Dr. Temple Grandin on Driving with Autism: Practice!

Though driving with an Autism diagnosis is not for everyone, many do decide to obtain their driver license and go on to live independent lives. Aspergers101 teamed with Dr. Temple Grandin to provide helpful information when considering if driving is for you, or your teen.

Long before driver education, Temple suggests first mastering your skills by practicing on a bicycle (coordination, motor skills). Then tackle driving in a safe remote area such as the country or large parking lot. You’ll begin mastering such challenging tasks, such as multi-tasking, prior to any driving on congested roadways.

One suggestion she has is that before you take a driver education course, you need to find a safe place and practice, and after that, practice even more! Getting the ‘knack’ of driving includes working on your coordination, motor skills, and multi-tasking which all come into play when learning to drive, even more so for those on the autism spectrum.

Anxiety can often be reduced (for the driver with Autism) by lots of driving practice in a safe remote location.  

– Dr. Temple Grandin

Once you’ve mastered working the brake, blinker, gas and other essential tasks while driving, you’ll then be ready to be thrown into a group/driver education training.

Another recommendation from Dr. Grandin is to practice a role-play scenario as if an officer of the law were approaching your vehicle. Practice the steps of rolling down the window, then keeping your hands in view of the officer (a good place is the steering wheel). Once the officer asks for your driver license, let the trooper know that you are now going to reach for your purse or wallet to get your license.

Practice, or role-playing certain scenarios that can occur while driving will help keep the Autistic driver’s anxiety down. Surprises are scary, so the more prepared the driver is, the less chance there is for a panic attack or even a meltdown. Taking it slow and honing in on the basic driving skills prior to taking a public or private driver education class is key. You can then slowly move to practicing on a more congested highway system. These skills will be instrumental for a life-long confidence while driving.

Learn more about AS101’s “Driving with Autism” here!

Please consider donating to help support this initiative.



“Driving with Autism” is an AspDriving with Autism logoergers101 series that educates and empowers the driver diagnosed with High-Functioning Autism or Aspergers Syndrome. Aspergers101 has teamed up with the Texas DPS in training Texas State Troopers about the uniqueness of Autism and understanding the Autistic driver. This partnership is garnering encouraging results.

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  1. I really hope that my 16-year-old daughter is able to eventually learn to drive. I often have concerns that she doesn’t “see” the obvious—for example we’ve lived in the same house for 12 years and she didn’t know where the towels were kept. Or she claims to be unable to find her shoes when they’re right next to the doorway of her room… and if you give her three things to do, like brush her teeth, comb her hair and put her shoes on, she’ll only remember one of your instructions and swear you didn’t mention the others. She also has never learned how to ride a bike due to her mild cerebral palsy and balance issues, so there’s that. Any advice would be appreciated as I eventually plan to move to a somewhat rural area where transportation is limited.

  2. I appreciate your advice.Some points really helpful.defensive driver education is a part of professional driving education.
    It saves our life and wealth.Thanks For sharing.

  3. I completely agree. My Dad (who was same as me) drove out into the desert and had me watch during the drive how he checked in the mirrors and out the windshield and how he used the clutch and other foot pedals and how he shifted gears. That mental practice made the real learning and driving less frightening. Driver’s Ed in the Los Angeles City Schools was, much, less useful to me. I am glad Dad suggested what percentage of time I should be looking out the front windshield; almost 100%. Just quick looks at mirrors.

    1. Hi I am a 26 year old woman and
      I have high functioning autism and I would like very much to be able to drive. My mom tells me that I will never be able to drive because my reflexes aren’t fast enough but I disagree. I feel like I can be able to drive if I really work on making my reflexes faster and being able to ride a bike without stablizer wheels. Is there any way I can convince my mom to let me learn how to drive?

      1. You should work on biking first to work on your judgement and awareness of other people. You will be able to work on your reflexes that way. Once you have master it. Then the articles says to tackle driving. If you are an adult, you are allowed to pass both a written test and driving exam to get a drivers license these days. We do need more programs in place for adults on the autism spectrum to teach them independent living skills and to learn how to drive. Sometimes parents may not let their adult child with autism drive but it is important to rely on other people like friends to help you learn to drive. I would recommend going through drivers education first so that you can learn to drive and be less and less reliant on your parents to help you. Rent a car for learning how to drive, video games with steering wheels, shift sticks, and pedals, go karts, and biking do work on motor skills quite a bit.

        1. Thanks for your advice about learning to drive. I will have to practice riding my bike and learn how to work on my judgment by being aware of other people around me on the road & being able to balance with out falling over & eventually not have to have stablizer wheels on my bike. I liked your ideas about taking a drivers Ed program or having a friend teach me to drive but unfortunately my mom won’t let me do any of those things. She won’t let me rent a car to practice driving either and she has told me that if she let me practice driving in her car that she would get her drivers license suspended. My mom is very insistent that I will never be able to drive but yes we do need more programs for adults with high functioning autism to teach independent skills like driving. I just don’t know if my mom would let me go to a program like that. I also liked your idea about doing activities to help with my reflexes and coordination to prepare me to learn to drive. I just don’t know if doing those things would change my moms mind and she has even told me many times that riding a bike isn’t the same as driving a car and that even if I could eventually be able to ride my bike without stablizer wheels that I still wouldn’t be able to drive. My mom is my legal guardian and so she makes all of my decisions for me like weather or not I can drive for instance but thanks for your help. I really appreciate it.

          1. You have to fight in court though if you want to just be your own independent adult self instead of having a guardian. I understand that your parents are pretty harsh on you and should not be controlling their child anyways. They should be letting their child make their own decisions. I have seen individuals on the autism spectrum who have had legal guardians learn to be harsh on them and try to be irresponsible on them anyways. Parents should not be controlling their child anyways and should be letting them make their own decisions. Other individuals on the autism spectrum that I have seen before that did not have legal guardians and did not have parents help them learn to drive have had to go to the drivers education school first to be able to learn how to drive on their own. Another thing is that other individuals have had to learn to drive in their areas and then work their way up.

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