Just one in three New Jersey teens on the autism spectrum receive a driver’s license, according to a study published in the journal Autism.
April is Autism Acceptance Month, and access to a car can increase acceptance, mobility, and independence for autistic teens. The study points to the importance of supporting parents in the decision of whether a driver’s license is appropriate for their children.
Driver’s License Access Among Autistic Teens
The study looked at more than 52,000 electronic health records and driver’s license data for children born between 1987 and 1995. By age 21, 34% of autistic teens had received an intermediate driver’s license. This license allows drivers to drive independently during the day, but restricts passengers to only one non-family member at a time.
Researchers found almost 90% of autistic teens who received a learner’s permit received an intermediate driver’s license within two years. Eighty-two percent received their license within a year of acquiring their learner’s permit, compared to 94% of teens without autism.
Access to a driver’s license can affect a teen’s access to other resources. Teens with driver’s licenses can attend social functions, become independently involved in their communities, and access educational opportunities without relying on parents or other drivers.
Can Teens with Autism Drive Safely?
A 2012 study found autistic teens may be safer drivers than their peers. Thirty-one percent of teens without autism had been ticketed, and 22% had been involved in a crash. The rate of both citations and crashes among autistic teens was 12%.
The study also found most autistic teens’ individualized education plans did not include driving goals, even though most autistic teens in the study were drivers or planning to become drivers. This suggests autistic teens may not receive the support they need to reach their driving goals.
- Huang, P., Kao, T., Curry, A. E., & Durbin, D. R. (2012). Factors associated with driving in teens with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics,33(1), 70-74. doi:10.1097/dbp.0b013e31823a43b7
- One in 3 teens with autism spectrum disorder receives driver’s license. (2017, April 11). Retrieved from https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-04/chop-oit040417.php
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