Should My Special Needs Child Be Driving?
What To Consider
Some of the things we take into consideration when it comes to driving are things you probably think about all the time, but you don’t think about them in relation to a medical condition.
We have some clients who just don’t have good impulse control. The can’t multitask, and driving is a multitasking activity, in which you have to be aware of everything around you. If I have a perceptual or visual processing problem, am I going to see a car on one side of me, and also see the car coming up from the other side? Maybe not.
Some of our clients have slow reaction times. Others will get obsessed with the radio or social media instead of prioritizing their attention on driving.
When you ask whether your child should be driving we take many different factors into consideration. I would say most of our clients who drive start driving at an older age. I think I started driving at 15 or 16, but many of our clients do not begin driving training until they’re 18. We go slowly and take a lot more practice time with them. They practice at home and we have them do a certified driving class. Sometimes our kiddos need one on one instruction, so we’ll have them do more of a private driving class. We wait a long time and have them practice a great deal before they take their driving test. Even then, there are some kids who pass their driver’s test but still struggle.
Even once they’re driving you have to be mindful of the fact that some of them go into fight or flight mode easily, so their reactions to things are more severe.
Specialized Driving Courses
There are some specialized driving courses available, but these are geared more towards people who have had brain injuries or strokes and are getting back into driving. Baylor Scott & White has one, and if you want to pursue this for your child we can give you that information.
Sometimes this is just a process of working with your gut and just doing a lot of driving with you in the passenger’s seat—which is not always a comfortable thing to do!
My son has struggled with driving. He’s had a few accidents and he’s learned over time that he has to pay attention. Even though he has the ability to drive, he also has to manage to be attentive to all situations. He has to consider traffic jams and the many other unpredictable things that happen. This can be difficult for our kids.
Talk To Your Child’s Therapist
So if you’re wondering if it’s time for your child to start driving lessons, talk to your clinicians! Your PTs and OTs are going to have a much better idea of your child’s abilities in this area, and how all the different factors that are going on with them related to their disability might impact their driving.
The great thing about this day and age is that people can get around easily without driving! You can teach your kids to use Uber, or use public transportation, biking—there are many options!