Driving Simulator Helps Individuals with Autism

UVA Health System – Dan Cox is leading a research team at the University of Virginia in conjunction with the University of Iowa, to study teens with autism and their driving skills.

The University of Iowa is home to the National Advanced Driving Simulator.

Dan Cox said:

“Many individuals with high-functioning autism can learn to drive, but it takes at least four times as long to learn. One of the biggest challenges is learning to steer,”

The Daily Press report that for his current study he has recruited teens with learners’ permits and is using eye-tracking in addition to the simulator to help them improve their skills.

Danielle Hicks, mother of 15 year-old Connor Wenzel who has Asperger’s Syndromee and is a student at Maury High School in Norfolk said:

“The biggest problem is deviating from the route. I worry if he has to make a judgment on the fly.”

Dan Cox said that a driving simulator can offer a safe environment for them to practice in and that the teens benefit substantially over the course of 10 sessions in a virtual world

“You have to practice, practice, practice. Anything new takes longer for them to integrate,”

Registered nurse Jacquelin Branche sad that they do not stop someone from driving just based on a medical condition. She adds:

“With autism it would be based on the severity of the condition. People with mild autism can drive, the same as someone with cerebral palsy, though they might need adaptive equipment.”

The original article by Prue Salasky in the Daily Press can be read here