skip to main content
DMV write on a sticky note isolated on office desk

Tips and Tricks For Dealing With The DMV For Those With Autism

  • August 4, 2022
  • Andrew Arboe

One of the challenges that exist for every driver, is going into their state’s department of motor vehicles, also known as the DMV. There are many services that are offered at the DMV, however, new drivers are mainly concerned with learner permits and driver's licenses. On the journey to get one’s license, there are two mandatory tests that have to be taken: the knowledge test, and then the “road” test. The first consists of testing one’s knowledge of driving concepts and the laws, while the latter tests how you do behind the wheel. From my own experience, I saw DMV as somewhat of a sensory mad house! When I founded Driving with Autism, I found that many individuals with autism were experiencing the same. Not only is it already nerve-wracking because getting your license is a huge milestone, but it tends to be a very busy office with lots of people and noise. For those who are nervous about the DMV, we will break it down with tips to help you manage your first or next trip there.

Tip #1: Calling/Checking the DMV ahead of time

If you are not sure what accommodations the DMV may offer, give them a call ahead of time to find out. Some DMVs allow you to wear headphones to keep outside noise to a minimum and to be able to hear the question read out loud. Keep in mind that different states may have different accommodations, so it is important to find out ahead of time. Also, any resource is to check their website and see if it contains any information on accommodations or specific disability resources.

Tip #2: Bringing sensory tools

Since the DMV is known for its long waits, sometimes it is best to bring along some sensory tools to help stay calm. For some, the tv in the waiting room is enough distraction, while others prefer their smartphones to keep them focused. Still, others might want to use a fidget spinner or similar fidget toys. Different methods work for different people, so it's best to experiment to see what might work best for you. Learn more about sensory processing and how it relates to being an autistic driver.

Tip #3: Being by yourself

This point is directed to parents. In my experiences with Driving with Autism, I’ve heard of stories where parents were trying to be in the same room with their teens/young adults for their permit test. As much as parents think that this might be helpful, it usually ends up causing anxiety in the individual taking and lead to possibly failing the test. Most DMVs want test takers to be in the test room by themselves and parents must wait in the lobby. It is important that they be given space and quiet to focus on testing their best.

Tip #4: Road Test Tips

For those who plan to take the road test, one of the best ways to be ready is to drive around the DMV location. Most of the time, instructors will just be having you drive around the DMV in a circle. Taking the time to drive nearby will ensure that you have a better idea of the different road signs and traffic patterns, which will lead to dealing with fewer unknowns on the day of the test. Another tip is to plan to bring your own car if possible. Before your appointment, make sure that your vehicle is road safe and will pass the expectations of the DMV. If there is an issue with your car, such as a taillight out, the DMV will require you to reschedule.

Tip #5: Alternatives

In some states, there are alternative places where you can receive these services other than the DMV. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some states have made these services available online. For some, this can ease the anxiety that comes with having to go to the DMV. For the learners’ permit, there exist some DMV locations that focus mainly on the permit test. For example, in Connecticut, the Chesire DMV only does permit testing. This ensures less potential sensory overload when going to take your test. Some driving schools are even able to offer their students to take the road test at their location instead of the DMV, which is a wonderful option for those who struggle with the DMV. Do keep in mind that there may be an age limit for that service in driving schools so be sure to check beforehand.

At Driving with Autism, we can help you develop the tools and strategies needed for you to obtain your license. DMVs have their challenges, but by planning ahead, you can make the DMV experience better. We go over permit testing and road testing in our paid webinar series and free-to-download eBook. Having the right tools and outlook can help in having better DMV interactions and we can help with that! If you are interested in our Webinar series for Driving With Autism and the other topics it covers you can learn more here.

Contact us for autism-centered virtual education driving school training.


Contact Driving With Autism