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Adding Driving Goals To An IEP And How It Relates To Being Autistic And Learning To Drive

  • March 24, 2022
  • Andrew Arboe

Many of us who are in the autistic community or work with autistic individuals (or both) know that Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) can be a powerful tool in supporting autistic individuals. However, we also know how underutilized this resource is and how it’s often misused and made ineffective. There are many ways to make an IEP effective and beneficial to the individual it’s created to support, and the ways that IEPs can help develop driving skills is an important use that should not be overlooked. IEPs can help develop important driving skills that will prepare the driver for their driving tests and driver's education. This may even allow an autistic driver to enter their Driving School one step ahead of the rest of the class! Being prepared is so beneficial for drivers, especially young autistic drivers who are just beginning their learning to drive journey.

Depending on the state, it is sometimes possible to include goals related to driving/transportation in an IEP, particularly in the transition plan. It is incredibly important though to know exactly what skills to suggest to the IEP team. This means understanding what skills are most relevant to an autistic individual's ability to drive, and how those skills are relevant. Exploring how skills such as handling sensory difficulties and flexible thinking relate to driving and the specific skillset and difficulties of the autistic individual learning to drive can be extremely valuable. Attention and multitasking are skills that can transfer to most transportation options, including public transportation. Exploring these concepts takes time and energy though, and often a lot of open discussions. But the benefits these discussions potentially lead to can be very worth it.

Since the rules for this are so state-specific, a good place to start is learning the specific rules for your state. Look at your state government's website for the current info and latest news on special education laws. You can also request a school provide resources regarding state information on IEPs. Schools are supposed to give information to parents in general, so remember that you have the right to ask. Alternatively, advocacy organizations in your state that do work with IEPs can be great contacts for getting this info and more.

This is why the third topic we cover in our webinar Training Series is Adding Driving Goals to an IEP. This topic is specifically designed for parents whose aspiring drivers have an IEP that is not being used to its full effect. We review the universal basics of IEPs and the driving skill development that may be added to an IEP. Even when schools are not able to specifically target driving, they can address associated skills, such as executive functioning. Simply discussing the different possibilities in using an IEP to address driving skills often produces many new ideas and paths forward. IEPs are often limited by their lack of imagination and thinking outside the box, by having these discussions openly and consistently, we hope to change that!

If you are interested in our Webinar series for Driving With Autism and the other topics it covers you can learn more here.

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