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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Treatment Tuesday - Asperger's Syndrome

This assessment is for Mara, who is writing a YA novel about a child with Asperger's Syndrome. She asked about the likelihood of a teen with Asberger's taking a driving test, failing, and then wanting to take the test again. My response is below.

First of all, Asperger's is an autism spectrum disorder. These indivduals typically have more language preservation (as well as cognitive development in general) than people with Autism, but they are similar in that people with Asberger's have difficulties in social situations and also have restricted, stereotyped patterns of behaviors and interests. See this article here for more information about the disorder itself.

Now, on to Mara's question and the feasibility of her plot element centered around driving. I believe there are several "aspies" (as they call themselves) who drive, and drive well...but by and large, a fair percentage don't. On this website here ( there is a sampling of posts by people with Aspergers who are writing in about whether they drive, why or why not. People with Asbergers have limited social interaction (although not as much as those with Autism) and actually most fear social encounters. So if this character managed to fight that enough to get behind the wheel with an instructor next to him...and then fails, it might be a tad unlikely for him to want to take the test again. At least any time soon.

Thanks for writing in, Mara! Hope this helps.

Just as aside for any author writing about a person with a developmental or mental disability: It's important in today's time to make sure to refer to these individuals as "people/children with Aspergers," or whatever disorder they might have, and not Asperger children or adults. The disorder does not define them as a person, and Regional Centers that work with them adhere to a person-centered planning model, which does not look at a disorder/disability from the medical model of what's wrong with a person. It would be considered offensive to refer to them any other way.

This service is for fictional characters only, so any resemblance to real life examples is entirely coincidental. Any other fictional character assessment questions can be directed to

"The Character Therapist"


Mara said...


Thanks ~ Yes, it does help. It's a good example to research, research, and research!

I'm looking forward in reading your posts.

Mara :-)

Jessica said...

What a cool blog Jeannie! Maybe I'll send you a question sometime about my characters. :-)
Congrats on the word count! You're almost done. Woohoo! :-)

Ralene said...

I love this new section, Jeannie. I think it's going to be a great addition to your blog!

Anonymous said...

Hello Mara-
I am an Aspie teen who does have her driver's license. I got my permit at age 16, but did not get my license until 18. I failed the on the road portion of the driving test twice. I have an extremely good grasp of the rules of the road, but struggle when other people don't follow them or something unexpected happens. For this reason, I primarily drive on back roads where I am unlikely to face much traffic. As I live in a rural area, it is not to difficult to avoid highways and city streets.

After the 1st failure, I was devastated. I have always done well in intellectual pursuits, and saw no reason why driving should be any different. I had to come to terms with the idea that driving was a more practical, rather than intellectual, pursuit, and that it would not come easy for me. I am stubborn, and would not give up, so my mother spent a lot of time practicing in the car with me, particularly on the tricky things like parking and how your car is spaced in the lane. I took the test again and failed at parallel parking. Over the next few weeks, I spent my evenings practicing in the parking space at the DMV. I finally passed the test on my 3rd try, just weeks before heading off to college.

I hope this helps.

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

thanks, anonymous, for contributing your personal experience with this very issue!

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Both comments and questions are welcome. I hope you enjoyed your time on the couch today.