Driving the Future: The Relation between Driving and Prospective Memory in Adults with an Autism Spectrum Disorder

V. Ross, Ellen M.M. Jongen, K. Brijs, G. Vanroelen, K. Van Vlierden, M. van Beers, T. Brijs, G. Wets, M. Altgassen

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    Difficulties with autonomy impact several quality-of-life outcomes in people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Driving is an important step towards gaining autonomy by allowing the development and maintenance of work- and social-related contacts. Nonetheless, people with ASD depend highly on friends and family for their transportation needs. Due to the complexity of the driving task, specific ASD characteristics might interfere negatively with driving. The driving task consists of several subtasks, running in parallel. This requires the ability to switch in a smooth manner (e.g., shifting, steering, changing lanes, and keeping traffic rules into account). An additional difficulty concerns sudden changes in the traffic environment (e.g., traffic density, weather conditions). Therefore, driving is a complex goal-directed task that places high demands on perceptual, cognitive, and motor processes. The little research that exists suggests that people with ASD experience difficulties more specifically in complex driving situations, requiring multi-tasking and inducing increased cognitive load. Applied to autonomy, in order to maintain work and social contacts, it is not only necessary to handle the vehicle, but also to navigate through rural, urban, and highway traffic environments while concurrently remembering appointments and obeying a schedule. People with ASD however experience difficulties with coordinating and sequencing activities, and with planning ahead. Following this, prospective memory (PM) might interfere negatively with driving. PM is the ability to remember to carry out intended actions in the future while being engaged in other ongoing activities. Two subtypes of PM are event-based PM (EBPM) and time-based PM (TBPM). The former refers to the execution of intentions at certain events (i.e., prospective cues), the latter refers to the execution of intentions at certain times. This driving simulator study aims to investigate PM (i.e., EBPM and TBPM) as an underlying mechanism of driving in adults with ASD. To this end, a pc-based ‘virtual reality (VR) city task’ was translated to a driving simulator environment. The influence of several cognitive abilities (e.g., working memory, planning), from which the importance is indicated in previous literature, is also investigated. Data collection is ongoing and will be finished in December. The analyses are planned in January.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017
    EventInternational Convention of Psychological Science 2017 - Austria Center Vienna (IAKW-AG), Vienna, Austria
    Duration: 23 Mar 201725 Mar 2017


    ConferenceInternational Convention of Psychological Science 2017
    Abbreviated titleICPS


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