QU QTTSC Workshop addresses an innovative practical guide for the learning process of high functioning autistic drivers

QU QTTSC Workshop addresses an innovative practical guide for the learning process of high functioning autistic drivers

Qatar Living
By Qatar Living

As a part of the Qatar National Research Fund, a research project on autism and driving in Qatar, a training workshop on autism and driving was delivered by the Qatar Transportation and Traffic Safety Center (Qatar University) in collaboration with Transportation Research Institute (Hasselt University) at Mowasalat’s Karwa Driving School on May 29 and 30, 2022. Karwa Driving School, Hamad Medical Cooperation, and Alshafallah Center are main partners in this project.

Karwa Driving School co-sponsored the workshop as part of its commitment to enhance the driver education and licensing process to meet the needs of the community with the different psychological and mental capabilities. The workshop aimed to provide evidence-based practical techniques to driving instructors in Karwa Driving School to help them tailor and adapt their driving lessons to the needs of high functioning autistic persons.

The workshop addressed many issues about autism, characteristics of a person with high functioning autism, autism, and driving. The workshop began with presenting detailed information about autism and theoretical perspectives on autism. Next, recommendations that can be used by driving instructors while they train high functioning autistic individuals on driving were presented.

Thirty senior driving instructors from Mowasalat’s Karwa Driving School participated in the workshop. Dr. Wael Alhajyaseen, associate professor from Qatar Transportation and Traffic Safety Center in Qatar University and the principal leader of the project, Mr. Wondwesen Mamo, a senior research assistant from Qatar Transportation and Traffic Safety Center, and Mrs. Hélène Dirix, a researcher from Hasselt University (Belgium), delivered the workshop which lasted for 2 days (7 hrs per day).

Dr. Al-Hajyaseen said that it is not always easy for high functioning autistic individuals to learn how to drive and obtain a driver's license; and not easy for those (e.g., instructor) involved in driver education process to deal with their needs. A possible explanation is that certain characteristics linked to autism may interfere with learning to drive. For example, autistic learner drivers report a lot of stress and anxiety when learning to drive, which may also negatively impact the learning process and obtaining a driver's license. In this regard, it is important to train driving instructors to tailor their lessons to the needs of high functioning autistic persons. The workshop is to equip driving instructors with information to tailor their lessons to the learning process of autistic drivers. The workshop is expected to encourage more people with high functioning autism to obtain a driving license, enhancing their level of autonomy in mobility and decreasing their dependency on their relatives and friends while traveling from one place to another, which will ameliorate their quality of life.

Furthermore, he added that this workshop plays a role of “Train the Trainer”, where the trained driving instructors are equipment with the required knowledge and tools to deliver the same workshop to their colleagues ensuring the sustainable knowledge transfer process and building capacity within Mowasalat’s Karwa Driving School.

Faisal Al-Naimi, Karwa Driving School Director, added: “It is important for us to cater to the needs of the entire society in Qatar and promote the inclusion of persons with special challenges. With this program, we can bring them a step closer to independence while ensuring safe driving behaviour. I am proud that our trainers show such an enthusiasm to constantly educate themselves – we see this as our most important contribution to traffic safety in the country.”

Karwa Driving School (KDS) started its services in 2004. It was accredited by the City & Guilds UK and obtained ISO 9001:2008 certification for high quality standards. In addition, KDS has obtained a number of international quality and competence certificates and is a prominent member in many international driving organizations, most notably the International Road Transport Union (IRU).

KDS offers diverse and accredited training programs, which include specialized trainings like the “Preparation of Drivers for Large Events”, and specialized courses for training public and private transport drivers to deal with major events and international conferences.

KDS caters to a variety of public licensing courses, including the training to obtain driving licenses for light and heavy vehicles, as well as four-wheel drive vehicle training. KDS also offers training courses for emergency vehicles, civil defense vehicles, ambulances driving programs, transport of dangerous goods, courses of CPC Driver Training and CPC Manager Training, in addition to a safe loading and cargo securing program.

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