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A Green Light to Driving
A Green Light to Driving

When our son Jay turned 16, he began asking about getting his driver's license. We had learned early on that Jay was a very determined individual, and that if he said he wanted to do something, we'd better find a safe way to make it happen. We started with a Driver's Ed course at his high school. Jay took the classes but not the exam, and that introduction to the idea seemed to be enough. Two years later, he decided to take the course again, hoping to get his learner's permit. We were encouraged by a story in the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress (MDSC) newsletter about a local woman who had earned her license. Also, at age 18, Jay's neuro-psychological exam indicated that his judgment and problem-solving skills were at the level of a 15 to 16 year old (driving age for many teens). Jay hired a tutor to help him prepare for the permit test, and they worked on the book orally, because Jay's reading level is very low. After six months of studying, Jay passed the oral exam on his first try. The next step was a driving evaluation at a local rehabilitation hospital, with a driving simulator which tested response times, visual acuity, physical abilities, as well as many of the rules of the road. This testing is most valuable, because someone besides the parent is making the judgment about capacity to drive. Jay passed with flying colors, and was ready to take the wheel. The Driver's Ed teacher at the high school was very willing to work with Jay. Jay took more than 25 hours of driving instruction, and drove an hour a day with one of us for six months. At twenty-one, he took the driving test, and passed, with no restriction except glasses. What a huge step for all of us! It is not easy to let any of your children start driving, but even harder when your child has Down syndrome. Now that Jay has been driving for 16 years, we have no regrets that we facilitated his doing this. He owns a pickup truck, and driving gives him such independence. He drives to work, Special Olympics practices and social events. He is comfortable staying within a ten mile radius of home, and he does not drive others in his truck, as that would be distracting. There have been a few incidents - two speeding tickets, and two minor accidents - our other children had similar records, all while they were inexperienced. I have worked with many young adults with Down syndrome. I truly believe that parents are the biggest roadblock to their getting a license. Many of these young adults are capable of driving. We are allowing many of our children to live independently, or to seek higher education. We need to give them the chance to prove that they can learn to drive. We really encourage you to at least consider this possibility for your person with Down syndrome.

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Viktoria Hassall, United States, VA
10/25/2016 6:04:40 PM
Thank you for sharing! I am the Co-President of the Down Syndrome Association of Roanoke in Virginia. I have a young lady interested in getting a driving license. I will share your story! With hard work and determination it is something she can achieve. Also, I hope that my daughter Annabel will follow in your footsteps as well. Sincerely, Vikie Hassall

niluka dissanayake, Sri Lanka,
6/26/2014 10:36:12 PM
My cousin has a baby with Down syndrome and he is so worried about his future. so this story give me so much of courage to motivate my cousin regarding the future of his baby. thank you regards niluka

Carolyn townsend, United States, MT
5/18/2014 6:40:09 PM
My daughter is only 8 but asks all the time about driving. I'm so thankful to read it is a possibility as I assumed she would be declined. Thank you for the encouragement!!

Patrick Conyers, United States, SC
12/16/2013 12:13:07 PM
I feel bad for them kids

Kathryn Junod, United States, GA
12/3/2013 8:07:13 AM
Wow thanks for this story! My son really wants to learn to drive and now that I have read your story, I know where to start this process. Goes to show you that anything is possible when you use the right paths to assist in the success of a person with a disability.

emily j wheeler, United States, GA
10/25/2013 12:34:30 PM
Oh how this makes my heart swell with pride. What an accomplishment for one of GOD's chosen families to have there special son to achieve all he has and to top it off with his own truck and drivers liscense, I would love to know the feeling he has within to know what he has shown the world he can do. He has to be on top of the world. Kudo's to a great set of parents, you raised a great son, you instilled knowledge, power, and love in him. You are wonderful.

BonnieJean Coburn, United States, NV
8/14/2013 1:13:01 AM
This makes me happy and feel encouraged for my daughter Taylor who is 17 and wants more independence for her future.

Ramiro Leon Jr, United States, AZ
7/24/2013 3:16:01 AM
What killed me about my son having tri 21 wasn't the normal stigma of it. It was that I would never be able to teach my son how to drive. I remember as a boy(7/8 yo) begging my Dad to drive the car. He would let me hold the steering wheel and I was always on cloud nine when I had my chance to "drive". This give me so much hope for my boy. We as parents need to push our kids to their learning limits or else we cut their potential short.

Tammy Belcher, United States, OR
12/6/2012 1:29:32 PM
Awesome! Gives us hope that our little 3 year old Abby will drive one day!! Thank you!!

Lisa, United States, NJ
11/2/2012 12:58:14 PM
Fantastic! Thank you for your story it gives me hope.

Jessica Wilson, United States, NJ
1/11/2012 2:23:22 PM
I love this story because just yesterday the principal of the school where my toddler receives Early Intervention therapies said flat-out that people with Down syndrome will enver drive.

Michelle Mccormack , United States, MA
2/28/2011 10:26:10 AM
Thank you so much for writing this story!! Our son just turned 13 yesterday and talks about when he will drive all the time... I never knew what to say to him as i neve thought it would be possible .... I now know I was wrong!!! Thank you !

Angie Polejewski, United States, MN
3/4/2011 10:35:32 AM
YES! Thank you for sharing your story. I also thought driving was not an option. This is one more story that opens my eyes a little more and empowers me.

Gabrielle Siegel, United States, TX
5/22/2013 6:26:47 PM
This is awesome! I know that my nephew who is 6 with DS will probably want to do everything he possibly can. What an inspiration!

Joyce Taylor, United States, CA
5/22/2013 4:13:28 PM
YEP... I agree, we as parents need to encourage our children and adults with Down syndrome to reach for the stars and not the top of the box they so often find themselves prepared to fulfill... Our daughter does not have any interest in driving, but if she had I would have moved mountains to help her reach that goal!!!

Beverly Nickerson, United States, MA
3/26/2013 11:39:03 AM
We are so proud of you Jay, you have accomplished so much. I hear you say, "I can do that"! And you do....... Your an inspiration to all of us. Keep up the good work. Bev and Dick

Ann Scheele, United States, MA
3/25/2013 10:36:30 AM
We have known Jay for many years and he still amazes us with all that he has accomplished. He has been a model for our son Gerald who is 2 years younger than Jay. They all have exceeded our hopes and dreams for a wonderful life and good friends.

Bob Johnson, United States, MA
3/22/2013 9:18:49 PM
The story of Jay Nothnagle inspired me beyond words. He is, obviously a fine young man with twos isle, wonderful and dedicated parents.

Nicole Coppens, United States, MA
3/22/2013 6:26:47 PM
I totally love this story of the A Green Light to Drving by Jay Nothnagle I have experience this story of Jay Nothnagle. This story was really great. I kept non stopping watching this Video of Jay and is parents.

Kerrry Dunnell, United States, MA
3/21/2013 10:02:35 PM
you are such great parents and have always been so generous with your time and experience to others. thanks for sharing the story.

Lori Blankenship, United States, OK
11/9/2012 8:16:58 AM
Tears are streaming down my face as I read your story!!!! so powerful and I thank you for sharing...just the type of story I needed to hear! I have a son who is 15 and sounds alot like Jay...I am preparing for his new IEP and was looking for info in regards to driving because this is something that my son Will talks about all the time....Thank you so much for sharing

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