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Sensory Processing Disorder and driving

Hi Sam. I have Asperger's Syndrome and Sensory Processing disorder. I have high sensitivity to lights, especially flashing ones, they cause me a lot of pain. Ive obviously noticed indicators and im wondering, will I ever be able, legally to drive? Will it be treated similarly to the way people with epilepsy are treated in regards to driving, and will I ever be able to physically drive, or would indicators and other flashing lights prevent me from driving?

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Sam

Hi there

Learning to drive can be exciting and you might feel anxious too. Not everyone wants to learn to drive but if you do there can sometimes be medical conditions that prevent you from driving. But Asperger syndrome isn't necessarily one of them.

You can apply for a provisional driving licence when you’re 15 years and 9 months old and start driving a car when you’re 17. Lots of young people feel anxious about learning to drive and there might be specific things you’re worried about. It’s okay to feel nervous and that’s expected when you first start driving.

Being diagnosed with autism, Asperger syndrome or a sensory processing disorder doesn’t mean that you’re automatically not able to learn to drive. The National Autistic Society has more information about this. Some people with autism or Asperger syndrome might find driving more difficult but there’s no law stopping you from having a licence as long as you’re well enough to drive.

Being well enough to drive – also called being fit to drive - means having good vision, memory, understanding, coordination, reaction time and judgement. If you’re not sure whether your health conditions or disorder might prevent you from driving you can ask your doctor who will be able to give you advice about whether you could be affected.

If your disability affects your ability to drive you must tell the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) - or the Driver & Vehicle Agency (DVA) if you live in Northern Ireland. You don’t need to tell anybody your diagnosis if it doesn’t affect your ability to drive safely.

You might need some extra support learning to drive so talk to your driving instructor about the things you might find difficult. You could choose a driving instructor who has experience of teaching people with disabilities and ask for instructions to be written down during the lessons and for frequent breaks during the lesson if you need them.

Driving tests are in two parts. There’s a theory test which tests your knowledge of the highway code and a practical test which looks at your ability to drive. When you book your theory test you can let the test centre know if you have a disability - they might be able to make some changes to help support you take the test. You’ll take the same practical driving test as everyone else but you might be allowed extra time if you need it.

Remember there’s always help and support at Childline and you can talk to a counsellor about anything that’s worrying you.

Take care,

Sam

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