Let’s Get Moving: Setting Driving and Transportation Goals For Your Teen With Special Needs

By: Sabrina Riera, MPH & Suzi Naguib, Psy.D.

For many people, driving is a right of passage. There’s that thrilling rush of adrenaline and excitement (and probably a little bit of anxiety) as you get behind the wheel and turn on the ignition for the first time. Suddenly, you’re given the gift of freedom, of independence.  For some, learning how to drive is easy. For others, it takes many years of practice and support to learn. And then there are some individuals for whom driving is not a realistic goal.

For some teens with developmental or learning disabilities, learning how to drive can be a bit of a challenge. Because being able to move around in your community is necessary for leading an independent life, as a parent of a child with special needs, it’s important that you assess early on whether driving will be a realistic goal for your child.

Set Goals!
If driving is a realistic option for your teen, it’s important to make sure you help set driving goals for them. These goals should be included as a part of their Individualized Education Plan (IEP) Transition Plan. Setting these goals and including them in the Transition Plan is important, as they make learning how to drive a priority during your child’s transition out of high school. Including driving goals in the Transition Plan has even been shown to be associated with a higher likelihood of learning how to drive among teens with ASD (Huang, Curry, & Durbin, 2012).

Even if driving is an unrealistic goal, it’s important that you set transportation goals as a part of your child’s IEP transition plan. This may mean learning how to ride the bus, learning the ins and outs of your community’s walking and bike paths, or even exploring ride sharing services in your community.

Check out your community’s options
Every community is different, so it’s important to look at which options would work best for you and your child. If you live in a highly walk-able city with plenty of public transportation options, like New York City or Boston, it may make sense to focus on helping your child learn to navigate the public transit system and walkways. For those living in suburban or rural areas, with more limited public transportation options, you may want to instead explore special driver’s education programs, ride sharing services, and any special transportation services for individuals with disabilities.

Sunfield Center is here to help
In order to ensure that your child has all the supports and services they need to succeed after high school, it’s important to seek out and take advantage of resources available in your area.

Sunfield Center psychologists are available to guide you through this transition process. Additionally, Sunfield Center offers the “Planning For Your Loved One’s Future Workshop Series” to help empower parents, guardians, and family members with information about how to better prepare for your loved one’s future. Below are the dates of this year’s upcoming workshop series: 

Location: Sunfield Center, Ann Arbor.
Module 1. Building a Bright Future: Transition Planning During High School
Recommended for parents of children ages 10 and older. Date: Thursday, February 11, 2016 – Time: 5:30-7:30 pm

Module 2. Living Independently: Resources for Housing, Healthcare, & Independent Living Recommended for parents of children ages 10 and older. Date: Thursday, March 10, 2016 – Time: 5:30-7:30 pm

Module 3. Work, Play, and Getting Around: Resources for Transportation, Employment, & Recreation Recommended for parents of children ages 13 and older. Date: Thursday, April 7, 2016 – Time: 5:30-7:30 pm

Module 4. Securing My Loved One’s Future: Finances & Legal Safeguards Recommended for parents of children of all ages. Date: Thursday, May 5, 2016 – Time: 5:30-7:30 pm

Module 5. Off to College: Preparing for Higher EducationRecommended for parents of children 13 and older. Date: Thursday, May 26, 2016 – Time: 5:30-7:30 pm

For more information on each of our workshops, including information on registration and fees, please visit http://sunfieldcenter.com/planning-for-your-loved-ones-future-workshop-series/


Huang, P., Kao, T., Curry, A.E., Durbin, D. (2012). Factors Associated With Driving in Teens With Autism Spectrum Disorders. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 33, 70-74.