Driving with Autism, featuring Andrew Arboe | EDB 261

 

Self-advocate Andrew Arboe discusses his work helping other autistic individuals develop their driving skills.

(VIDEO – 20 mins) Andrew is the founder of Driving With Autism. Driving with Autism is a educational program that helps autistics and their families navigate the steps to take for being a driver. Their content comes with a multi-part webinar series that breaks driving into sizable steps for anyone to manage safely. 

For more about Driving with Autism: https://autismdriving.com/ 

 

 

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FULL TRANSCRIPTION


HACKIE REITMAN MD (HR): 

Hi, I’m Dr. Hackie Reitman. Welcome to another episode of Exploring Different Brains. And today I’m finally gonna meet somebody I really wanted to meet Andrew Arboe who is the head of Driving With Autism. Andrew is a self advocate. And he’s going to talk all about driving for those of us whose brains are a little bit different. Andrew, welcome.

 

ANDREW ARBOE (AA): 

Thank you for having having me on here.

 

HR: 

Introduce yourself a bit more properly than I did, Andrew. If you don’t mind.

 

AA: 

I can add that I can add a few additional notes. I’m the founder of Driving With Autism. I’m also the director of community outreach through Planning Across the Spectrum and Farmington, Connecticut. I do a lot of outreach through there. And it is through Planning Across the Spectrum that I was able to pursue driving as a passion. So it’s very much just a program and also a really cool side project probably might become a major down the road, but I love both places a lot. While my program online, but still same idea, but…

 

HR: 

Tell us about Driving With Autism and how it came to be.

 

AA: 

Um, I’m gonna try to do this in a very condensed version. It’s all personal, personal, um, as you probably mentioned, diagnosed with autism. years ago, years ago. And, and fast forward to like years after where I was kind of going in community college, I was kind of going for my associates. I graduated in 2018, just to give like a timeline. And during that time, I realized I needed I needed a license to go over Connecticut, Connecticut is all over the place and transportation auctions like like some districts are really good with public transport, I use buses to get me to the college over there. Other parts of Connecticut, I’m not so much on visit east corner, Connecticut, that’s like — you won’t be able to get anywhere with a bus, you pretty much have to drive. And then south side, there’s the trains and you have other other options as you go. So it’s kind of all over the place and Connecticut filled up highways with some being ridiculously to be annoying on my ad but then becomes doable after years of experience, even three years experience. Then after I attained my license and gone for that and also dealt with barriers. There wasn’t a lot of wasn’t a lot of resources and Connecticut, and everyone else is kind of scattered around I found. Then I decided to do a presentation I wanted to do something that speak about my own experience. Like one of the main features of Driving With Autism, but it’s also from my own experience. I’m a huge believer and not speaking for everyone, especially something like autism that really is never a one size fits all. And if I did and I dare to, um, I’ll be very embarrassed. But anyway, anyway, so I did my first presentation with a kind of like a nonprofit nonprofit that does a lot of family resources in the state I got connected with driving school I did a partnership that didn’t last too long. It was going to it was going fine for the first several months, I kind of had this desire I want to kind of branch out I want to do something more nation more nationwide, I want to do something that’s a lot more meaningful and the one one and so I find so I’ve since last month like make December, I established Driving With Autism and here I am and I’ll be doing my first webinar series tomorrow. So I’m eager and I’m saving all my extra coffee as much as possible for that 6pm time.

 

HR: 

Talk about some of the sensory issues related to driving with autism.

 

AA: 

Okay, um will do and it’s also addressed in the program as well has wild webinar series actually has a section called sensory sensory processing and how the women since we overload. Driving, it carries a lot of sensory input kind of feeling when you kind of go drive down the road you kind of have that sensation and a lot more noticeable in case your tires get really messed up or unfortunately pops on happened to me several months ago and that feeling was something I haven’t really forgotten. Very jarring and it’s very easy to see why your must kind of keep an eye on your tires like it felt was a lot different you feel a lot more the track of the road I think that’s the way you say it like if I feel a lot more but um since we sensory wise, because it was on a sense of that I mean revised was also just had changes is more like outside fortress, because the lever there’s also just traffic, traffic, highway traffic, there’s a lot of things that could add into the overall stress. And again, it’s not a one size fits all, it could be a lot of drivers that may have something more specific. I actually remember reading, I remember reading with one person that they preferred electric cars, it doesn’t have like the kinda like the diesel cars. I think it was like a sound thing. It’s been a while since I’ve looked at. And I always tell looked in different perspectives on while ago, I actually encourage anyone on social media to post their experiences a bit, if they want to, because I’m always kind of seeking more perspectives. I always like to see what’s happening in the current autism landscape, especially transportation driving. But yeah, just a lot of like sensory, sensory matters. And not to mention mental states. But I’ll like to speak you’re eager, so go ahead.

 

HR: 

Well, one of the big mental issues, if you will, is that many of us have, but especially those of us who might be on the spectrum is anxiety. And I guess when you drive for some people that can be on steroids. Tell us about dealing with anxiety.

 

AA: 

Oh, and that is actually another topic that’s also in the webinar series. I could probably answer what kind of webinar series is because it’s our main function over Driving With Autism on but anxiety could look different ways. And it’s also just trying to understand kind of the unknown to driving. Because driving can be unbelievably vague and ambiguous, why that gray area factors and because I’m not getting not speaking for every single person, but there is a good amount that do that really are very, will overturn it in terms of thinking style. So like they know, like a lot of times, they know that you shouldn’t try to go past cars. But there’s a few times a case of cars parked on the side or something comes up or work construction zone, you kind of have to, like you can’t possibly wait for them. What happens if it’s like five minutes? You’ll be making half the traffic behind you extremely mad you and adding to other issues. So there’s a lot of great, it’s those type of gray areas. One that I actually did a lot of consultations a year ago with that family is kind of all around 50 states, it was another side thing with Planning Across the Spectrum. And because there has been always been interest and driving and it was on the most common is how to deal with drivers that break the rules. And I’ve seen a lot and I’ve actually seen some incredibly illegal light turns on when in some states that you you’re around to turn wet as long as you stopped. It was on a two lane road where you could kind of go right, either way. And then and that Pacific rule in the context of Connecticut, you’re supposed to only do it if you’re in the far right corner. This person on the left of me that is on the same light turn. Yeah, they just they just went through the they just went through the light went through the light. It was incredibly illegal. And I told my passenger app and had a friend there. It’s like, yeah, don’t do that. Like stuff like that. And one of the things I would tell people again, it’s also based on the on the person if again, perspective, like it’s probably gonna be different. And this probably just my ticket again, everyone’s different. I just think just think of the type of drivers like that being as we’re kind of rooting for them. Just imagine being the best chefs in the bad bar owners from Kitchen Nightmares, Bar Rescue kind of learn from that sort of crowd. Like you watch a Hell’s Kitchen, for example by Gordon Ramsay. You see a chef that made this raw hamburger just completely raw and it’s like, I am not going to do this. Kind of learn from that reality TV and they they could possibly add could possibly add it into the filming. But still kind of the point remains

 

HR: 

At your webinars what other topics are covered?

 

AA: 

Okay, cool. I’m excited to go over this. It pretty much alive. The main things is that we do it’s all prep driving. So it’s kind of so it’s not really it’s kind of the very beginning steps, steps and anyone want to pursue driving on the very first topic is motivation. I’ve always been a huge on person on motivation being one of the major factors that can influence someone to drive or not, aren’t just any sort of a life decision. on IG I actually wrote about it and several blogs of mine. So I started with that which is probate and also goes over basics of it. exploitation, the barriers I mentioned before, like, it kind of touches upon that, and pretty much and the main idea is kind of create a road map and be able to help new drivers kind of make that decision, like therapy to keys of their own master making. So um, all the topics like sensory input managing changes, dealing with anxiety, on all those topics that took that typically should be known. And it’s, and all the information is outside of driving schools, and it’s new reversal. So there’s not any state walls anyone needs to worry about. It’s just a situations. So just specific experiences kind of open ended, open ended. And other topics include parenting, how parents can accept the idea of doing something like this. Another one is how to add an IEP goals might be more for teens and adults. But I kind of made it, I actually made some of the content where even if someone’s probably not having to worry about IEPs for the rest of their lives, especially if they’re like young adults, this sort of information is let’s say the school system doesn’t work out. What can you do outside of that, so I kind of go over some of that. So like each, each slide, each like topic has a value where anyone from the parents, even professionals, officers, because I do have a police in one and I made that as neutral as possible. So like, each topic has value like anyone who get out of that. And each and each, each topic has like a downloadable like worksheet, where it helps them go over that and something that they can use tailor made to their own journey. Okay, I can tell you want to speak, go.

 

HR: 

It’s all good stuff. Because I’m thinking about the different perspectives: there’s the perspective of the driver themselves. Then there’s the perspective of the well intentioned parent. And as my daughter often reminds me, “Dad, sometimes good intentions are not enough”. But tell us about driving from the perspective of the parent and what they can do to be supportive and helpful.

 

AA: 

I’ll do it again, this is from my own experiences. So it’s probably gonna be incredibly different to everyone else I’ve seen and what kind of like seeing my own my dad’s perspective. He was with me for a good while, and it took him a long time to get used to the idea of me driving. It took him a long time, just a lot of continuous driving and making sure I don’t get any accidents, or anything, it took a good while and he’s like, okay, he’s had pretty much on board. And he’s kind of like, he kind of became like a psychic. Like, it tells me in case there’s any ice or if anything, like landscapes, construction type of guy who has to deal with that weather conditions, especially Connecticut, that’s, it’s on the New England inside and weather is all over the place. So that’s kind of all the more reason to think about, like it’s snowed last night. And I’m like, Wait, why is it snowing? Light snow, so I just took my time. I didn’t, I don’t want to deal with the slippery mess. But I like for like universal stuff, parent-wise, just being open and just know your person, if you know, they’re like preferences, what they want to do and what not to do. I feel like that can make a big difference. So they won’t be terrified to become like a kind of like a cliche, teenager headbutts with their parents on driving or, or could be like, it could be a different sort of age groups have that.

 

HR: 

What advice would you have for anyone out there in the audience who’s on the spectrum and is afraid to drive.

 

AA: 

Um, go at your own pace, because I find driving, at least my perspective is incredibly individualistic, it varies just based on the person you have a lot more awkward a lot more options when one way to believe I got like having having a driven for about three years, which is crazy I got to this point. I just find that when you’re inside the car, you can’t control traffic and everything else. That’s pretty much obvious. You could kind of master your own car, like you know, the tools that you may need, you know how your own car works. So we have a lot more choices to go through. And you also can plan out your own routes. Yeah, so it’s like comfortable like if you don’t feel comfortable with the highways or if you don’t feel comfortable with snow kind of play around with that, kind of play on that and know what’s kind of best for you. And please don’t worry about age, don’t worry about age in case you’re worried about being this age or that age for driving. I had friends that had a lot more older, older folks that weren’t much later in their lives. So yeah, another thing just don’t stress, just do you honestly.

 

HR: 

Andrew, what else would you like to talk about today that we haven’t covered?

 

AA: 

Yet, um, I could probably mention more of the training courses and our other resources now on on my website. Again, this series is, is actually starting tomorrow and I’m accepting I’m accepting a couple late notices. There’s a couple, a couple of late people since this starting tomorrow at 6pm. There’s, again was handouts and, and there’s a two kind of package deals on package. 1 comes with just the training courses and some resources. Package two comes with a lot more perks, a package two comes with access to our resource library. And it contains a bit more state information of it links like DMV demand will DMV, the website and a few other additional stuff. If someone could the autism ID once some states are still quite behind on that. But some places do but some states do have that Id thing. And thankfully voluntary. So it’s like mixed resources. And then finally for package 2, you get a personal 60 minutes consultation with myself. So that one has evolved. So that one has more perks, and you could go either way is pretty much entirely up to you. And outside of our paid services, we do have a free resources. Um, one of them being if you go on the homepage of Driving With Autism, when you click on the left of the top left icon, your pyramid and you will see an option of downloading our free to use an eBook, a 24 page booklet that kind of goes over a lot of the information on the website. It also has a lot of excellent visuals. And it’s written entirely by me and my team. In a visual is a really good it’s a very visually appealing book I’d seen it developed for for good part of last year was really cool to witness. And then finally…

 

HR: 

So you do have free materials, and then you have paid courses.

 

AA: 

Yeah just adds the overall value. And I have a lot more plans for additional pages on the website

 

HR: 

already on site website.

 

AA: 

Oh yeah, um, it’s www.autismdriving.com. We also have a Facebook page, Instagram and a LinkedIn page.

 

HR: 

Autismdriving.com. Got it. That’s great.

 

AA: 

Two more things. One, we also have a blog post that comes with all the other resources on our website, I’ll be keeping you up to date with additional blogs, like our most recent two is how parents can navigate the journey. And the most very most recent is how to have safe and successful roadtrips. Its a mix of both autism context with kind of additional like kind of common sense, driving. And other topics. So try to find a time I’m hoping to have one out for winter driving, since it’s kind of out there. It’s something pretty basic. I’m not like super intense, like driving skills, but something that people can grab, and they can brainstorm, brainstorm after a while.

 

HR: 

So you’re quite the self advocate.

 

AA: 

It’s really just been a passion project and kind of like my own Star Wars in terms of Panpick, I had no idea. I have no idea how to be a founder of this company. Like I didn’t think I didn’t think I would get to this point I never expected if I were able to tell my teenage self that’d be doing this. I guess. I guess my teenage self would be incredibly confused. And also just wants to get back to playing a Pokemon game. Which is probably the accurate response.

 

HR: 

Rob led you. You focus and you went ahead and did Driving With Autism and helping a lot of people because driving is important, especially as you said, in areas where there just isn’t any real public transportation to get around. Absolutely.

 

AA: 

That’s kind of like knowing your area. And like knowing what options you have is gonna make a world of difference. Especially when one makes that transition to adulthood. Like, if you know what area you want to live in, you got to know what’s around you what makes sense for you. That can make a world of difference instead of just being stuck at one place and not having as much options as much as you want. Regardless of that driving or not. I like to think about the alternative transportation as well. We’re not against buses.

 

HR: 

It’s been a pleasure to have you here Driving With Autism is certainly helping a lot of people and we appreciate everything you’re doing and we hope you’ll come back to visit different brain soon. Thank you.

 

AA: 

Thank you. I would love to be back here again.