AUTISTIC NICK AND THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT
A few months back I spent time inside the department of transport office in Joondalup.
My reasons for being there were that I was returning my old licence plates and then filling out the necessary paperwork to obtain a refund.
During that time, the transport customer service worker asked me if I had a concession card.
I replied that I did and produced it. She then asked me what the words DSP meant and why did I have a concession card.
DSP means disability state pension and I told her that (as I was filling in my realms of forms, it was quite a long paperwork process) that I was Autistic.
I didn’t think too much of it until a week ago I received a letter from the government of Western Australia department of transport and vehicle services.
The letter stated that I had declared that I was suffering from a medical condition that could impair my driving and that I needed to under regulation 64 of the road traffic regulations 2014, satisfy the CEO of the department of transport that I was capable of controlling a motor vehicle.
Now, I went onto the website and checked, and this is what they class as medical conditions that may affect someone’s driving.
Conditions likely to affect driving.
Given the many causal factors in motor vehicle crashes, the extent to which medical conditions contribute to vehicle crashes is difficult to assess.
There is, however, recognition of the potential for certain conditions to cause serious impairments. Examples of such conditions include:
- cardiovascular disease
- musculoskeletal conditions
- neurological conditions such as epilepsy, dementia, and cognitive impairment due to other causes
- psychiatric conditions
- substance misuse/dependency
- sleep disorders
- vision problems
I have none of these medical conditions.
What I have is a disability, and one that is classed as invisible which means that it’s not physically apparent that I have Autism.
I then made a phone call to the customer contact centre.
This turned out to be unsuccessful as they told me that I would have to book an appointment to see my doctor to get him to fill out a medical certificate to satisfy the department of transport.
The only thing that the woman on at the customer contact centre did tell me was that the woman at the transport office in Joondalup isn’t allowed to ask me about my concession card and why I am claiming the DSP.
I have read the 188-page document and nowhere in the medical conditions does it state that being Autistic is one of those disabilities that is considered to be a medical condition.
You can read the full document/report here https://austroads.com.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0022/104197/AP-G56-17_Assessing_fitness_to_drive_2016_amended_Aug2017.pdf
In fact, no one from an Autistic organisation was even consulted.
I checked! (Page 9).
So, on Thursday I drove to my doctors and sat in the waiting room for 45-minutes before I sat down with him to wait for him to fill out my form which they then emailed to the department of transport.
I was deflated.
This is the first time that I had to face my disability head on.
I was also angry and upset that they considered Autism a medical condition.
News flash department of transport you can’t cure Autism.
Autism is a highly variable, neurodevelopmental disorder.
But this argument fell on deaf ears when I was on the phone to the customer contact centre.
So, I now wait (after my doctor ticked the meets the relevant medical criteria to be able to drive).
My car is my independence and I have been driving since 2007. I have had no accidents and I have never had my disability questioned like this before.
I think it’s discrimination to be honest with you.
I became very quiet and internally angry.
I feared a shutdown was imminent.
I wasn’t emotionally prepared for this.
I honestly could feel that my entire body was on the verge of shutting itself down.
Unlike last time https://autisticnick.com/2021/01/11/how-autistic-nick-dealt-with-a-shut-down/. I found myself being able to see the signs.
Signs of shutdown include:
➢ Being completely silent, not being able to communicate in any way.
➢ Forgetting how to do simple tasks.
➢ Withdrawing to a quiet, dark space to get away from the cause of the shutdown and minimise stimulation.
➢ Not being able to move and thinking too much about the cause of the shutdown.
➢ Lying down on a flat surface, being completely still.
Shutdown is an involuntary physiological process caused by stress instability, an inability to regulate the body’s overwhelming response to stressors.
The nervous system is overloaded to the point of collapse, so it shuts off.
REASONS FOR A SHUTDOWN INCLUDE:
1. Extreme overload, burnout or stress can trigger a self-protective response of shutting down before it’s too late and the nervous system overloads.
2. Expression of distress.
3. To reverse effects of stress and calm down back to normal.
It’s so important to understand what factors influence the onset of shutdowns and then we can take steps to reduce the likelihood of them occurring and their severity. These steps may include organising your life in ways others may find extreme, lazy, selfish, but regardless of what others think, we have to do what works for us. This includes: -Taking time out (even from important events.)
IMPLEMENTNG SELF-SOOTHING STRATEGIES.
Creating AND maintaining low-stress environments that nurture rather than damage your neurology.
Try not to be swayed by other people’s expectations and opinions of what you need and what you ‘should be’ doing.
Remember shutdown is a real physiological situation and be compassionate toward yourself and non-judgemental.
Turn off bright lights and loud noises, find quiet spaces to re-regulate your nervous system.
Shutdowns can be short or long term, hours, or days. Longer term shutdown can lead to not being able to speak or take care of ourselves. It can take 3weeks to properly recover.
I know the reason/trigger for my near shut down. It was just how I was going to deal with it which was the issue.
For now, I have learned to process it, have some much-needed sensory time and just accept what happened.
CARRY ON THE CONVERSATION
Thank you for reading and I will see you next time for more thoughts from across the spectrum.