News

Participants sought for pilot study into driver training for youth with Asperger Syndrome


23 March 2010

The University of Sydney's Driver Rehabilitation Clinic is seeking participants for a pilot study of a specialised new driver training approach that aims to assist young people with Asperger Syndrome (AS) to learn to drive safely.

Driving to work, visiting friends and family, or borrowing the car for your first date are activities most of us take for granted. Despite the functional and symbolic importance of driving, for many young people living with AS—a form of autism spectrum disorder that affects social and communication skills and coordination—learning to drive can be very challenging.

University of Sydney Chair of Occupational Therapy and Chief Investigator on the study, Professor Anita Bundy said perhaps the biggest barrier to driving for young people with AS is increased anxiety.

"They also have trouble seeing the big picture and recognising the needs and positions of others."

Conducted at the University's Cumberland Campus in Lidcombe, the pilot study aims to trial a new approach to driver training designed to address the particular learning difficulties associated with AS.

"There is currently very little research about driving with autism spectrum disorder,' comments Professor Bundy. "However our clinical experience indicates that some people with ASD can indeed learn to drive safely."

The specialised instruction will involve 25 one hour lessons and will also provide parents with training in effective techniques for supervising their learner driver at home.

Director of the Driver Rehabilitation Clinic, Beth Cheal assures that all participants will undergo a series of tests with a specialist trained occupational therapist prior to participating in the study to ensure that they are eligible and that their training is tailored to their individual needs.

If proven effective, that is that young people involved in the pilot pass the RTA road test on the first try at a higher rate than those without it, the researchers are hopeful of extending the intervention to a larger-scale study.

Participant information: The Clinic is seeking young people aged 16 - 25 years, with a confirmed diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome who have passed the RTA knowledge test and have a Class C learner's license. Participants will be required to have functional English skills to participate.

Patient co-subsidy: Expenses do apply to cover the driver training component of the pilot study.

Media contact: Rachel Gleeson, University of Sydney Media Officer on 0403 067 342 or 9351 4312

Clinic contact: Beth Cheal, Acting Director, Driver Rehabilitation Clinic, 02 9351 9308