Prepare to enter the wild and wooly world of an adult with Aspergers Syndrome, a form of autism characterized by intellignce, quirks, social difficulties and downright strange and oddish behaviours.

People with Aspergers generally are high functioning in everyday life but have great difficulty connecting with others due to the inability to read faces, body language and subtle verbal clues. They also tend to take words literally and have a hard time multi-tasking.

Oversensitivity to touch (clothing has to be soft and often the tags removed), light (do not leave home without the sunglasses), sound (loud noises and noisey places are avoided), taste (many Aspies have quite a limited diet and are frequently very picky eaters) and smells makes the everyday existence more of a challenge.

Fasten your seatbelts and come on in...
To find out more about what Aspergers is..please check out my earliest blog entries

Monday, May 14, 2012

Driving, Intersections and Traffic Difficulties

I am one of the Aspies who can drive, but many cannot. For awhile, I was quite stymied why some people with Aspergers are unable to drive...then I tried teaching Eldest. My son is 19, and does not drive. Granted, the last two years have been spent in prison preventing all vehicular use. I did work with him when he was 16 and 17 years of age, in a large empty parking lot.
He was absolutely terrified to simply sit behind the wheel. For me, it was an exercise in patience and positive reinforforcment. I kept my voice to a monotone, low and calm. It must have been 30-40 minutes before he gathered the courage to start the car. We traveled a good 10-15 miles per hour that day, making turns and using lots of brakes.
I can see now, why driving can be difficult and sometimes impossible. First off, a vehicle is a powerful, complex beasty. There are a dozen subtle steps to actually start and move a car. Things most dont even think about. The seat is odd, unusual and adjustable. It takes a bit to find the "sweet spot", the position which fits "right".
Once moving, the feel of moving without ones own body and volition, is quite unsettling and feels somewhat out of control. It seems like the car is in control. There is a certain amount of time that needs to take place before driver and car can feel as one, or at least on the same side working together. I believe that took me many, many moons.
The sensations of a car running, can be intense. The feel of the gas and brake pedals, plus the intensity with which to appropriately use them appropriately takes time. Engine noises and the subtle changes in motor sound keep hearing on alert. The smell of the heater and air conditioner, in addition to environmental odors, vie with smells of the engine burning up or breaking down...okay, the latter is due to owning nothing but junk, barely running cars most of my life. I smell for radiator or brake fluid, excess gas and exhaust, or the burning rubber of a belt gone bad.
The way that the engine sounds and vibrates changes with speed, road conditions and weather. When the windows are down, the side view mirrors make a variety of whistling sounds.
Tires change their vocalist ion depend on whether the road surface is bumpy, wet, covered with leaves or snow.
On the road, on streets shared with other cars, apprehension and anxiety grow within, with each passing car. The factor of unpredictability, for oneself is multiplied by every car on the road, because they, the other cars, are each an unpredictable variables. There are no clear cut parameters, each driver is different and a possible threat.
Intersections are a challenge, because each has it's own rules. Traffic lights change at different times. One is allowed to turn right at a red light at certain intersections, as long as the negative sign is not present, that negative sign, hat says do not turn on red, can be anywhere within the busy, congested intersection filled with posts, lights, peoples and other distractions. There is no uniformity as to where these signs may be. It might be eye level or it could be higher on a sign post. Intersections are sources of consternation and confusion.
Being a visual person, my eyes try and capture all movement. At intersections I can get very distracted. As I drive, and objects, peoples and signs whizz by, my brain is unable to put on blinders, or filter out the unnecessary. It becomes very tiring and quite stressful quickly. Over the decades, I have learned to put "soft blindes" on, in the sense that I try and unfocuse from the scenery and sights. I keep my main focus on the road I am on, and keep in mind my destination ad route. Everything else, the beautiful blossoms on the apple trees, the cute doggie, the flock of starlings...all those distracting sights I have to ignore. I remind myself quite frequently when I am driving to pay attention to the task at hand. You will never find me with cell phone in hand, behind the wheel....neither texting or talking be I.
Frequently, I do talk to myself to remember where I am going. I've learned that post it notes are grand and tend to write out destinations, if there are more than one. You really don't want to know how many times I have driven right past the store I needed to stop at.
I often drive in silence,without the distraction of radio. My boys have learned to talk little and not at all when I say, "Hush, Mommas driving and needs to focus." They understand and usually needn't be told twice.
I grew up in a large metropolis and experienced anxiety te majority of time that I drove. Now, living in this small town with four streetlights, I am much more at ease. Driving is easier here, on these streets I have patrolled for lo these 17 years. I am mighty fortunate.
Driving is very complex and complicated. It can cause great anxiety and uncertainty. When Eldest is released, I am prepared to teach him how to drive on the road. I am extremely qualified to be his driving instructor...I know how he feels.

3 comments:

  1. I don't drive. I don't even like being a passenger. I think I'd rather try my hand at open heart surgery than pilot a car.

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  2. Hi there,
    I started reading your blog from your most recent posts. I've been dating an aspie man (He's 29m, I'm 38f) for close to two years now and I've read EVERYTHING I can get my hands on that has to do with aspergers. Nothing has helped me understand him as much as reading your blog this evening. Thank you SO much! I haven't stopped crying from the moment it just seemed to 'click' in my head; understanding WHY he does some of the things he does and how I can help make things easier for him. My heart is so happy right now. :)

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  3. Hi Sam,
    Oh, what a great compliment!! I am so happy you stumbled onto my writings And that it has helped you!
    I very much appreciate your comment. I wish you happiness:) Amy

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