Tag Archives: autism driving

Autism: Train Crossing

Well the day came, and since I didn’t have the bus booked I had to take the van. Well, I guess for that part I would have had to take the van anyway, since we only book the bus to take us home. After all, if my husband is going into town anyway, why would be spent $3.50 in bus tickets to take us to the same place at around the same time?

My husband had offered to take us home after, so I wouldn’t have to return (in the dark) at night to pick him up from work when he was done. I don’t like driving in the dark. I don’t like driving.

This was the day I had set aside to do all of my Christmas shopping… well, most. My son was coming with me, so I would have to pick up things for him on another day. Everything else had to get done. When would I get another chance to do it?

I have really been struggling with Christmas this year. All the commercialism makes me feel sick. I look in the fliers and they seem to be telling us that we should be spending hundreds of dollars on each gift (if we really loved our family!) Hundreds! What ever happened to the $20 maximum for the closest people in our lives? Or better, the orange, Christmas candy, and mittens that used to fill stockings a hundred or so years ago.

When did Christmas become about going into debt?

The more I look in these fliers, the more I hate the idea of buying anything. Such pressure. Such greed. This is not what Christmas is supposed to be.


But like most other people I do have people to buy for, and I don’t want them thinking I don’t care about them. So I went out looking.

As I left the thrift store where my husband works, a train started going by on the tracks we had to cross to get to town. I was first at the stop sign on my side – needing to turn right to cross the tracks. Across from me was the Handy Dart – the bus I had planned to book to get us home. It was being driven by a person my son and I both know. She was first to the stop sign across from me, and had arrived there before I had.

On the road perpendicular to us – the one that crossed the train tracks – there was no stop sign, and there were several people stopped at the train crossing there.

I was sitting there, in the driver’s seat of my van, panicking for two reasons:

  1. Knowing who I was, the driver of the Handy Dart would recognize me sitting in the driver’s seat of my van, and question how I qualified to take the Handy Dart (to be fair, in my application for this bus I did say that I could drive, but that it causes me a lot of anxiety, and I still was approved.)
  2. I struggle with the rules for a two way stop where there is no stop sign in the other direction. She was there first, so I wanted to let her go first – but she was turning left where I was turning right, and in such situations in the past the people turning right went first regardless of who got there first…

Perhaps I shouldn’t care what other people think of me, but I do. I care a LOT! So it bothers me when I think that other people might think that I don’t belong somewhere, or shouldn’t qualify for something, or…

My son said that if anyone had been in the van with us, they would never question that I should qualify for the Handy Dart (he has also said that in the past while we were standing outside the thrift store waiting for the bus, and I was so anxious I couldn’t think – to be fair, the bus never showed on that trip, so the panic was justified – I ended up having a full meltdown then.)

Anyway, I hesitated for a second, and when she didn’t go, I did. But the panic never let up.

I wanted, and had planned to get all of my Christmas shopping done that morning, but after the experience I had waiting for the train at that stop sign, all I wanted to do was be home with my girls. We did go to every mall in town (we live in a small town, so when I say mall, there are only a few stores in each) but I didn’t get any shopping done.

I couldn’t.

And the rest of the day I was anxious, teary, and emotional. Sometimes I think I shouldn’t be driving at all. It is all just too much for me.


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Autism: Freedom For Now

We had this vehicle that was sitting in our driveway for many months, not being used. It wasn’t our vehicle, but we had agreed to store it for family.  Since no one was using it, my husband asked if it would be okay for us to get it insured during the time that my mom was here – and the owners agreed.

Suddenly I have a vehicle – not that one, for it is a standard. I can drive standard, but… I am anxious enough driving an automatic. With the standard, there is so much more to think about, and so many more issues that could arise.

For example (and I guess this is the worst one) when I have to stop on a hill in the standard, I am painfully aware of how close other vehicles stop behind. When the light changes, and it is time to go, I not only have to think about the lights and the traffic in front of me – but there is the brake, and the clutch, and the gas, and the gears, and… the vehicle that will roll backwards before it moves forward.

It is all too much – like city driving (which I don’t do – at least not in or near the city I learned to drive in.)

So my husband will take the standard car to work, and I will have the use of our automatic van during my visit with my mom.

Only he didn’t just get insurance for the 2 months while my mom is here, but for six months!

It feels really strange.

I haven’t had free access to a vehicle for a long time. In fact, in our first 9 or 10 years of marriage (even after I got a job outside of my home, and with different shifts from my husband) we only had the one vehicle.

When I was going to school, and had to travel to and from the job site frequently (we were building a house) my husband decided it was best to get a second vehicle for convenience. But when I stopped working, well… there really wasn’t enough reason to justify the expense of a second vehicle, so the extra went to the wrecker (we only ever buy well used vehicles) and we were back down to one.

It made sense. It did make sense.

If I needed to get anywhere, I would have to drive down to work with my husband, and pick him up at the end of the day, in addition to doing my own thing. Sometimes I did, but… driving into town and back once causes me severe anxiety (just being in town without driving causes me strong anxiety.) By the time I got home, I was nearly always crashing – and going out again was really a very difficult thing for me. So I didn’t do it often, and have spent most of these years at home.

Then I qualified for door to door bus service – only I had a bad experience with that, and was afraid to try again.

Instead I have been home. I like to be home, but with no accessible way to leave home, I have felt trapped and isolated.


And now, suddenly, I have a vehicle again. I drove into town today to pick up a few things for my mom’s visit – and town was busy! I don’t know why it was so busy on a regular Monday not altogether close to tourist season, but it was.

I arrived home worn out and exhausted, and very anxious about having to go out again to pick my husband up at the end of the day… but then, I don’t have to, do I?

It feels strange, but I am grateful for the sudden freedom that having a second vehicle allows. Perhaps not worth the expense long term, but it is really nice for now.


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Autism: Learning to Drive

Though my older brother rushed out right away, owned his first vehicle, and was driving as soon as he was allowed, this was not something that was of interest to me. In fact, it downright terrified me. Yet shortly after my sixteenth birthday, I went for my first written test, joined driving school, and within a year had my license.

It wasn’t something I wanted to do, but since Graduated Licensing was about to come in, my mother insisted it was something I had to do. So I did.

I passed the written test without issue. On the second day of driving school, my instructor had me drive in the busiest part of downtown, in the very large city where we lived. There were cars, buses, and people everywhere – and something like four lanes of traffic in each direction. Aspie nightmare!

“Look at this,” he said, “did you see the bus?” “watch the people,” “did you notice…”

I was strongly headed towards meltdown, the tears silently streaming down my cheeks – but I had to make it home. “I hate this!” I thought, “Never again!” Somehow I made it through the lesson, but everything from that moment is blocked from my mind. I fell apart in the privacy of my room, and of course, did continue my classes. After all, my parents had paid for them, and always the pleaser, I didn’t want to disappoint.

In a further lesson, I was taken onto the highway. Strangely enough I found I didn’t mind highway driving quite so much as city driving. Though to be fair, he didn’t take me to the busy highways with Toronto traffic, but on a relatively quiet highway going in the other direction. I found it easier with the larger spacing between vehicles – which all flowed in one direction – and no pedestrians!

On the day of my test, just as I was driving down, I passed a dead cat on the road that had been hit by a car. I cried at the power to kill that comes with driving a vehicle, and very much did not want that power for myself.

Despite my very strong anxiety and dislike of driving, I only made one mistake during my test. Instead of checking my side windows after I had put the car in reverse, I checked the one side just before. And just like that, I had my license. I had no vehicle, no job, no money, and no desire at all to ever drive again. The bus system in that city was really good, and inexpensive. I either used that, or walked, for the city was quite flat and good for walking.

Seven years later I moved across the country to a small town, where nearly every street was rolling hills. The townhouse I was renting was nowhere near grocery stores, or anything else that I needed (except the community pool, which was nice) and there were only a total of three buses in the entire city. We couldn’t walk. The buses were impractical, and the trips long – leaving me with bad motion sickness on every trip.

So we (my mom moved across the country with me, but then my father was diagnosed with cancer a couple of months later, and my mom had to move back to take care of my disabled brother and very sick father) leased a vehicle. Seven years after my driving exam, I started driving again.

Sixteen years later, I am still a very anxious driver. I still hate city driving, and prefer quiet highways. Though eight years ago, my mom and I took turns driving across the country and back, I still refuse to drive in my hometown (or anywhere near Toronto.)


I even learned to drive standard along the way. But make no mistake, I still hate driving! There is too much unpredictability along the road.


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Autism: Vehicle Trouble

I woke up this morning to the sound of my husband calling into work. The van wouldn’t start, and he had been out there for about 20 minutes already trying to get it to go. He has had trouble with the starter for a few weeks now, but this is the longest it has taken so far to get it working. I say ‘he’ because when the vehicle is acting up, I won’t use it.


Yet even when it was his issue to deal with, I could feel my heart start to race. When I was working, the van was mine to use. He took the car, which was standard… I can drive standard. He taught me before we were married, when he wanted to give me his car. But I don’t like it.

I get nervous driving to begin with. It more has to do with other drivers, and detours, than fear over my own driving – but when it comes to standard, it just makes everything worse. The biggest challenge for me in driving standard is stopping on hills. For the first vehicle my husband gave me, it would hold on hills. Still I was scared. People stop too close behind. It was like the feeling of when people stand too close, but so much worse. All of the standard vehicles we have had since, have rolled on hills before moving forward.

Oh, I know! Use the parking break… but then I have to think of having my foot on the clutch, my foot on the brake, my hand on the gear, and moving over to the gas, and removing the brake – all the while, watching what everyone else was doing (and still worrying about how close the person was behind me.) I could do it, but it was all too much for my anxious heart.

So I drove the van, and he drove the car, and as long as everything went according to plan, all was fine.

We always get used vehicles. Not just used, but old. I am okay with that – I am a very… thrifty person, and the thought of spending $30,000 on a new vehicle – or even $10,000 on a sort of new vehicle, is well beyond what my economical mind can agree to. We bought this van for $3500 8 years ago, and it has been good to us.

However, on a day like today, where the van wouldn’t start… while he sat trying to turn the engine for twenty minutes, my heart would have been racing at an increasing pace, and I would have been in tears by the time he called into work. And there would have been another struggle – the phone. I hate phones. I don’t think I can emphasize that enough.

Calling in to work to say I would be late – even if it wasn’t my fault… it would have been like failure to me, who was always at least 15 minutes early, and often 30. When I did get to work, I would have gone in shame, and it would have made it that much harder to go back each day.

If the vehicle then didn’t start, I would have had to call for help, or for a ride, or something. If my husband wasn’t there to help, I would have frozen up – and probably told work I couldn’t come in at all (though I never missed, even for sickness, except that week my back was out and I couldn’t even stand up no matter how hard I tried.)

It isn’t that I wouldn’t know what to do – but like driving a standard vehicle, it would have been too much for me. Too much.

So once again this morning, as I listened to my husband trying to start the van, I was thankful. Thankful that at this time in my life I rarely have to leave home – for out there, there are too many things I can’t predict, and I can’t control, and that is all too much for me.


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Autism: Imagination Pod

Pods. I think I may be obsessed with pods – though I hardly ever speak of them. I do find myself thinking of them. Designing with them. Longing for them even.

Especially when I am in bed, and struggling to sleep. Often I feel like I am going to fall off the bed. Sides would be nice – like a baby in a crib. Of course, it would have to be long enough that I wasn’t kicking the foot board. I also tend to feel like I am floating away. So some type of roof might come in handy. That would also help against the lights, smells, blowing air that are keeping me awake.

The pod I design for sleeping would have some sort of weighted retractable blanket. One that wouldn’t wrinkle, or fall off. One that was easy to put on, and quick to take off, even when I am sleeping on my stomach. The sheets would be easy to clean (because I love the smell of clean sheets) and tight! I cannot handle wrinkles in my sheets, yet they always seem to.

The temperature would be controlled, so that I never felt too cold or hot. The mattress would be soft, but not so soft that it hurt my back, or was hard to get out of. Speaking of getting out of it, it would have to open in such a way that I could get out easily. If I had to climb over it, I would likely just stay in bed.

Perhaps it would have a built in (quiet) sound system, so I could play white noise, or nature sounds (very quietly) to help me sleep. I can imagine myself lying in my pod, with those sounds, and in my mind, traveling to far off places.

Maybe it could have some sort of screen, like a virtual reality system, and along with the sounds, I could see myself traveling to other places, or being calmed by the sights and sounds of the forest, or an ocean…

Or the pod could move, and when I am not sleeping, it could become a virtual reality amusement park – complete with rides that feel like I am actually on them. And maybe it could have some sort of mild aromatherapy system, so I could be calmed by the smells as well as the sights and sounds. It would make the virtual reality system seem more real.

There would have to be room for me to stretch out, because my body aches when confined for too long – but not too much room, for I am comforted by small spaces. I would like it to be a place all my own, but maybe my animals could join me sometimes.

At night, I would worry about things such as fires, earthquakes, floods… my pod would have to protect me from these. Perhaps it would seal itself up in an emergency. Maybe it could even float. In these cases, I would want them for my family and pets, too. They would have to have their own, though, for it wouldn’t provide the comfort if I had to share mine. But maybe they would somehow cling together in an emergency.

Wouldn’t it be neat if my pod could also serve as a vehicle. It would have to have some sort of alternative energy source, like solar – but very reliable. I would want it to hover over the ground, rather than connect with it. I would want it to hover high enough that I would not be in danger of hitting animals. But then there are birds and stuff. It would need to be crash proof, I think, and maintain a certain distance between it, and anything else (trees, animals, people, cars, planes…)


If it was self-automated, maybe I wouldn’t be so afraid of traveling. It could take me across the country to visit my mom, and maybe I could rest, or do other activities while it was going. But then, it would have to blend in, or be invisible. I wouldn’t want anyone asking me about my pod, or trying to steal it, or…

It may not be something available, but I sure do dream of it a lot. My pod. The answer to so many of my struggles. How wonderful would that be!


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Autism: Alternative Transportation

Alternative transportation.

My pastor said a couple of weeks ago that he didn’t understand how vegan’s could drive cars. Okay, so I am not exactly vegan. I am still working on it. I am still working on a lot of things – like coming off my medication, learning to sleep without being drugged, figuring out how to go gluten free, and dairy free on a budget, and returning to a vegan (or close to) lifestyle.


The issue with food is that 1) I don’t handle change well 2) many foods leave me feeling sick 3) hunger is really bad for my mental health 4) I am too tired most of the time to make separate meals for myself each day 5) special foods cost a lot of money… I am sure there are more reasons. There always are. But that is not what this post is about.

Alternative transportation.

Okay. I drive a van. Not exactly fuel efficient. Not exactly good for the environment. But we bought it second hand when we had all of our kids, and needed to fit 4 children, 3 in car seats/booster seats, in the vehicle. It is a 1999, and aside from a few bumps (the electrical system seems to be possessed, and goes off at will with flashing lights, and signals) it has been economical for us.

I would go without it. I really want to. But where we live, we hardly have any alternatives. Sure I walked home from town today, but that takes near an hour, with a very steep hill at the end. As has been true every time I have walked from town, I have been crashing since.

Then I could take my bike along that trail – and I have. Only again I don’t have the energy to ride often, and that hill… last time I could hardly move for days after, my legs burned so bad (even though I walk my bike up the hill.)

And even with those options, the lakefront trail is flooded and inaccessible through the late spring and summer, and muddy or packed with snow and ice most of the rest of the year. Not exactly something I can depend on all the time.

Aside from that, I live out of town – and the road in is twisty, turny, and full of steep hills all along the way. I tried it once, and was sure I wasn’t going to survive, my heart felt like it would burst in my chest, and I was so overheated and dizzy I could hardly think. That day it was pouring, and not exactly hot. Plus the road in is somewhat narrow (going down to 1.5 lanes with the snow) and the drivers can’t see around the curves to make it safe. There is no sidewalk. No shoulder. There are hills on one side, and drops on the other. It really isn’t an option.

We aren’t exactly swimming in money that we could buy an electric, or even hybrid vehicle – or even a new, fuel efficient vehicle, for that matter. There are no buses anywhere near to where we live. Really, to live here, we need a car, and it takes money and energy to sell and move – plus, we don’t handle change well. None of us. And from what I have seen, there aren’t any comparable houses available in town within our budget. (I would go to smaller, but not for the same price as our house is worth, and that is what is being asked in town.)

When we moved here, I was running a daycare, and had no need to leave my home. My husband likes to drive (and isn’t so concerned about environmental issues as I am,) and my son was seven at the time, and homeschooling. It worked okay in the beginning though we did look in town first, but houses were selling fast at that time.

Now, my husband still does not mind driving – I am still the one in my family who is concerned about gas prices and environmental issues. My son doesn’t drive, doesn’t want to, but also rarely leaves the house – so is not really concerned about how to get to town, as he doesn’t want to.

For me… I dream of alternative transportation, and imagine all sorts of vehicles into existence that would make my life easier. But those thoughts remain unattainable – because of where we live, because of cost, because they don’t exist… and so I work with what I have, not what I want. What else can I do?


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Autism: New Relationships

It was a sunny, warm day in August. I had decided to take my son to the beach. The road was twisty and turny, and in some parts was so close to the lake, that I feared falling in. I had only been driving for about a year at that point, and that road, above all others that I traveled, made me very nervous.

Yet I had this child, just five years old, and I wanted to give him pleasant childhood experiences. We lived far from home. Far from all of our family, and we were alone – just him and me. So despite my fears – of the drive, of the crowds, of any of the numerous things that could happen – I decided to take him to the beach.

At five years of age, my son didn’t much like water. He would wade along the shore, but he would not go in. So we spent a lot of that afternoon walking on the rocky beach, and picking up “treasures” every once in a while. He would look at the rocks, look at the sticks, and then put them back down or throw them into the water.

After a while, a man from our church (we had only been attending for about a year) came up to us. He began talking, and walking along the beach with us. What I liked about this man was how he would talk, and talk, and never seemed to expect me to participate in the conversation. We may have walked along together for about an hour before he returned to his family (who were there for a picnic.)


This man had a head full of facts, and most of the time, I had no idea what he was talking about. What I did notice was the lack of nervousness I felt. It was as if he had no expectations of me. No need for me to share, or talk, or do anything but walk and listen. So I did. Even my son seemed at ease, and he didn’t much like strangers. He still doesn’t.

Much as I enjoyed that day, it never occurred to me… it never even crossed my mind, that this was the man I was to marry. What I did know was that I was not anxious with him. And that was a big deal for me.


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