December 18, 2015

Driving While Autistic

There are a lot of Autistic people who can't or don't drive. Then there are people like me, who just love it. For me, driving represents absolute freedom. Often when I'm driving all by myself, I think about the scene in Rain Man where he keeps repeating, "I'm an excellent driver."

I enjoy the sensation of speed when I'm in control of it. So while I don't like most rides or roller coasters, I am happy to drive myself. I also sometimes get car sick as a passenger, but not as a driver, so I much prefer driving myself. 

I practised a lot before getting my license and I really think my attitude and motivation had a lot to do with it. I convinced myself I was capable and I really wanted that sense of freedom. I firmly believe each autistic knows themselves and their limits, and if they feel like they can do it, they should give it a try (barring other possible health issues like epilepsy that could make it dangerous).

I also think driving actually benefits me in a few interesting ways:

I suffer from meralgia paresthetica in my left leg. I recently started driving a manual transmission car, so this is my clutch leg. One of the ways to prevent meralgia pain is to change positions or move frequently, so driving and using the clutch actually helps prevent my pain. 

Driving, especially a manual car, keeps me focused and in the present moment. I have much less anxiety because my brain is kept busy with what I am doing. Driving is a great way for me to clear my head and relax. 

I know my limits and stick within them. I think since many of us can be very rigid or rule-based, I would guess that those of us who do drive are very cautious drivers who stick to the rules. 

I don't want Autistic people to rule themselves out right off the bat, and certainly not after trying just a few times. Everything takes practise, so if it's really something you want to do, you should see it as a long term exercise that will get better with time and practise. 

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