Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Challenge of Driving With Asperger's

“Driving is a social act,’’ says Dr. Jamie Dow, the medical adviser for safety issues for Quebec’s government-run auto insurance and licensing agency. “It involves obeying rules and cooperating with other drivers.’’ For young people with Asperger’s, both parts of that equation can pose problems. Obeying rules is generally a good thing, but can be taken too far if rules are applied inflexibly or without taking into context into account. For example, does a “Stop at White Line’’ sign mean that the line is where you should stop only if you need to stop — or that you should stop every time you come to it? And cooperating with other drivers involves perhaps the hardest task for people with Asperger’s: reading nonverbal social cues. On the road, that happens through the “gestures’’ drivers make through the motion of their cars — by changing lanes boldly or hesitantly, for instance. Those motions amount to signals flashed from driver to driver so routinely that most people are hardly aware of the messages being sent about intention or mood.

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