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Let’s Talk About Managing Changes And Anxiety And How It Relates To Being Autistic And Learning To Drive

  • February 28, 2022
  • Andrew Arboe

We at Driving With Autism understand that learning to drive can feel extremely high stakes. This can often cause a lot of anxiety for very understandable reasons, and that can be a big barrier to learning to drive. While being able to drive is an incredibly valuable skill and resource, it can also be dangerous at times. Many autistic individuals and parents we talk to mention safety as their biggest concern and often specify that they are particularly worried about unforeseen and unexpected circumstances. This makes a lot of sense to us as we know as autistic individuals ourselves that we can typically prepare for things very effectively if we know exactly what’s coming, but so often in driving, we don’t. This is why we want to talk to autistic drivers directly today. It can be really scary to understand that we don’t know how we’re going to react to situations we’ve never been in before. This fear surrounds being autistic and learning to drive, but it’s simply a barrier that must be overcome! As is the case in any environment, sudden changes in the situation while driving can come up unexpectedly and throw a person off. But we autistic individuals still have tools and resources at our disposal to help us be and feel safer on the road, even in unexpected circumstances.

This is why there needs to be a focus on not only developing driving skills but also coping skills for dealing with different situations that may arise. Everything from a car malfunction to a fender bender that wasn’t your fault can be a giant unexpected change. However, by exploring these potential situations and discussing the need for flexible thinking while driving, autistic individuals cannot only be prepared to drive safely, but they can more effectively convey and show to themselves and others that they are safe drivers. Through this new drivers can break down barriers related to anxiety and unexpected changes.

So let’s really break this down. First, let’s talk about the situations that autistic drivers can prepare for because there are a lot of them. There are a lot of situations that you can take real concrete steps to be ready for. Don’t forget how much control you do have as a driver. For a start, you might not be able to stop other drivers from breaking the rules, but you can prepare for it. You can start by being super observant of the road around you and being prepared to pull over to safety if you feel the need to. Traffic can also be something you need to be prepared for. Having a backup plan for hitting traffic as often as possible, and having backup plans for weather-related driving delays can be very useful too. Having a spare tire, spare coolant fluid, your vehicle’s operation manual on hand, are all effective ways to prepare for common yet unexpected situations.

Now let’s get to the tougher stuff because there will always be some stuff that regardless of how well you prepare for, you can’t stop. While you can take good care of your car, check the weather every day, and know exactly when traffic is at its worst, you can’t avoid any of these issues completely. This is where preparation comes in again. You can’t completely stop car malfunctions, but you can know how to deal with and process their effects. Weather and traffic can come out of nowhere, and sometimes you will just find yourself stuck in them. But you can prepare by knowing what to do and what not to do in those situations, even if they may not help you get through those situations any faster. You can still feel safe and comfortable by simply having a hands-free calling device to process the situation with a friend or an audiobook to keep you distracted during standstill traffic. Changes and anxieties are constant and can come out of nowhere while driving, but by knowing what to be aware of, and effectively preparing yourself, driving can be a mostly carefree and fun experience for many!

This is why the fourth topic we cover in our webinar Training Series is Managing Changes and Anxiety. The objective of this topic is to explore the possible ways a drive can suddenly change and how to keep anxiety manageable during those situations. This topic is built on developing tips and tricks that will not only help keep drivers safe but also feel more confident on the road. We will combine critical thinking and practical solutions with driving specific situations in order to build this confidence. We will also go over possible vehicle malfunctions and develop basic understandings of the more common issues. Knowing how you and your car work normally as well as under stress makes you more prepared to deal with any issues that arise, inside or outside of the car.

Go here to learn more about our supportive driver's license school webinar series for Driving With Autism and the other topics it covers you.


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