Note: In 2011, AOTA identified driving for teens as an emerging niche in occupational therapy. It has since become more mainstream, so newer content appears elsewhere on this site. This page has been retained for historical information. Learn more about the 2011 Emerging Niche series here.
Why emerging? Learning to drive is, for many teenagers, a rite of passage to adulthood. Teens with disabilities should not be left out; potential drivers cannot be denied the opportunity to apply for a driver's permit or license because of a disability.1 Some practitioners are creating driving rehabilitation programs to help those teens and young adults find ways to adapt and make driving a possibility.
Get Involved! For more than 10 years, Purnima Karia, OTR/L, CDRS, has worked in driver rehabilitation for people of various ages and conditions, such as traumatic brain injury, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, and other neurological conditions. Karia has noticed a greater nationwide awareness of driving wellness and fitness, especially related to the aging population, but lately she has also seen more young adults in her practice area.
"My advice to other practitioners would be to take the initiative in being accessible to the community for the growing need in this area of practice," Karia says. Practitioners who work in a school setting can be a part of the conversation of whether a student with a disability can learn to drive because they would already be aware of the students' strengths and areas that need improvement. Because people often equate driving with independence, determining whether a young adult is fit to drive can have enormous repercussions. Karia suggests practitioners be sensitive to each client's emotional state of mind and make the experience as positive as it can be.
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (2011). Adapting motor vehicles for people with disabilities. Retrieved May 16, 2011, fromhttp://www.nhtsa.gov/cars/rules/adaptive/brochure/brochure.html
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