Transportation/Driving – A Start Towards Independance

Teaching a child to become a safe driver, or to get from point A to B, starts prior to age 16.  I worked in a private school for kids with Autism many years ago and one requirement for juniors, who were able, was to ride the local disability transportation system to and from school 30 times prior to their senior year.  A friend once asked, “Why does Mel sit the back of the car?”  He was referring to the opportunity for training that comes from riding as front passenger.

I started the drivers training process not only by having Mel ride the front passenger seat; but also by providing Mel opportunities to see and speak with individuals who drove and used a wheelchair.   Several members of our church were in chairs and gladly allowed Mel to watch them transfer or showed them the hand controls on their cars.  When at local disability events, I often stopped individuals who were in chairs and asked questions about their driving adaptations.  All, gladly showed Mel their processes.

I also got her enrolled/eligible for the local bus transportation system. She became eligible for door to bus transportation or door to store transportation at age 16.  Which by the way, she wants nothing to do with.

The next step was speaking with companies that specialize in adaptive vehicle.  One Texas Company has several social events at their location each year which gave me and Mel the option to tour their facility, speak with the staff and see some awesome adaptive vehicles.  I then met Life Aids Inc. at a local event for the disabled.  As Mel was turning 16 in a few months, we decided to have them come to the home for an estimate.  The appointment was set, now was the time to hash out details.

My first thought was to put hand controls in my car.  Mel could transfer in and out.  Our plan was for Mel to use that car for a yea.  Then we would then buy her a used car.  This plan made sense as I am a strong proponent of graduated driving and thus she was not going to be allowed to drive outside of our small town, on highways, during the night, with friends in the car for one year after she receives her driver’s license.  The first estimate changed that plan.  The cost of putting hand controls in the car was around $2,000 which included an adaptive seat so Mel could see over the steering wheels and adapting the mirrors for better visibility. The cost of moving the adaptive hand controls from my car to a different car was around $800.

The family rule established when Coleman was in high school was the child could get a car when they were juniors in High School.  I felt that was a better indicator of maturity and honestly it saved me at least a year of insurance payments.

As Mel entered her junior year, I started looking into driver’s education training.  North Texas offers two locations for driver’s education.  Both options were too far and to time-consuming. Mel did not need that intensive of a program.  Plan A was to enroll her in the local school educational program and complete the behind the wheel part on my own with Mel.  That program fills up fast and honestly I do not think I was ready.  I was struggling with “that is not how Coleman got his license”.  Mel was also not highly motivated; she was not constantly on my back about driving.   I called several local drivers education office and was given the “we are not set up for that” speech.   I put it on Mel’s shoulders to research and find the best one line option.  I waited…………….

It was November of Mel’s junior year and she still was not itching to drive.  She had not even attempted to find an online drivers education program that would work for her.  She even had a friend in a chair, one year younger who had gotten her permit.  I had prompted her to ask Danielle about what program she used.  I waited……..

I finally decided I would have to start this process.  Danielle came over during summer break and I simply asked, “what program did you use/” She had done her training on  I figured, if that program worked for her, why not Mel.  I initially started setting up the process on-line and then decided I needed Mel to do that.  This was Mel’s time to step up and drive the process.

The week after Christmas, I had Mel sit down and fill out the information.  She had never ordered anything on-line and thus I had her fill out all the information down to the credit card information.  The site required her to fill out information about her likes and dislikes.  I moved away as I felt this was initial interview training.  The first module was a nightmare.  I was sitting across the room reading a book. I was not going to be pulled into this process.  TEARS.  The site consists of 32 online lessons with a test after each lesson.  Mel got a 60 on the first test, and had to re-read the entire module to take the test.  More tears.  I decided to help her with the 2nd attempt; wrong move.  We got a 30.  Time for a break.  Time to think ………………

The next day, I called Mel and told her she needed to redo the initially module and take notes.  I indicated we could use the notes to get the answers.  In my mind this was college training 101.  You can guess my teenage girls response.  To my surprise, when I got home, she had risen to the suggestion.  She had 3 pages of notes.  I sat next to her as she took the test.  Yea, she got a 70.

The next module had only one question, 100% was the test grade.  The next module has 132 pages, YIKES.  I’m crossing my fingers. By the way, Mel is now asking questions as we drive.  She seems to be highly motivated to learn this stuff.   I’m breathing a sigh of relief.

I’ll have to update this with a second blog.  I also have to now is figure out what car to buy her.  Any recommendations?



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