Aspie Drivers: What did you do to prepare?

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GinBlossoms
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21 Feb 2014, 7:25 pm

I am asking all aspie drivers (or if somewhere along the line you were disqualified of being able to drive but still have previous experience before that, that's fine). While I don't have a strong desire to drive a vehicle, I just want to learn out of utility or necessity. I am 22 years old, I'm still young. I want to get my license before I turn 25, but I'm not sure I'm prepared cognitively or physically. I told you in previous threads I was diagnosed as mildly physically disabled, on top of Asperger's. I have no experience with having a permit before. I have a plain state ID card though.

Sure, I know it will be more challenging for me than average, but I don't think I shouldn't try to learn to drive.

My main question: How do you prepare physically, cognitively and emotionally to learn? What did you do to prepare? I do have backups even if learning to drive doesn't work out for me. But, yeah, if it doesn't work out, it will be kind of devastating. :(



joestenr
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21 Feb 2014, 8:20 pm

I am a few, or 15-18 years older, but I may be able to offer some guidence.
As a teen (or till I was 36) I was not diagnosed with aspergers, only ADHD+ depression+ ODD, ect, ect ect, I will point out that many of the people I have seen posting on the forum were diagnosed at much earlier ages, often to their detriment. I never knew why I didn't fit, so I just kept trying, even when it didn't work (which was most of the time).
My point in all of that, is that it appeares to me ( and I could be wrong, I don't get people, I'm an aspi!) that being told when you are young that, essentially you are broken (myself I always felt I was a defective unit) and that XY&Z just are not in the cards for you, can create a self fulfilling prophecy.
Back to your post, Why or where do you want to go so,were other than where you are now?
What are your interests, to me not being able to drive was something that crippled my ability to pursue my interests as I chose to, it wasnt at the whim of someone else that I could meet some stranger in a parking lot to procure 1day old seahorse fry that I raised 17 out of 57 to adulthood, or pick up more solder, or a used hard drive to rebuild a PC I found on the side of the road.
Point being, your brain automates things once you learn them. You don't pay much attention how to chew and swallow food, or how to walk. Driving quickly becomes the same. Think about why you want to go somewhere otherwise it's just a bit of practice


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BorgPrince
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21 Feb 2014, 9:45 pm

For me, the decision to learn how to drive (I was 18 at the time) came down to two things:

1. If I couldn't drive, I wouldn't be able to go to college. If I couldn't go to college, I wouldn't be able to pursue my interests. I'd be relegated to living a hollow, unfulfilling life, one I easily envisioned leading down to a path of eventual suicide.

2. Guilt. My mother worked hard to support me and my two brothers, and while they grew up and moved on, I was stuck and completely dependent on her. I wanted to change, I needed to change for both her sake and mine.

If you're motivated enough, you can mentally and emotionally push yourself through any kind of pain, whether physical or otherwise, and achieve your goals. Driving isn't really that hard. It's like learning how to do anything else mechanical. Just practice.

Some tips that I learned early on in my experiences:

1. If you're driving to a location you haven't driven to before, drive there at least two times before hand, at a time when there is little to no traffic. This way, you can familiarize yourself with any oddities or obstacles you find. You will find your anxiety will be reduced.

2. Always keep a pair of dark sunglasses with you. If you've got any visual sensitivities (most autistic individuals do), they will come in quite handy, not just in daylight, but also at night. Trust me, oncoming headlights, especially lots of them, can leave you blind.

3. Have a smartphone or a GPS unit with you. It's very comforting to know that in case you get lost, you can always fall back to your device and let it tell you how to get back on the right track.

I'm sure others can contribute more tips.

Anyway, go for it. It's feels very freeing to be able to go wherever I want. As you get older, you will come to crave independence more and more. Don't regret not seizing the opportunity to gain a little bit of it by learning how to drive. Good luck!



beneficii
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21 Feb 2014, 9:57 pm

I was diagnosed with PDD-NOS at an early age and was placed in special ed and even developed psychosis at 14 and had to be hospitalized for 6 months; nevertheless, I got my learner's permit at 16 and driver's license at 17. I wanted to drive even as a 5-year old (and I actually crashed my parents' car into my next door neighbor's house at that age). I was discouraged throughout elementary school and when I was in the hospital because people were telling me that because of my mental issues I would never be allowed to drive. Well, I showed them. I enjoy driving, even though I may not be the world's best driver. :D


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WillMcC
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21 Feb 2014, 10:11 pm

Although I'm HFA (rather than aspie, though under some classifications it makes no difference), I did not get my license until I was about 26. I was told I would never be able to drive and accepted that. Instead I learned how to get around using a bicycle and to a lesser extent public transport. After some bad experiences travelling by Greyhound, I decided that I was finally going to do something and got tested. Eye issues were corrected with glasses and I passed the written test with no problems (it was just a matter of downloading the PDF and studying it). It took me several years with a learner's permit to get my full license as I did not have easy access to a vehicle or people to teach me. My parents would give me lessons every few weeks or so. Having a bicycle to get around meant that I was not in any rush.

I don't think I had to "prepare" for my lessons in any way. It was a gradual process. We first started in an office park with low traffic, first just "coasting" (in an automatic without using the accelerator) and then practicing with the accelerator with some time in the parking lots to practice parking and backing up. I remember being offered the opportunity to drive on the open road, but I did not feel ready at the time. We then moved on to back country roads for higher speed driving with occasional traffic and then busier multi-lane roads. Interstate highways were the next step and they were the most challenging of all. Being on the highway wasn't a problem for me, it was more trying to merge into traffic (Will he let me in? Is there space in front of that truck?) Still today, motorways make me a little nervous, but it's probably better to drive a little scare than overconfident and there are usually alternative routes.

One thing I noticed that I had trouble with was when I was receiving conflicting information. In one case I had the person teaching telling me to enter the intersection to make a left turn (we had a green light, but not an arrow). The oncoming traffic was not clear, so I was hesitant, and it was not until later that I realized that it was a legal maneuver. Another example might be a stop sign and an officer in the middle of the intersection directing traffic. When I see the stop sign, I think to stop, but the officer wants me to keep going. Of course, now that I have more experience, I know to follow the officer's directions while cautiously crossing the intersection. Also, the first time I had a firetruck behind me with sirens blaring, my instinct was to move into the other travel lane, but the person teaching me wanted me to move into the center turn lane instead.

As mentioned above, with experience, driving does become second nature. You eventually get into habits such as scanning for traffic, signalling turns, and staying in the center of the lane. For the first few weeks of driving, I occasionally made mistakes, such as accidentally leaving the gas cap open after filling up, getting into the car with the trunk still open, or not checking my blind spots before changing lanes (being honked at can be stressful, but it's better than being in an accident)

While I can (and do) drive, I usually only drive if I have a good reason to do so, such as going longer distances or hauling stuff (or people). Otherwise I will ride the bicycle because it's healthier and a little less stressful (plus it's a lot cheaper)


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21 Feb 2014, 10:28 pm

I wasn't diagnosed until a year and a half ago. I got my Junior License at 16. Dad tried to teach me to drive. As usual, I could never do anything right in his opinion. I remember running his car into a ditch. I never asked him again to teach me how to drive. My maternal grandmother taught me to drive.



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21 Feb 2014, 10:38 pm

I love cars. I could name every make model and year that rolled down the street when I was 5. Barely finished kindergarten, but I could do that. Got my license when I was 16. I am an excellent driver. I used to watch people drive, and when it was time, it was like I always did it. the first car i drove was a truck with a manual transmission. Took my drivers test in it too. I scare people sometimes, because I have a leadfoot, not much patience for following, people that do not pay attention, and rush hour traffic. Definately an offensive driver. There is no better defence, than a good offence. Just grow some balls, and you will be fine. You will have more freedom to go wherever you want, and yell out loud with no one to hear.



Dan_Undiagnosed
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21 Feb 2014, 11:51 pm

When I saw the thread title I was going to come here and as a joke answer "I waited until I was 22" but it seems you have too. Hmm, well I think that's a good idea haha. I just knew I wouldn't be ready. As soon as they turned 16 everyone I knew at school rushed to get their licence. I knew I wouldn't need one straight away so I waited until I felt I was ready and in the meantime watched other people drive and asked them if I could ask them questions about driving as they drove. If you get someone to help teach you try to make sure they are a calm, confident person.



auntblabby
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22 Feb 2014, 12:19 am

I wasn't able to get my license until I was 20. I had to do so in order to go to college. my state department of vocational rehabilitation helped me out. luckily I never lived in any place with intense traffic and confusing roads.



ScottyN
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22 Feb 2014, 1:09 am

Before I even knew I had AS, I didn't have a lot of problems with obtaining my licence at the age of 16. I have driven a long time and I find that my extreme ability to concentrate and my strict adherence to the speed limits really helps. I dont drive as much as I used to, and always use a rental car when I do hit the road.



ScottyN
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22 Feb 2014, 1:09 am

Before I even knew I had AS, I didn't have a lot of problems with obtaining my licence at the age of 16. I have driven a long time and I find that my extreme ability to concentrate and my strict adherence to the speed limits really helps. I dont drive as much as I used to, and always use a rental car when I do hit the road.



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22 Feb 2014, 1:10 am

I speed like a demon at times.



ammmartin
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22 Feb 2014, 2:17 am

Great question

For me, when I was preparing for my driver's license , of course I was practicing driving a vehicle and at first I had a complete stranger teaching me to drive which I'm sure it can be uncomfortable for those of us with some form of autism since if the stranger is a NT , who is obviously not used to how we react to certain situations, and it was the same thing for me.

My advice is that if you're practicing driving a vehicle, have someone who is willing to teach you , who knows you a lot better such as a family member. In fact, my dad helped me prepare for getting my driver's license and he taught me how to drive by setting some time for practice.



droppy
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22 Feb 2014, 6:48 am

GinBlossoms wrote:
How do you prepare physically, cognitively and emotionally to learn? What did you do to prepare? I do have backups even if learning to drive doesn't work out for me. But, yeah, if it doesn't work out, it will be kind of devastating.

I started driving last summer (when I was 15).
I don't think I even prepared for it but my father is my teacher therefore that makes me feel safe.
I just remember that the first time I tried to move the car I moved it too fast and I stopped immediately and had a panic attack but after I calmed down I tried again and what can I say, I am learning now. I exercice once a week in empty parking lots.
Anyway, it's not like my father's Asperger's is mild but still he learned to drive and he can drive very well.



iammaz
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22 Feb 2014, 11:14 am

i learnt to drive on a farm when i was about 12, in a car that wouldnt have been worth $50. I suspect that really helped. Someone could just drive out to the middle of a field, and i could learn to drive on my own terms without too much to worry about.

The written test was a breeze, tho I've never really had a problem with remembering rules so that makes it easy.

It really depends how you feel about it. I'd suggest removing as many of your worries as possible, and just do as much as you are comfortable with at any point. like. to start with, have an automatic car, with someone you trust, in an area where you know the roads and where there is no or very little other traffic.



LupaLuna
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22 Feb 2014, 12:54 pm

I started driving when I was 14. I lived out in the sticks and drove an old Chevy luv pickup truck that I fix up and got running. I never had a driver license at the time and was restricted to driving on the dirt roads only. I got my license when I was 19 and although I failed the first driving test, I pass the second one without a hitch. So even though a have AS in which I never knew at the time. Driving has never been an issue for me. The only real problem I have is when someone in the oncoming lane has there high-beams on and that can cause a major sensory overload for me. I dazzle easily.