, you never know until you try. It is important to go with your gut feeling. Some people do need their license if driving is required. Know what you want to do. If you can take buses and trains that is fine too. Know what makes sense for you and make that decision.

The journey of individuals with autism spectrum disorder learning to drive is a testament to their resilience, determination, and ability to overcome challenges. By providing specialized training, support, and understanding, we can empower individuals with ASD to navigate the road safely and confidently, opening new opportunities for independence and growth.

If you would like to learn more about Andrew Arboe, please visit his website.

https://andrewarboe.weebly.com

If you are interested in Andrew’s Autism driving resource database to find driving resources in your state, please visit:

https://andrewarboe.weebly.com/autismblog/autism-and-driving-resource-database

Additionally, for more information about Autism or where to find resources, visit Key Autism Services by clicking HERE.