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Can a Young Adult with Special Needs Get a Driver's License

One of those big milestones in a young adult's life is to obtain that coveted passage of freedom .. a driver’s license.

The beginning

Some kids want to get their license right away, sometimes it's the parents that are more excited, and sometimes someone wants to wait. All of that is fine. Driving is a big responsibility and not to be taken lightly. My son had zero interest in driving when he turned 16 but it was a transition goal to gain his Driver’s License.

It's really going to depend on many factors and the actual individuality of the person, their strengths, focus, maturity, cognitive abilities, reaction time, skillset, etc.

For my son, it was his senior year in high school when he started to show interest in driving.

The high school offered a drivers ed course with classroom instruction and behind the wheel. Because he was 18 years old the requirements in Minnesota for obtaining a driver's license are a little different. He did not need that blue card and technically didn't "need" the Safeway class. Sitting in the actual classroom with the multiple learning methods and visuals were benefits that far outweighed just reading the book.

You have to pass a knowledge and vision test, then you're off to practice. For my son, it took a couple of times and in March of 2019, he was able to start driving.

We started out in a big open parking lot. Then moved to quiet side streets, then moved onto a more busy road with multiple vehicles at different times of the day. Nearly everywhere we went, he would drive.

Before he could schedule his actual Minnesota road test, he had to finish his behind-the-wheel. He finished his behind-the-wheel in July 2019 but then had to wait six months for the road test appointment, and in Minnesota it snows in December, and the day of his test, it was snowing really hard. He, unfortunately, did not pass.

The appointment schedule was ridiculously overloaded and no exam station remotely close to us had openings. We checked online and I was able to dig up a phone number for a lady who was extremely helpful and was able to get him an appointment in January at a station that was over an hour's drive away. As the time grew closer, that had to be canceled due to his internship schedule.

He was able to get rescheduled again for March of 2020 but the State ended up canceling all the appointments when they completely shut down for Covid. He never did get back in.

Courage Kinney

During the course of the last few years, moving from the juvenile side of services to the adult side of services and into transition school, I was advised about a program through Allina.

This program is something my son's county caseworker had mentioned years previously. It had intrigued me. The cost had been an excuse factor but it still hung in the back of my mind. I wanted my son to go through the driving process like any other young adult.

The driver's license process started nearly two years prior. He has tried to go through this process like all young adults and it's been emotional and frustrating.

My son had even remembered this program and had asked about it again and again.

During the shutdown, he brought it up again, so I called. It was around July and he got put on a waitlist.

They told me to plan for a 4-hour assessment. It would be two parts. It looked at memory, problem-solving, cognitive processing speed, reaction time, upper and lower body coordination, and on-the-road driving. The CDCS Waiver will pay for the initial assessment. Ask your county caseworker about this part.

They called around September 2020.

I brought him to the assessment and was able to watch (at a distance) the clinical assessment but was not able to go with him for the driving portion.

The assessment was much more involved than I ever imagined.

After the driving portion, the clinician comes back with the results and recommendations.

He needed a couple more behind-the-wheel lessons. The lessons are not covered under the waiver and had to be paid out of pocket.

The lessons were scheduled and it worked out that on the last lesson day he was able to get an appointment at the local exam station. The clinician took him to the test and he was able to use their vehicle.

He passed!!!

He's excited for this milestone of freedom but also he is not reliant on Metro Mobility anymore.

There might have been tears involved.

The emotions of watching him be excited for behind the wheel to the disappointment in failing then having the state shut down and lose literally everything he enjoyed one by one.

He advocated he wanted this program and worked so hard to learn this important skill and he passed. Any milestone, big or small, no matter when it's hit, is a day of celebration!!

Never let anyone tell you or your kids they can’t do something or will never achieve something. Don't compare one young adult to another young adult. Everyone is different. It just might look different or take a bit longer.

I was a bit hesitant at first but after seeing the assessment and experiencing the program, this is defiantly something I would highly recommend to anyone that is wondering if their kid or loved one is able to drive safely.

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