Preparing the Autistic Driver for the Road: A Look at Motor Skills

Aspergers101 asks the experts about driving safely with Autism. In this blog we focus especially on preparing to drive with motor skill challenges.

Dr. Berenice de la Cruz, Training and Research Director at the Autism Community Network, offers a great overview into the differences of the Autistic brain and how those differences affect the skills it takes to drive.

Dr. Berenice de la Cruz/Training and Research Director/Autism Community Network

There are three structural differences in the Autistic brain. These differences will most likely affect:

  1. motor skills
  2. communication (social) skills
  3. sensory processing

Both fine and gross motor skills are typical challenges for many diagnosed with High Functioning Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome. implicit_learning_hero

So when it comes to learning to drive, or at least considering if driving may be an option, it is imperative to overcome the challenges that can impede safe driving.

Dr. Temple Grandin asserts that if she did not have the ability to drive she would never have been able to visit all of the feed/stock yards to do her prep work for her cattle handling designs. When learning to drive motor skills can be a challenge, especially with multi-tasking, but not impossible to overcome.

Dr. Grandin’s advice is to practice, a lot:

Dr. Temple Grandin/Professor of Animal Science/Inventor/Autism Advocate

When being pulled over by a police officer, Asperger drivers with motor skill issues can exhibit a speech delay. Dr Grandin recommends that police take this into consideration and allow time for the driver to process the information spoken. Oftentimes people on the spectrum will be slow to respond as they are dealing with loud sights, sounds, and basically a sensory overload that causes them to freeze.

Dr. Temple Grandin/Professor of Animal Science/Inventor/Autism Advocate

If you are an Autistic driver or a parent considering whether you Asperger child could indeed one day drive, realize that it is possible if they want to.

Understanding challenges, such as motor skills and coordination, is a large part of preparing for independence through driving.

My son Samuel is 24 with Asperger’s and has been driving for several years. But it took several years of practicing in a safe large area to hone in on his multi-tasking challenges. Practice a lot, as Dr. Temple Grandin recommends, and take this huge step towards independence slowly. Allow extra time to introduce the radio, talking passengers, turn indicator, air/heat controls or other distractions that we, as neuro-typicals take for granted.

Like most all behaviors, driving is learned with much practice!

by Jennifer Allen

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 on-going 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.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

2 thoughts on “Preparing the Autistic Driver for the Road: A Look at Motor Skills

  1. A natural expectation would be that, if someone is driving a car, that they would be able to respond verbally to a police officer. Of course the entire experience of being pulled over is unnerving for most of us, but for persons with autism, we all know that could definitely be a case of sensory overload. I would recommend having an information card in a convenient location to hand to a police officer that gives some brief information about the person. There is also something called “If I need help” which can be attached to someone’s shoe or maybe a purse. A third option is an app, such as an ICE app. I have created an app to help with decision making or problem solving, intended to support persons who may be on overload. It’s called Smart Steps Mobile. It has a profile button that leads to a screen with the app user’s name and address. This year we are adding many features, including a text box on the profile screen so that you can add information for a situation like this. The download is free, on iOS and Android.