Aspergers and Driving Judgment – Planning to Make it Clear

Driving with Autism

Aspergers youth process information differently than their neuro-typical peers. More specifically, they generally think in a visual, concrete, detail-oriented manner for every task. They like to know every detail about something, especially when it is critical to survival and to excellence at a given task; driving encompasses both survival and excellence.

Driver’s education courses and books serve as necessary and insightful preparatory activities for the inexperienced and exceptional driver. Further, each driver has different habits and preferences, good and bad. When a driver or parent uses these habits advantageously, they serve as indicators for level of comfort and as foreshadowers of future mistakes.

Among the most common and serious issues that Aspergers youth face is the fact that many of them do not always think fast enough to make snap decisions. This issue especially applies when Aspergers drivers travel in unfamiliar places in general.

For example: an Aspergers driver who usually travels on two-lane in-state roadways near his home would likely have trouble navigating through a series of one-way city streets in Baltimore, MD, considering that he does not typically watch out for one-way signs there.

As a safeguard, they desire to stick with the same few routes every day because they fit into their pre-established driving parameters. These parameters could include the avoidance of bridges due to fear of heights or bumpy roads due to sensory overload caused by bouncing in the seat.

Let’s face it, unpleasant stimulation and loss of direction often triggers meltdowns and panic attacks in the Aspergers driver, thereby further clouding his judgment. Behind the wheel, one bad situation leads to another.

To resolve these issues, there are actions that parents and Aspergers drivers can both take to make judgment clear in order to ensure safe travels.

4 Tips for Drivers with Aspergers to Get Comfortable Before They Hit the Road

Driving with Autism Series

Drivers with Aspergers like to have every detail in place in accordance with their personal preferences. They want to precisely change things like the climate control and the radio. These changes allow for comfort and, therefore, enjoyment while driving.

However, one thing to note is that the drivers may have trouble changing these things while they drive. The best thing to do is to make adjustments before the car rolls.

Here is a brief list of suggestions for the Aspergers driver to feel comfortable in their vehicle in order for them to focus only on the road while driving:

  1. Take any items out of pockets and find places for them in the car so that they are secure, but safely out of the driver’s way;
  2. Always wear a seatbelt, no matter what! Make sure that the driver adjusts the strap so that it is not painful or itchy;
  3. Purchase a solar shield that specifically fits the car and use the air conditioning during the hot days. Anybody, especially an Aspergers driver who has sensory hypersensitivity, could not bear to sit in a car with an excessively hot interior. During the warmer weather, use a solar shield and crank up the air conditioning to eliminate stifling heat; then drive when the inside cools down. The opposites apply to cold weather.
  4. Study the car and determine where all of the switches and buttons are so that the driver can quickly adjust while driving. It always helps to know where to find all of the specific gizmos in a car so that the driver can push the buttons without looking at them for more than a split second. Further, such features on the dashboard particularly intrigue Aspergers drivers, considering that they always feel compelled to know EVERY detail about their vehicle. Simply allow the driver to examine the car’s interior and to experiment with all of the various gizmos.

These constitute four of many things that certainly ensure driver comfort. The note to drivers is to identify what offers comfort and what does not and to always feel comfortable behind the wheel.

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

Please consider donating to help support this initiative.

DONATE TODAY

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“Driving with Autism” is an AspDriving with Autism logoergers101 series that educates and empowers the driver diagnosed with High-Functioning Autism or Asperger’s 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.

Article by Reese Eskridge

Reese Eskridge

Reese Eskridge is a Production Technician with Fairville Products, who is passionate about working in the sciences (biology) and wishes to take his work experiences further into the fields of Educational Neuroscience; Science Fiction; Freelance Writing; Disability Advocacy; Public Speaking; Leadership and Entrepreneurship. Aspergers101 is proud to offer the insights and perceptions of the talented Mr. Eskridge, who is obviously living life on the spectrum to it’s fullest!

You may contact Reese at: reeseesk@udel.edu

Aspergers and Driver’s Ed: The Options Available to You

Driving with Autism in Texas

This blog was originally published when Jennifer had initially discovered the discrepancies in the Texas State DPS system when it came to the “Communication Impediment” as an option for those with Autism. Since then, Jennifer and Aspergers101 have worked tirelessly to change current laws and promote this beneficial option for drivers with Autism in Texas. To learn more about what Jennifer Allen and Aspergers101 have done for drivers with Autism in the state of Texas, go here:

Driving with Autism Initiative

Having a son with Aspergers Syndrome is always a learning curve. I haven’t had a living template from which to go by. Every small milestone in Sam’s young life has seemed so much larger hurdling than it was in mine or my husband’s life. So as we approached the driver’s education opportunity in high school, we rolled up our sleeves and got busy in research. Though gifted with a high intellect, oftentimes those with Aspergers Syndrome or High functioning Autism are 2 to 3 years behind on an emotional level. Emotions often play into driving (ie…people with road rage) so I took that into account when Sam approached the typical 16 year old age of driving.

While we wanted him to go with his class, we held back a bit and it didn’t seem to bother Sam.

We waited a year for Drivers Ed and I went to the district, before he began, and spoke to the Director of Student Driving about Aspergers Syndrome.

They were aware of it but I made sure the driving instructor assigned to Sam knew about how sarcasm, loud noises from fellow student drivers or impromptu journeys would not fare well. Though a bit older than the other student drivers, Sam did well and completed the course.

The next big step was the actual test at the DPS. Here is where I want to share valuable information!

Through persistence on our part, we were able to have “Communication Impediment” put on the restrictions section (where they list use for glasses and such) of Sam’s Drivers license. This offers some security for when/if Sam is pulled over by a policeman and the officer is threatening to him. The officer will see on Sam’s license that he has Autism, and difficulty communicating as we know could be misconstrued for bad attitude.

Please check into this for yourself or for your child’s sake! You might have to put on your investigative hat (our local DPS office had never heard of this). But, when they checked with the state level (we’re in Texas) it was confirmed you could put Autism in the computer with “Communication Impediment” on the backside of the license under restrictions.

Sam is 19 now and just got his first vehicle.

He drives to the nearest community college and to work by himself. He is a good driver but by holding him back a bit (let the emotion catch up) and mapping out a driving route with least potential issues, this hurdle wasn’t so high after all.

by Jennifer Allen

Understanding and Managing Sensory Issues While Driving

Driving with Autism

Every inexperienced driver can get nervous when they first begin to drive. In the case of Aspergers drivers, those nerves jangle even more, as they take in a lot more stimuli in the driver’s seat. Tension arises due to many, and frequently simultaneous, stimuli input.

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These include general anxiety, excessive sunlight, car and traffic noises (i.e. horns honking), bumps, high speed, and excessively high and low temperatures in the car. Any one of these stimuli potentially triggers meltdowns and panic attacks; not ideal when behind the wheel. Fortunately, there are methods to manage and control such stimuli to make them pleasant, instead of unpleasant.

First, allow the Aspergers individual to practice driving while paying attention to the stimuli that s/he finds most unpleasant and pleasant. Then, make a plan to control it all.

Temperature and Light

With regard to stimulus management, simple adjustments often provide the necessary resolutions. For example, climate control adjusts temperature, while sun visors and sunglasses can protect against excessive sunlight and glare.

In the case of night driving, excess light comes in the form of headlights of oncoming vehicles. Looking away and using the road lines helps, as long as the driver pays attention to traffic, signs, and lights as well.

Seatbelt

Sign the Petition!

Option to place an alert system in TLETS (Texas Law Enforcement Telecommunication System) protecting both law enforcement and those with autism, hearing impairment or other communication challenges.


Aspergers101 “Driving with Autism” spokesperson Samuel Allen

Aspergers101 is striving to continue improving communication between Texas law enforcement and those with a communication challenge such as autism or a hearing impairment in the “Driving with Autism and other communication impairments” Texas initiative. Make “Communication Impairment” an option when registering your vehicle with the Texas DMV. This will allow your diagnosis to be placed in The Texas Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (TLETS) alerting the officer of the challenge prior to approaching the vehicle, averting misunderstandings.  We need signatures to help make this bill pass! Please sign the petition by clicking on the button here:)

Here is the fearful scenario: A person with Asperger Syndrome is driving and gets pulled over by an officer of the law. The stress and panic intensifies as the officer begins dialogue. This stress esulates and the officer asks the driver why are they ‘flying’ down the highway at such a great speed? Of course, the person with Asperger Syndrome takes this literally and the encounter soon takes a preventable turn toward arrest. You may plug in any of the communication challenges from below and come to the same conclusion as recent news reports dictates.

To better equip law enforcement with the knowledge of the challenge PRIOR TO approaching the vehicle is the solution. By allowing the option, when registering your vehicle with the Department of motor Vehicles as a person with a communication impairment (sub category Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Hearing Impairment, Deafness, Parkinson’s Disease, etc) an officer of the law would be alerted when entering the license plate ina pull over scenario. It’s a win-win-win however, we need to pass a bill in the upcoming 86th Texas Legislative Session to make this a reality!


  • What constitutes a Communication Impairment? Some diagnosis are:
    • Asperger Syndrome
    • Autism
    • Deafness
    • Hearing Impaired
    • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
    • Parkinson’s Disease
    • Mild Intellectual Disability
    • Down Syndrome
    • Mutism and more.

Please sign the petition and then share with your friends, neighbors or anyone on your social media lists by clicking on the button:


Our intention is to complete and successfully navigate the Driving with Autism initiative in Texas, and then share with the rest of the country! Let’s work together to protect and improve communication between law enforcement and those with Autism or other communication challenges. We will keep you posted!

Thank you for your support in making a difference in the lives of those with Asperger Syndrome!

by: Jennifer Allen/Founder Aspergers101 and the “Driving with Autism” Texas initiative.

Unlocking the Potential: A Day with Dr. Temple Grandin

Part 1: Driving with Autism: Luncheon with SAPD

Last week Aspergers101 was proud to host a day of Autism awareness and enlightenment in San Antonio Texas. First we co-hosted a luncheon alongside San Antonio Chief of Police, William McManus regarding the
Driving with Autism statewide initiative. Over 25 law enforcement agencies were represented as well as city officials.  All came together to hear about the new Texas driver license restriction code, Communication Impediment with a Peace Officer and how that may look in a pull-over scenario. Though Dr. Grandin’s plane was delayed, she made her entrance to speak to the officers just as the luncheon drew to a close..a great way to end on a high note!


SA Police Chief William McManus (R) discusses Driving with Autism with Aspergers101 Senior Editor Gabriela Lemos (L)

Jennifer and Samuel Allen present understanding Autism and those with a communication challenge.

Dr. Temple Grandin stands alongside SAPD law enforcement


Jennifer Allen and Samuel Allen presented the impact of the Autistic Brain when encountering drivers displaying the new code. Below lists some of the topics covered to the full house of law enforcement officers:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Temple Grandin spoke on the importance of allowing the person with Autism the time to respond. “A person with a communication impediment is like a computer that slowly scrolls to catch up. You’ve got to allow them time respond when confronted with an officer of the law.”

 

Drivers with autism encouraged to put extra info on license

By: Wes Rapaport

As the Aspergers101 “Driving with Autism” initiative sweeps Texas, we are thrilled to have been featured in a news report by Nexstar Broadcasting reporter Wes Rapaport.

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A new public service announcement was unveiled urging drivers with autism to consider applying for a note on their driver’s license that informs law enforcement about potential interaction challenges. The video message informs Texans about the “communication impediment” restriction code.

Samuel Allen, who is on the autism spectrum, said having the marker on his driver’s license feels “like a big safety net,” and makes him more comfortable when he gets in his car.

“If I showed [it] to the officer, they are going to know that I have autism or some kind of impediment that will keep me from communicating properly with the officer,” Allen explained.

An example of a "communication impediment" note, listed on the back of a sample driver license. (File photo)

An example of a “communication impediment” note, listed on the back of a sample driver license. (Jennifer Allen photo)

Legislation was passed in the last session that took effect in September, allowing brochures and posters highlighting the “communication impediment” code, in large part due to work done by Aspergers101, which Allen’s mother Jennifer founded.

“I’m just a mom of a son with autism that I want him to be protected, and it just happened to be there are open doors to make policy changes that make commonsense,” Jennifer Allen said. She added that she worried about her son being pulled over or having some other need to interact with an officer, and not having the tools necessary to successfully navigate those challenges.

“We can’t rely on other cards and things that they can reach and give to an officer of the law because that could be misconstrued as they’re reaching for a weapon, so if it’s directly on the driver’s license then that is indeed a safety net,” she stated.

We Need Your Help to Fund Our Statewide Driving with Autism Initiative

conference img 3Want to be a part of something big? Aspergers101 has come so far with our Driving with Autism initiative. Now we need to get the word out about the opportunities available for Texas drivers with Autism, and we need your help.

We’re raising funds for the awareness of the new Texas “Driving with Autism” initiative! This program informs and trains law enforcement on best practices for handling people with a Communication Impediment such as Autism, Aspergers, brain injury, Parkinson, deafness and in some cases, Down Syndrome.

Your contribution will help us place these informative brochures and posters into every high school, library, and Autism organization across the state. 100% of the funds raised will go toward printing and mailing costs. We have come so far but we are on our own in funding these crucial resources.

If you believe in what we do and would like to help Aspergers101 in our groundbreaking Driving with Autism initiative, please consider donating today.

To make a contribution go to our Facebook fundraiser:

https://www.facebook.com/donate/10207220018280772/

or our donation page:

Donate

A note from our founder and president, Jennifer Allen:

My son, Sam, has a form of High Functioning Autism called Aspergers Syndrome. We embarked on a program to help those with Autism and other communication impediments drive without fear from a law enforcement encounter. The Texas DPS responded by stepping up and providing “Communication Impediment with a Peace Officer” directly on your driver license or Texas ID.

In addition, we have teamed up to provide new Texas Trooper Recruits training when encountering those with Autism. It’s working! We are now in production for video reenactments showing what “Autism” may look like in a pull over situation. These will be made available to law enforcement state-wide!

Now we have brochures and posters outlining how to get the new driver license restriction code, as well as informative tips from Autistic expert, Dr. Temple Grandin. These will be distributed to High Schools and education centers (free) statewide.

We need help in raising funds for video production for Texas Trooper training, as well as printing and distribution of the posters and brochures statewide. For these costs we are on our own. For more information on the “Driving with Autism” program, including a full video of our announcement from the Texas State Capitol Press Room please go to: https://www.aspergers101.com/media/

Thank you!

Initiatives to Help Texas Drivers with Communication Challenges

April Press Release

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FOR IMMEDIATE DISTRIBUTION PRESS RELEASE
April 25, 2016 Media and Communications Office

Initiatives to Help Texas Drivers with Communication Challenges

AUSTIN – The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), along with the Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities and Aspergers101, today announced initiatives designed to assist Texans who have communication impairments. In an effort to facilitate effective communication, DPS first reminded Texans of the communication impediment option that drivers may select to be reflected on their driver licenses/ID cards.

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(L to R) Mr. Joe Peters/Asst Director Texas DPS Driver License Division, Major Jason Hester/Texas DPS Education, Training Division, Jennifer Allen/CEO Aspergers101, Samuel Allen/Aspergers101 and speaking, Mr. Ron Lucey/Executive Director Texas Governors Committee on People with Disabilities.

DPS also announced that it has recently coordinated with Aspergers101 to allow them to provide training and education to DPS officers about autism spectrum disorders, other disabilities and potential communications challenges associated with those disorders. In addition, the department announced that it is working with Aspergers101 to develop a Driving With Autism camp that will help increase driver confidence and practical skills.

“At DPS, our mission is to serve and protect the people of Texas,” said DPS Assistant Director for the Driver License Division Joe Peters. “This optional notice on the driver license and ID card puts important information in the hands of our law enforcement officers, which will help them better serve and protect individuals with a communication impediment.”

Texas DPS Autism Training and Education/New Driving Camp for Autistic Drivers

Notes from Representative Ron Simmons

“Aspergers101 is proud to announce its “Driving with Autism” program in conjunction with the Texas DPS, and endorsed by the Texas Governor’s Committee for People with Disabilities and Dr. Temple Grandin”.   – Jennifer Allen/Founder Aspergers101
04/28/2016                                                                      by: Rep. Simmons, Ron

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Texas State Rep. Mr. Ron Simmons

AUSTIN – The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), along with the Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities and advocacy group Aspergers101, announced initiatives designed to assist Texans with communication impairments. DPS also announced it will coordinate with Aspergers101 to provide training and education to DPS officers about autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and potential communications challenges associated with ASD and other disorders. In addition, the department announced it is working with Aspergers101 to develop a camp that will help increase driver confidence and practical skills among communication-challenged individuals.

“I appreciate DPS’ proactive approach to address this matter before problems arise,” State Representative Ron Simmons (Carrollton) said upon hearing about the department’s actions. “As the father of an autistic son living independently, I understand the importance of transportation independence for individuals on the autism spectrum as well as their loved ones.”

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Pictured (l to r) Mr. Joe Peters, Major Jason Hester, Jennifer Allen, Samuel Allen and Mr. Ron Lucey

DPS has offered a special designation on state issued drivers licenses and ID cards to facilitate better communication between officers and communication-challenged individuals. Such individuals may (but are not required to) request a “communication impediment” designation be placed on their driver license/ID card. Printed on the back of a driver license/ID card, the voluntary designation informs officers of a communication challenge in order to help facilitate better communication during any encounter with the individual. This designation, already in use to assist hearing-impaired individuals with officer communications, has been expanded to include individuals diagnosed with certain medical conditions – such as autism spectrum disorders, Down syndrome, or stuttering impairment.

“At DPS, our mission is to serve and protect the people of Texas,” DPS Assistant Director for the Driver License Division Joe Peters said. “This optional notice on the driver license and ID card puts important information in the hands of our law enforcement officers, which will help them better serve and protect individuals with a communication impediment.”