Parents play an important role when teenagers with autism want to learn to drive, according to new research.

For the study, researchers at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) interviewed specialized driving instructors who have worked specifically with young autistic drivers. It found adolescents with autism need the support of their parents or guardians to prioritize independence so that they are prepared for learning to drive.

“Instructors recommend that parents help their children develop independent life skills, including the use of alternative forms of transportation such as bicycling or mass transit, and to practice pre-driving skills, such as navigation, before undertaking on-road driving lessons,” said Rachel K. Myers, PhD, lead author of the study and scientist at the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at CHOP.

The study, published in the journal Autism in Adulthood, is the first to examine the process and experience of driving instructors who provide behind-the-wheel training specifically for young people with autism.

According to previous CHOP research, nearly one-third of autistic adolescents obtain a driver’s license by the time they are 21-years-old, which may improve their ability to transition into independent adulthood.

Resources for families to help their teens with autism spectrum disorder transition to adulthood are available at the Center for Autism Research at CHOP.