Spectrum Voices Conversations explore our autism with our authentic perspective.


Sometimes every day activities like driving have a different feel when you are autistic. In this conversation the autistic guys offer a few thoughts. This is a way to allow others to get to know our autism by hearing us express it.


Spectrum Voices Conversation is an Autistic Association Production for Autistic Radio.


We are always interested to hear from Autistic people with something to express and also engage with professions allied to Autism.



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2024 02 11 Spectrum-Voices-Converations-Driving-20240211



[00:00:20] Harry – Autistic Association SCIO:

This is Spectrum Voices Conversation, and our topic for today is Autism in Driving, I do not drive myself, and I’m aware of other people who are autistic don’t drive. , the reason that I don’t drive is because I don’t feel I’ve got the concentration levels to sustain driving and the anxiety levels may be too high for it.

And I feel if I’m sitting in the front seat of a car I still feel the anxiety even though I’m not driving in terms of behaviours of other car users or vehicle users. The state of some roads, traffic lights, roundabouts, all sorts of things like that. So, if anybody else wants to, to add their perspective, or if they have any similarities.

I’ll come

[00:01:18] Jules – Autistic Radio: immediately in with that and say I do drive and

probably quite a big part of my life.

However, I have to say that I didn’t start driving until I was in my middle twenties and think I would have found it quite difficult to learn to drive when I was younger than that. And I also did find it difficult to learn to drive when I did drive.

[00:01:59] Harry – Autistic Association SCIO: Yeah. What I have noticed, and what I’m aware of, is that, in the UK anyway, is that you can start learning to drive at the age of 17, unless that’s changed, and, it’s just, I just think of it now as very, you know, very young, and I certainly, at that age, as the age that I was, you know, I was kind of my worst in terms of mental health anyway, so.


but I’m aware of people that, that have kind of taken driving lessons when they’re older. I mean, I think my dad was in his late 20s or early 30s actually, when he did it. So if I was to start late, it wouldn’t be a big issue. I think basically that I don’t, I don’t have to. It’s probably the, the, the thing for me is I have a choice because public transport.

Where I live is actually pretty decent, pretty good. I’ve got the train, I’ve got local buses, and, and I’ve got other people as well including my dad I suppose you know, if I wanted you know, as a potential option to, to drive me somewhere. But I would imagine that it would be very different if you were in a scenario where you, driving was a necessity, part of a job maybe, or part of needing to, you know, something that was needing to be

done. So, I think, the reason I haven’t learned Apart from the reason I came out from the beginning anxiety, et cetera, is because I don’t need to. Maybe it’d be different if I did need to. Different mindset, I suppose.

[00:03:54] Maurice – ELAS Autistic Group: I’m just projecting my mind into the anxiety of, if, if it was a necessity because of remote location, then what, what, what do you do for your driving needs next day if you’ve had a bump?

There’s too, there’s too sudden too sudden cutoff and vulnerable, especially if you. Can’t afford taxis or cross country. I’m upset to think of this situation as detail I’ve not experienced. And yeah, what if, what if it’s Tilly country too? I, I learned to drive at 17. With the, the rationale of helping care for elderly grandparents. Funny, I wanted to, to get the, the learning success under my belt. Feet, but I’ve never been on top of the mechanical sense of maintaining a car after that family car at that time. I’ve never, I’ve never afforded to own one either, but I know even if I did afford to, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t because I can’t cope with the idea of trying to maintain it, nor I must say in driving, they’re not very, not, not.

But I don’t drive, no, not a, not a keen driver because of hills and The handbrakes and clutches and starting on a hill. It’s a very dangerous design, very open to fallibility and a great pressure on the driver. And even, I mean, even, even a bus can Slipped back a bit when I was starting on a hill. Getting nervous. We’ve got the steep hill local to me in Queensferry, the Lone, and the main town bus route goes right up it.

Repeated the old day buses starting on it. Managing never to career backwards down the hill to them. Mow down everyone behind them, but I don’t want to have that on my shoulders.

That is a serious design issue there, especially wherever there’s dependence on vehicles. No

[00:06:09] Harry – Autistic Association SCIO: I think a lot of it as well I mean we talk about driving, but obviously if you’re going to drive you need a vehicle, then there’s the maintenance of the vehicle, the insurance of the vehicle, there’s, there’s all of that as well, as well as responsibility for it I mean all my siblings drive although one of them doesn’t have a car at the moment because they don’t need it because they live in, you know, in Glasgow so.

And part of the problem is parking anyway, and the affordability on the wages. It’s one of my sister’s. Would have. So, there is all that. I mean, the thing that comes into my mind is maybe it’s a, well, obviously it is a personal thing. The way that my life has, has, has become that my, my certain sleep routine and sort of awareness of things.

I actually find it quite difficult to cross the road left and right. I can do it, but it just seems like a bit more of an effort than it should be. I don’t know if that’s autistic or that’s just my lifestyle in terms of lack of sleep, which has obviously put me off driving as well. I’m just wondering if that comes into play, but yeah, it’s an interesting one.

It’s just so, there’s so much involved in driving. I mean, you make an interesting point

[00:07:42] Jules – Autistic Radio: there about driving is not just a skill. It is something where you have to be in good shape. And a lot of the times autistic people, we’re not in that good shape because Like you said, sleep. Or some of us might have different kinds of medications or be self medicating, you know, with alcohol and cannabis and those kinds of things.

So the responsibility of taking on a car or being the person that’s responsible for all the passengers, I fully understand that. That can seem to me,

I had to make the choice that driving was going to be a big part of my life. And I was going to live in a rural community where there isn’t public transport. So, in a lot of ways, it’s a big commitment to keep that skill going as I get older and keep it happening.

But I, I, without a doubt, I can project myself back. To being a new driver and I can, I can relate to the anxiety that both yourself to some degree and what Morris has expressed.

[00:09:20] Harry – Autistic Association SCIO: Yeah. I suppose the kind of thing about where I live is it seems like it’s like the outskirts. So if I lived, if I lived a mile any further in a few directions a car would be a necessity. Yep, as you say, lifestyles as I’m very, I know I’m not the only one, but, and there’ll be a lot of drivers, as I suppose, very caffeinated as well.

It’s like a 5 odd stress to a level. And, you know, it kinda makes me work, you know, like a machine in a way, to get things done. I don’t think that’s ideal for driving. Cause I’m easily, I can be easily wound up and I would probably be prone to road rage. And I’ve seen that and it’s a horrible thing to see.

Because it can happen very easily because the thing is, but there’s that kind of, I suppose there’s a sense of danger and a sense of risk in anything you do I suppose. But it just seems because the vehicle goes a certain speed, it’s made at a certain thing and all it takes is one mistake for. You know, something really kind of, it’s that thought, that anxiety of no matter how careful you are, all it takes is someone else not to be careful and it could be catastrophic.

Yeah, there’s

[00:10:49] Maurice – ELAS Autistic Group: a

time in front of me on a motorway roundabout, reverse into the radiator at the front of the family car. I mean, that’s another bad design thing as well, there’s so

many imperfections in the design.

Can’t keep on top of.

I got, I got road raged by a lorry behind me. I don’t know, hired car crossing the kindergarten bridge to take tailgates. It’s because they, they bounced to overtake with their folks in front of me. I couldn’t speed up. This was a lots of folks around, but yeah, it wasn’t happy feeling.

And I’m forgot single track Rosa about them, especially the countryside. Meeting someone and who goes, who goes back

[00:11:51] Jules – Autistic Radio: to,

[00:11:54] Maurice – ELAS Autistic Group: there are things you shouldn’t have to cope with, that shouldn’t be dependent on having any location, and there’s anxiety, hmm,

a few scrambled feelings there.

I think

[00:12:16] Harry – Autistic Association SCIO: what it’s all down to as well is what produces the anxiety. Well, certainly me is, and this isn’t just driving, this is, this is kind of life itself, especially in the culture we live in, is everybody’s in a rush to get things done. So somebody will be in a vehicle, in a rush to get to their destination.

Whether it’s home, whether it’s going to work, whether it’s family, shopping, whatever, it’s like they’ve got to get there as quickly as possible. And other car, and other vehicles are in their way, and they should get out their way. And if they want to go at a certain speed, even if it’s over the speed limit, ever so slightly, I know that’s very common.

But even, even buses do this, you know, because they’re running to a timetable, it’s like The, the hush and rush, you know, it’s just, that in itself is quite uncomfortable. I mean, I don’t like being in rush hour. Train’s not so bad because it’s on the railway. But see if it’s on a bus, or somebody’s car, it’s like And things get busy, you can just feel the tension, not just within yourself, but you can feel the tension around you and from the other vehicles, it’s like, people are trying to get somewhere, and all these other people are in their way.

I mean, for instance, you know, the traffic jams and the motorway in Glasgow. Because it’s got it’s own design fault. You know, it’s just the way that they’ve set it up. It’s like, they put a moorway, they built a moorway through a city. And there’s just certain parts, doesn’t matter what time of day it is actually.

You know, that it just causes a backlog and people are kind of frustrated and it’s just horrible. And I’d hate to drive in that. Although, I’m aware of people that choose not to drive in such environments if they do work in Glasgow and they have got a car, what they do is they just take the train anyway because they’ve got that option.

It’s only good if you’ve got that option. It’s just all these things are coming out right now. Parking and parking and riding. So. Yep. And that’s another thing as well, parking itself. The anxiety of driving somewhere and then not finding anywhere to park. I can think of my sister’s house in Deniston in Glasgow, Helen, and my brother Kevin, who lives just up the road, or down the road nearby anyway, and it’s just like those Glasgow streets were not made for a lot of vehicles.

And what they’ve done is they’ve made restrictions because obviously people have been abusing it and all that, so sometimes you may need to park far away. Which I suppose isn’t a bad thing, but it’s actually finding somewhere. It’s all that comes into play in your mind, which creates anxiety. Oh, I’m such an anxious person, what can I say?

That’s the reason it all comes together.

[00:15:21] Jules – Autistic Radio: I think there’s also the other side of this, for me, where being able to drive and having a car and having the access to that, that is now a practice thing, gives me release from anxiety, because I can be In my box metal bot alone without other people in my space their noise their It’s a, it’s a controlled environment for me.

Yes, it’s true that the outside environment is chaotic often, but there’s something of the cocoon effect of being inside a car as a way of traveling. But as I get older, I’m less and less comfortable with doing long drives and being responsible for the safety. I’ve slowed down. I, I, I drive in a different way now.

And whether that’s something to do with autism and caution or an anxiety, I

[00:16:46] Harry – Autistic Association SCIO: don’t know.

The one thing it does, I mean, that’s a great point you bring up as well, is your own box thing. I do, I do get that. That’s a positive thing, yeah. In public transport, as we’ve talked about in other topics this year, within other people, which you can’t control. I mean, the train that I get on that goes to Glasgow, it goes, stops at every stop.

The, the buses that I access can be quite busy. Sometimes some of them go to Glasgow, you know, it’s, it depends what time and all, but you’re around strange people and you can’t control who your company is going to be, you know, it could be nice and quiet, then a rough crowd comes on, not exactly to harass you, but you just feel it in the atmosphere and it’s not very nice to sit in.

So, if you’ve been in your own box, been in your own vehicle, I can appreciate that and the freedom of being able to go somewhere to a destination without having to rely on another driver. Because basically that’s what you’re doing in public transport, you’re relying on a service. Relying on another driver to, to take you somewhere or for that to be available.

The thing that fascinates me is how people, some people can drive for such a long time. I mean, my dad has family down in Northampton. And to get to Northampton from, you know, just basically where I live, Alexandria, next to Loch Lomond, basically, it’s six hours, and that’s mostly motorway. And he can drive that straight generally. Doesn’t want to take a break, just wants to get down there as quickly as possible. And then, he can also stay there for a couple of hours, and then go six hours back again. And I’m thinking, I mean, if I was going to do that, I would certainly need an overnight stay. Ha ha! And maybe I’m digressing a bit, but, but I’m just thinking it’s just that It’s just some, it’s just some people can do it.

It’s quite amazing that it’s sitting for hours, especially on a motorway, because on a motorway, I’ve been a passenger, of course, and the motorway is mostly straight road. And it’s like, how do you keep your concentration?

[00:19:14] Maurice – ELAS Autistic Group: There’s a lot of driving while tired to think of, and your own stamina. It’s best to break it up and not plan for Spend the rest of the day driving.

Not to mention the

[00:19:30] Harry – Autistic Association SCIO: back pain.

Yeah, that must come into play. Being in the one position for such a long time, yeah?

I mean, it’d be anxiety inducing if you’re on, you know, you’re travelling so many hours on kind of awkward roads, you know? And, you know, non motorway roads, it’s like a lot of corners, this and that. You need to use a lot of different routes. But at least that, yeah. Concentration level is there because you, you’re going to be going into all these different directions, but we’re on a motorway, it’s just like, it’s not always straight, but it’s almost straight, to a degree.

Switching from lane to lane and all that, you know, I find it mind numbing, even just being a passenger.

I think the other thing to

[00:20:32] Jules – Autistic Radio: say is that all of these things that we have said, And be overcome over time and with repetition, it’s, it’s not a done thing. But

do you want that in life? There are other things you can put your energy to it’s, it’s kind of making it a priority when maybe other things should be a priority. I, I drive cars, motorcycles, lorries, industrial vehicles, forklifts telehandlers. Really strange and bizarre vehicles because i live in the countryside in farmland and i have prioritized all of those skill

just because you can and just because an autistic person

can often overcome over a long period of time things doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best way of balancing their lives.

[00:21:56] Harry – Autistic Association SCIO: Yeah, I agree with that. I also agree with things can be overcome in terms of, if you want to, if you want to do something you put your mind to it in terms of learning to drive, etc. is doable train yourself for it in a way your kind of mind training, as well as the practical, but also not to put yourself under pressure that there is other options out there.

And obviously prioritise it the right way if you do become a driver. You know, cause a lot of my conversation is all about the negative and why I don’t. But I’m aware there’s other options and there is a way forward. Especially if I want, if I wanted to drive. You mean, it can happen, it is possible. And things like the fears and the frustrations can be overcome.

I mean, I’ve done other things. So it would be the same as driving. But if you do become a driver, there is options that you don’t, you don’t need to drive either. You can take the choice of. Not driving.

It’s all about choices, it’s all about options. But I find it fascinating the differences of the vehicles that are out there. Even with these cars alone, it’s just how different they all are. And obviously I don’t know the actual mechanics and all of that. I’m not even interested in it. But you know that they’re all different.

All different shapes and sizes. And I only know all these different kind of cars, you know, through my dad. Because he’s had so many different cars. And my brother and sisters have had different cars. So Yeah, it’s not old

[00:23:40] Maurice – ELAS Autistic Group: in England. My friends in Kintyre got a motor home and Goes it always looks to me to outweigh the Holiday benefits are by being difficult to drive that they are like that.

That’ll replace one was too wide Some issue going through some don’t just come off the back and then the car and there’s of course it’s driving

A big vehicle without a back window than a car. So, I

[00:24:17] Harry – Autistic Association SCIO: that’s another thing that does fascinate me, is about, you know, the Motorhomes. You know, I’m actually driving one of them. Just the, the, the logic behind it and why they’re there. I mean, what I grew up with, not using myself, but I’ve had friends and I’ve been aware of neighbours and all that, half of them is, The old kind of caravans.

So it wasn’t like motor, it was like a car towing a caravan. Caravan, yeah. And I’m going, oh. Yeah. Oh, imagine driving that. I mean, I think the, the rule was The general rule was, like, you wouldn’t go faster than 25 miles an hour or something. And I don’t know all I know is, yeah, what I do know is people get really crazed because they’re usually stuck behind them, you know, on the roads up to the highlands and stuff like that.


[00:25:10] Maurice – ELAS Autistic Group: It’d be difficult to drive all the way down to Cornwall or France at that sort of speed, such as what they do with this motorhome. I

[00:25:21] Harry – Autistic Association SCIO: mean, out of interest, I mean, how How can I, what would be the, the kinda speed, I mean the oh street for the, I

[00:25:32] Maurice – ELAS Autistic Group: I, I’ve been driven then it to the outing into the Mullican Tire when I was staying in them. Th that they were able to drive that an ordinary speed, like a car. There wasn’t any trouble there.

There’s some more Just the one, the one compact vehicle.

[00:25:51] Jules – Autistic Radio: Yeah.

I I have a motor home at the moment and it’s, you’re absolutely correct that it’s a little bit It’s a little bit more to drive. It’s a little bit. There’s a little bit more technique to it and things, but again, it gives you that absolute freedom of not having to be in hotels and not having to eat other people’s food and.

The, the, the autistic freedom of being in your own space is even extended further when you’re on holiday because you’re in control of the

[00:26:34] Maurice – ELAS Autistic Group: whole thing. Ah, but, but what But, but, but what about it’s only unless you have an accident?

And that’s, I mean, if someone goes in the back of you at any moment

and knocks out the happy scenario.

[00:26:55] Harry – Autistic Association SCIO: Suppose if someone ran into any vehicle you were in, whether you were going to a hotel or a double or home or not, It would be a traumatic experience and ruin your holiday anyway. But yeah. I’m just wondering if that’s an autistic thing. In many ways the motorhome or caravan or, you know, you know, that sort of kinda outlook because that means it’s your own space you don’t, I mean, as Julian was saying, you don’t need to mingle with anybody.

Because hotels and all that and holidays and all that can be quite It takes time to, to get used to it depending where you’re going and with what kind of stories when you go to tell after travelling for such a, a long time, you know, what you find out is a bit of a nightmare. So that sort of scenario does sound quite artistic minded.

[00:27:43] Jules – Autistic Radio: Caravaning and, Motor homing is kind of autistic. I’m thinking around my friends and yes, the autistic ones are very much into entirely independent travel. My father who’s autistic drove us all the way around Europe in those days with With tents that we would put up every night wherever we went, even though it was a big deal.

And I’m fairly sure it’s because he just wasn’t comfortable in other people’s faces, and he needed the control and the ability to have his own

[00:28:26] Harry – Autistic Association SCIO: space.

Well, that makes sense.

Is there anything else you want to talk about with Drive? I

feel like I’ve covered most ground on what I’ve had.

[00:28:42] Maurice – ELAS Autistic Group: I

couldn’t ever see myself coping with a cat and mouse at buying and selling.

[00:28:54] Harry – Autistic Association SCIO: Ah, that’s a good point. Yeah, yeah, yeah. But it hasn’t been spoken about yet. It’s actually that side of it.

[00:29:07] Maurice – ELAS Autistic Group: Do you, in a rural family, hope you’ve picked up all your parents tips? I mean, if you have, you might not be as confident as them. They’ll have the same plausible manner.

And so this is a depreciating asset.

I don’t know whether that’s a valid point. We, we were always on second hand ones. We were only that level of afford, of affording.

The way my mother found ways to dispose of them when their time was up. I might imagine a trade went to some guy who wanted a sort of variable source of parts of the idea. She found him, so there was some, there was some social skills in doing that that I didn’t absorb.

[00:30:01] Jules – Autistic Radio: When you’re dealing with driving, you’re dealing with all the mechanics and salesmen and scrap dealers and recovery people and insurance agents, there is a lot that goes around it. You have to deal with and cope with it, add all kinds of extra things on top and. I think I was brought up to embrace that, and know how a car works, and know how to do basic repairs and things.

As an autistic young man in my first car, I had a very, very simple, basic set of tools. And I, I took the cylinder head off and the engine apart to replace one of its valves because it was cracked and then put it all back together again, accidentally leaving a, a nut inside the cylinder. So the car jumped all over the place and then took it apart again and put it back together again without the nut in it.

So, one of the things autistic people do often is, is get into the mechanics and get, make that something that gives them the

[00:31:24] Harry – Autistic Association SCIO: resilience.

That’s a good point, yeah. There’ll be a lot of autistic people that are very interested in cars, mechanics and all that, and that certainly would help learning and gaining more confidence but especially, I mean, the kind of, I suppose you hear a lot of kind of horror stories from everywhere, but a lot of horror stories go to, refer to, like, cars getting fixed, you know, at a garage, and then, and it’s just never ending, and sometimes the horror stories, like, it comes out worse than it did before.

So, yeah. But yeah, the interest, the passion bit, definitely would feed into gaining a lot of confidence. Because there will be many people out there that like cars, and mechanics, and because of the way that the engines and, you know, all the, all these programs are out there there will be a lot of people out there that write and tell, which will help.


I think all

[00:32:27] Jules – Autistic Radio: in all, we have given food for thought. Driving is not necessarily impossible law. A life skill that we don’t want or don’t want to use or don’t have. If the stereotype is that it’s too much for us, I can say that that’s not true. My wife’s autistic, she drives, my daughter’s autistic, she drives, my best friends, they’re both autistic, and they drive.

And they’ve made it one of their thing.

It’s a commitment, and when you’re autistic, it’s often something you might choose not. So, as we come round this again and again, you can’t judge it as one way or another, we’re all different. And, It’ll be different for

[00:33:29] Harry – Autistic Association SCIO: each of us.

Nicely summed up, Julian. Absolutely, you’re right. It’s all about choice. It’s all about personality. We’re all different. The stereotypes do not believe in them. Everybody is absolutely different. And you just kinda gave the perfect examples of that. At the end of the day, when I think about it, I don’t drive because I’ve chosen not to drive.

I’ve given the reasons why. It’s a choice rather than, like, it’s something I cannot do. So it kind of rounds up in a positive way the discussion that we’ve had today. So, thank you very much Julian and, and Morris, for taking part in this conversation. I quite enjoyed it. We kind of covered quite a lot of ground and you know you know, not such a, a long time.

So thanks again. And thank you for listening. We’ll talk about autism and driving. Thank you. This is Spectrum Voices Conversation with St. Radio.



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