Adequate Transportation Crucial for People with Autism

Two buses parked next to each otherFor people with autism, adequate transportation can offer freedom and independence by increasing mobility. A study at Rutgers University’s Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation highlights the importance of transportation needs and explores options for meeting those needs. According to the latest study results, many people with autism are not aware of their public transportation options. Their families may also worry about the safety of using these options.

Why Transportation Matters

The study specifically explored transportation options in New Jersey, which is home to 70,000 adults and 40,000 children with autism. The study began with a survey of people with autism and their families. While most people knew about public transportation options, the results suggested few used these options. Instead, 68% got rides from parents or friends, while 28% walked. Both options can limit independence because walking is not always practical or safe and relying on loved ones can increase dependency.

“Individuals on the autism spectrum have a variety of social support requirements that can be invisible to others, and primary among them are transportation needs,” said Sarah Swenson, MA, LMHC, a Seattle, Washington, psychotherapist who works with people on the autism spectrum and their families.

Improving Transportation Options

After conducting surveys on current public transit use, researchers placed participants into small focus groups to discuss transportation needs. They found many people with autism do not learn transportation and mobility skills.

Study participants said they would like a transportation service provider to offer consistent, reliable service that crosses county borders, picks people up close to their homes, and provides travel instructions to those with autism and other conditions that might make travel more difficult. Service during both peak and off-peak hours was also critical. Many participants expressed frustration that transportation skills were not a part of their Individualized Education Plans (IEPs).

Drawing upon this feedback, researchers developed a number of recommendations. Though these recommendations are New Jersey-specific, they would likely work in most regions. They include:

  • Establishing a research center to explore and implement strategies that benefit people with autism and developmental issues.
  • Incorporating transportation skills into educational settings.
  • Providing training to drivers and others who interact with people on the autism spectrum.
  • Researching the relationship between employment and transportation accessibility.
  • Encouraging efficient location strategies for organizations that serve people on the spectrum.

Swenson says these recommendations could move transportation for people with autism in the right direction.

“Fixed-route transportation assistance, as discussed in this study, would allow adults to get to school and to their places of employment,” she said. “Helping them learn to navigate in this way expands their world and grants them an opportunity to experience independence and competence in an arena that may feel overwhelming, even for those who are not on the spectrum. Those in suburban or rural areas often have no alternatives to private transportation, and support here would create the opportunity for growth and independence in places that otherwise might force individuals to remain at home.”


  1. Devlin, D. (2015, September 14). Finding out how autistic adults get where they need to go. Retrieved from
  2. Meeting transportation needs will improve lives of those with ASD, their families. (2015, November 13). Retrieved from

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  • Sondra


    November 19th, 2015 at 12:28 PM

    While there are many on the autism spectrum for whom this would be an option there are many others who would never be able to navigate the ins and outs of getting around town on their own. But it is nice for their families to know that there could possibly be some help with getting them places if necessary.

  • hugh


    November 20th, 2015 at 9:39 AM

    The services which are currently available in most areas of the country to serve those with autism are not nearly enough, and certainly not as publicized as much as they need to be. This is something that effects a great number of people but also feels like even though there are this many people who are impacted by it, it is still something that is very much ignored and avoided.

  • Yuri


    November 20th, 2015 at 1:30 PM

    Teaching these kinds of life skills are critical for anyone who has to spend time alone and learn to get around by themselves.
    Not everyone has someone with them every hour of the day and they could have places to be that require them to rely on some form of public transportation.
    Making this a part of their curriculum could be a benefit to many students.

  • Jackson


    November 23rd, 2015 at 10:50 AM

    There is a mighty big correlation found between accessibility to reliable transportation and maintaining the ability to hold down a job. There are many people on the spectrum who are fine having full time and regular employment but when finding sufficient transportation is an issue then they are going to have a difficult time making it to said job and being able to keep it. This is something that needs to be addressed in many different communities across the country.

  • james


    November 27th, 2015 at 11:27 PM

    I work with individuals with autism. They are driven by vans to and from their daily program. This consistency helps them keep their anxiety at bay. This routine is vital to keep the normalcy. Routines are crucial for these clients. If anyone is looking for a direct support professional that is caring, competent, compassionate and comical.

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