Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – A new, first-of-its-kind study at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is investigating teenagers who are currently driving or plan to drive and who have a high-functioning autism disorder (HFASD). The study found that two-thirds of teenagers with HFASD who are of legal driving age are currently driving or planning to do so.

HFSAD is characterized by subtle impairments in social interaction, communication, motor skills and coordination, and by difficulty in regulating emotions. Many of these come into play when driving.

“Little is known about how HFASDs affect a person’s ability to drive safely,” said Dr. Patty Huang, lead author of the study. “Over the past decade, the rate of children diagnosed with an HFASD has increased, meaning that more of those kids are now approaching driving age. Car crashes are the number-one cause of death for teenagers, so it is important that we understand how HFSADs impact driving and how to develop appropriate educational and evaluation tools.”

When determining whether a teenager with an HFASD is ready to begin driving, researchers say it may be helpful to make an appointment with a specialist such as an occupational therapist or driving instructor, who may be able to offer guidance on how to break lessons down into steps that are easier to digest and put into practice.

“We hope this study will lay the groundwork for future research into improving the ability to assess readiness to drive among teens with autism spectrum,” Dr. Huang said.

More information can be found at Teen Driver.

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