Published on: 03/20/2023
As part of its commitment to supporting neurodiverse children and teens, Nicklaus Children’s Hospital has launched a virtual-reality program aimed at helping prepare eligible students to take their driving exams.
“For many teenagers and young adults with autism, learning to drive can be highly anxiety-inducing,” said Dr. David Seo, senior vice president and chief information and digital officer for Nicklaus Children’s Health System. “As a result, many capable individuals with autism avoid pursuing their driver’s license, which in today’s society is a big part of the transition from adolescence to adulthood.”
To empower neurodiverse individuals to be more independent and obtain their driver’s licenses, Nicklaus Children’s Hospital launched the DRIVE (Driving Improvements through Virtual Reality Experience) – a blend of virtual and hands-on driving experiences – to help prepare atypical learners for a successful driving exam.
The DRIVE Program uses fully immersive virtual-reality technology to provide students with an experience that simulates a driving exam. Students receive immediate feedback related to various driving scenarios in which they participate through a computer-simulated instructor. In addition, a trained behavioral analyst helps guide students through each scenario while monitoring student stress and anxiety levels. In addition to the VR experience, students work with the behavioral analyst to learn the rules of the road through a tailored course curriculum.
Once a student is ready to get some practice behind the wheel, they work with an instructor from a local partner driving school in a safe and controlled setting. These partners have been specially trained to work with neurodiverse individuals to promote their success and reduce their anxiety. After the student has mastered all areas of practice, and in agreement with the instructor, they can undergo the official driving exam to obtain their state-issued driver’s license.
For more information on the DRIVE program, please contact DriveProgram@nicklaushealth.org.
In other offerings to support neurodiverse individuals, Nicklaus Children’s Adaptive Care Program assists children on the autism spectrum and those with other neurological differences and their families to optimize the inpatient care experience. Nicklaus Children’s Brain Institute offers a comprehensive program for children on the autism spectrum, as well as offerings for children with other neurological differences.