Brochure with tips for driving instructors must allow individuals with autism to learn how to drive in a better way Apr 21, 2015
dr. Veerle ROSS
UHasselt-researchers have developed a brochure that gives driving instructors tips to teach people with autism to learn how to drive in a better way. "Young people with autism process information in a different way, thus the learning process is different. It is therefore important that driving instructors adept their way of teaching", say researchers of the Transportation Research Institute (IMOB) and the Rehabilitation Research Center (REVAL-BIOMED). The brochure is part of the Yes I Drive project, which examines the behaviour of young people with autism and promotes to learn how to drive. The project is supported by the fund ICT Community for Autism Spectrum Disorder of the King Baudouin Foundation.
While driving we need to combine different tasks (stearing, switching ...) and skills (motor and mental skills) that run in parallel and between which we need to switch smoothly. Car drivers must also learn to cope with sudden changes in the environment. Learning to drive in other words is not a trivial task and for people with autism, that entire learning process is even more difficult.
The Center for driving abilty and vehicle adjustment (CARA) of the BIVV (Belgian Road Safety Institute) often gets asked if young adults with autism are able to learn how to drive in a safe manner. Neuro-psychological tests that predict driving ability show that they are within normal ranges, but the practical driving tests indicate that their driving behavior is different.
Clear language and routine
UHasselt researchers surveyed parents of young people with autism and driving instructors about (possible) problems they experienced during the learning process. "It showed that the learning process in young people with autism is different, because they process information in a different way", says Prof. Dr. Marleen Vanvuchelen (REVAL/UHasselt).
According to the researchers, it is important that driving instructors adept their way of teaching. They wrote a brochure for driving instructors where they give concrete tips – 9 in total – to better guide people with autism when learning how to drive. Professor Vanvuchelen: "Among other things, we recommend them to use clear language and avoid using language figuratively. If you tell a student to drive slowly, please specify how many kilometres per hour that is. And visualize where possible, make notes."
In the brochure driving instructors also get the advice to build in a routine in their way of teaching. "This creates rest. But also by explaining well in advance what's going to happen or by stopping if you want to explain something, you create rest." Also by repeating and working in small steps to teach skills one at a time, it helps people with autism in their process of learning how to drive.
Tailor made driving proficiency training
Currently UHasselt is performing further research into what exactly is the cause of why people with autism have difficulties while driving a car. Therefore IMOB is testing driving behavior of young people with autism in a driving simulator. In addition, IMOB-researchers measure all kinds of cognitive skills related to driving (such as attention and working memory), while REVAL-researchers analyze the motor skills.
"Through driving simulator research we want to find out in which the driving habits of young people with autism are different from those of other young people," says Dr. Ellen Jongen (IMOB/UHasselt). In a next phase, the researchers want to develop an evaluation system to asses driving skills of persons with autism in a correct way.“ Thirdly we want to develop a driving proficiency training, so that these people can learn how to drive in a safer way, the cost of a slow learning process is reduced and the driving test is completed successfully."
Click on the picture below to open the brochure (the brochure is in Dutch).
YES I DRIVE is a research project of the Transportation Research Institute (IMOB) and the Rehabilitation Research Centre of the Faculty of Medecine and Life Sciences (REVAL-BIOMED). The brochure for driving instructors is the result of a cooperation with Renate van Leeuwen-van Dorst (Spectrum Brabant, the Netherlands), Mark Tant (Belgian Road Safety Institute BIVV, Center for driving abilty and vehicle adjustment CARA), Peter Vermeulen (Autisme Centraal) en Jeroen Smeesters (Federdrive).