Apr 29, 2013 2 Share

The Cart Before the Horse

Illustration of car with face and "For Sale" sign.

I have created my own interpretation of “putting the cart before the horse.” Under my direction (coercion?), Cameron has purchased his first car. Cameron does not have a driver’s license. Cameron doesn’t even have a learner’s permit. But now, thanks to me, he has a car.

At this point, you may have the same look on your face as my husband did when I told him of my plan for Cameron to purchase this car. But in my defense, the exact make, model, price and even color of car Cameron and I had been discussing as a potential first vehicle became available through a close family friend. It was an opportunity I just couldn’t let pass by. I also thought that Cameron seeing the car in front of the house every day would be incentive for him to study hard and pass his knowledge exam so that he could begin to learn the process of driving in his own car. And another excuse up my sleeve to counteract that look on my husband’s face was my worry that Cameron’s savings account would impact his SSI application. (The application that will be filed if I ever get up the strength to go through the process of scheduling an interview at our local Social Security office.) So finding a good deal, knowing the previous owner, and moving cash into an allowable asset all seemed like perfectly fine reasons for Cameron to purchase a car before he knows how to drive. Right?

Prior to purchasing the car, Cameron had attempted the knowledge exam once before. I hadn’t really helped him study, other than reading the manual and doing a few online sample exams with him. The fact that he didn’t pass wasn’t a great surprise. But he needed a state issued ID card, so I thought while we waited in line at the DMV, he might as well give the exam a try. Since the first failed attempt, I made study notes on index cards for him. I illustrated them to appeal to his visual learning. I highlighted the manual for him. I went through practice test after practice with him. I don’t claim to be a great teacher or tutor by any stretch of the imagination, but I really felt that the studying we were doing together would help him pass the exam. So when Cameron tried the knowledge exam for the second time last weekend and failed again, I felt a very familiar pang of self-doubt. Was I in denial all over again? Was this like Cameron being in kindergarten and me still hoping to see him catching up on standardized test scores? If I feel this disappointed by his not passing, how does he feel about it? Am I setting him up for undue anxiety over driving?

Well, maybe failing twice is not a reason to despair. I know Cameron wants to drive, and Cameron has never ceased to amaze me by what he can do when he puts his mind to it. But this is the first time he’s been tested outside the comfort of his special needs, modified-curriculum school. Will he pass the test? I honestly can’t say. But I can say that reality checks aren’t just for the newly diagnosed.

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To Drive or Not to Drive

I enjoyed your article on encouraging your son to learn how to drive. My son is 24, on the spectrum, and is not particularly interested in learning to drive, much to my dismay. I don't know if he would make a good, or even capable driver, but I would really like for him to give it a chance. My husband is not good with the idea, and I think this has influenced my son's decision not to try. NEVERTHELESS, when my daughter goes to take her written exam I will push him to at least take THAT, and see how he does. The independence that driving gives one would be a big step for him, and a step BACK for me, his current "driver". I want him to be as self sufficient as possible. If not that, then at least live in a place with good public transportation!


I too have an ASD son with a

I too have an ASD son with a car and no license. I am glad to hear I am not the only one! It took 9 times to pass the test for the permit. He came home and told me he passed I said I was very proud I knew he could do it. He replied " Well you know what they say, the 9th time is the charm". He has taken the drivers test only 1 time and failed. You can only fail 3 times and they make you take their driving school so he has been practicing about a year and a half now. Only about 6 months in his own car, but it does seem to help having the same vehicle every time. He  has gone to the testing site and followed the instructor around while they give others the driving exam this has been very helpful. We are gearing up to try again!