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When My Son With Down Syndrome Wanted to Take Driving Lessons

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I took my son, Alex, to a water park yesterday, which is one of his favorite things in the world. As we left, he told me he wanted to take driving lessons so he could come back when I’m too busy to take him.

Alex is over 14 now, and by all means he should be anticipating driver’s education, but it’s not something he will likely do any time soon. Alex has Down syndrome.

I didn’t quite know how to explain it to him, so I told him he isn’t old enough, but that won’t hold water for long. He was terribly disappointed. He longs for the freedom and independence that driving affords most of us, especially in the rural community where we live. He was mad he couldn’t take driving lessons — and rightly so.

He has plenty of friends at school who will be driving soon, and he won’t understand why he can’t, too. This topic will come up again and again, and each time the answer will be “no.” It’s pretty unlikely that Alex will ever drive alone. He’s bright and capable in so many ways, but the split-second decision making and reflexes required for driving are likely beyond my son’s capability. I don’t know how to tell him that. I don’t know if he’ll understand.

While parenting a child with Down syndrome has brought us joy and delight — and we wouldn’t change Alex for anything in the world — there are still some things that catch us by surprise, and I wondered if that would ever change.

But then I realized there are so many things Alex can do. He can read and write, he’s an electronics guru (the go-to guy in our house when we can’t figure something out on our devices) and he can do any job you’d like.

We look forward to a future in which he can learn public transportation, live independently and hold down a job. He’s industrious and has much to offer to the world.

While he may never drive alone, the things he can do dramatically outnumber the things he can’t.

Originally published: July 26, 2016
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