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How Do You Drive With Autism?
How to Drive with Autism
Is Driving Like Socializing?
There are many parents of children with autism who are constantly asking me how I drive. I have autism, but I learned to drive from the age of fifteen.
Autism makes driving very hard because there are a lot of sensory issues involved with driving. There is so much to pay attention to but in a lot of ways driving is like socializing but the rules are more written or easier for me to understand.
Just like socializing, driving is a social dance. You really must rely on the other person or the other vehicles and you must respond to what the other drivers are doing just like you must respond to people socially.
Driving involves a lot of non-verbal communication. The non-verbal cues are a key to letting us no what the other car is doing because we cannot talk or communicate with the other drivers as we are driving. We must rely on the non-verbal communication or the cues the car gives us.
An example of some of those cues could be break lights and turn signals. The only way we can know that someone is turning is if they turn their turn signal on and let us know which direction they are turning.
Not only do you need to be able to read other people’s non-verbal communication skills just like reading other vehicle’s non-verbal communication skills, but you also must exhibit good non-verbal communication skills of your own. If you do not practice good non-verbal communication, there are plenty of chances you will make a mistake. That mistake could be very costly just as social mistakes but this one could be real dangerous. Car accidents are much worse than social mishaps and misunderstandings because there are lives at stake. People can get hurt and worse, so we really must become good at practicing our own non-verbal communication skills and then becoming an expert at reading other people’s non-verbal communication skills.
Sometimes non-verbal communication between cars can become confusing just like it can between people because people do not always say what they are meaning or in this case drivers don’t always do what they signal they are going to do.
Someone might have a right turn signal on but really, they meant to turn their left turn signal on and are turning left. This can confuse the other drivers trying to read this driver’s turn signal of non-verbal communication and this could lead to a major accident.
Sometimes these non-verbal cues come unexpectedly in driving just as they do in socializing. There are many times where something happens that forces a driver to slam on the breaks and stop immediately. There is little to no warning that someone is going to stop so fast and this can cause the other driver to rear end this person creating another major accident.
All this non-verbal communication stuff is very important, and we must pay attention to detail when driving just as we do when socializing.
The unique thing for me is I can comprehend and understand how the non-verbal stuff works when it comes to driving and interacting with other drivers and vehicles but no matter how hard I try, I am unable to understand all the non-verbal communication in socializing between people.
Rules of driving make a lot more sense to me than rules of socializing. Maybe that is because I know what I am looking for or I know what the rules are. I know what a turn signal means and I learned how to respond to it.
I have never learned what certain facial expressions and hand gestures mean though, so I haven’t been as able to learn how to react to social cues. I react a lot better to driver cues than I do social cues.
I get very stressed out trying to study and learn all the non-verbal cues of socializing. They are very exhausting for me and sometimes I just want to be able to take a step back and not worry about them, but I know that is impossible. Driving a car is a lot less stressful for me even though there is likely more pressure involved in driving than there is in socializing simply because people’s lives are on the line.
You are responsible for making all the right decisions when you are driving and when you misread someone’s non-verbal communication and make a driver error it can be very costly as someone could lose their life.
I wish we could teach social skills the way in which we teach driving. If we could just have written ways of learning social skills I think it would be a lot easier for us to learn but socially everything is unwritten, and no one really knows what all the rules are anyhow, so we must guess what each other mean and try to come to an agreement on what something means.
If people could think about non-verbal communication like they do driving it might clear up a lot of confusion about what people are saying, doing, and meaning. The biggest difference between driving and socializing in person is that the unwritten rules are written out for drivers and they are not written out for socializers. This leaves people with autism feeling very confused and isolated.
One thing that is for sure is that people with autism work hard. The rules may not be as easy to understand in socializing as they are in the world of driving but with a lot of support people with autism can slowly learn how to navigate the social world around them. This will help them to be able to connect with other people, make more friends, and one day get a boyfriend or girlfriend.
I sometimes joke that cars who make mistakes and do something they aren’t supposed to do our cars with autism and cars that follow all the rules are cars without autism. Just like driving, socializing is all about communication and ninety-three percent of that communication happens to be non-verbal which is where the autism really comes into play and makes a difference in our lives. The best approach to helping people with autism who are verbal learn how to socialize better is to begin working with them on body language and non-verbal communication. Once we start to learn some unwritten rules of socializing and non-verbal communication we will be better able to improve the quality of life for all autistic people.