When a young adult has Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), or other challenges that might affect his or her ability to drive a vehicle safely, what should parents do to protect their child, other pedestrians and drivers?
Even a typical teen takes quite a while to develop the skills needed to be a safe driver. When the situation is complicated by the fact that the teen or young person has ADHD or FASD, driving becomes even more complicated. In my family, depending on our children’s different circumstances, we respond quite differently once the subject of driving comes up.
Navigating the Driving Dilemma
With one of our sons with FASD, his driving instructor was the one who stated that while he might pass the test, our son would not be a safe driver. Not surprisingly, my son was unhappy about this. When he was 20, he did get his driver's license and since then, he has had more than one job which requires driving. He has since told us that he now knows he wasn’t ready to drive at 17.
We decided to not allow one of our sons, who is severely compromised by FASD, to drive. However, at 19, once he could legally sign for himself, he tried on more than one occasion to pass the test. So far, he has not passed.
Over the last two years, three of our children turned 16. The oldest has begun driving lessons. The second child has FASD, and a brain injury because of a motor vehicle accident, and certainly seems a poor candidate for driving. However, because our older son harboured so much hostility about our decision not to let him drive, we tried a different approach. When he turned 17, we gave him the “Road Sense for Drivers” book, which potential new drivers need to read to prepare for the learner’s knowledge test. After a cursory look at the book, he decided he wasn’t interested.
Our third child who turned 16 this year has ADHD, as well as some addiction challenges, so we will not give him permission to learn to drive until he has made some better decisions. He recognizes his own risk-taking behaviour so for now, is accepting the consequences.