Research In Action

Research In Action

Christina and Brian
Many Voices Needed in Autism and Driving Research
November 30, 2020

When many teenagers embark on their journey towards a driver’s license, they do not do it alone. As part of our work on the Evaluating Transportation Among Adolescents (ETA) Study team to gain a more comprehensive understanding of mobility issues, we have included the perspectives of autistic teens and young adults, their families, and others involved in their journey. We began by interviewing specialized driving instructors that work with autistic teens and, more recently, autistic teens and their parents to hear firsthand about their driving experiences and use of other forms of transportation. In addition to the voices we’ve heard through our qualitative research studies, there’s another perspective in the room -- mine, as a sibling of an autistic adult.

My brother, Brian, and I are 18 months apart. When I received my driver’s license, I not only gained the freedom to drive myself around, but also the added responsibility of getting Brian where he needed to go. My family has navigated many questions about transportation over the years, several of which our study team is working hard to help answer.

Ten years ago, my mom asked Brian’s neurologist if our family could begin the learning to drive process. The answer? “Sure, I don’t see why not.” That only opened more questions for my parents to ponder:

  • Is he ready?
  • How do we teach him?
  • How can we fit driving lessons into the family budget?
  • What are the alternatives to keep him mobile besides driving?

My parents found most of these answers from grassroots autism advocacy groups or by trial and error when Brian got behind the wheel with them and then an instructor. For now, my brother has made the decision not to drive, but in the past few years he’s earned his associate’s degree, worked a few part-time jobs, and earned his black belt in karate.

Autism ETA Study


Recruiting for a New Study

This week our Autism ETA team begins recruiting for a survey study to answer the questions our valuable stakeholders helped us to identify. We will follow parents and autistic teens along their journey -- from the age when they become eligible for a learner’s permit through the learning to drive process as teenagers and young adults, whether they end up getting a license or not.

Along each step of the way, we will bring together the knowledge of the many people invested in keeping autistic teens and young adults mobile – specialized driving instructors, healthcare providers, parents, caregivers, and the teens themselves– to determine what questions still need to be asked and to provide as many informative answers as we can.

To learn about participating in this research study, click here.

To learn more about autism and driving, click here.