As part of the Qatar National Research Fund research project on Autism and Driving in Qatar, a training workshop was recently organized by the Qatar Transportation and Traffic Safety Center at Qatar University in collaboration with the Transport Research Institute of Hasselt University at the Karwa Driving School in Mowasalat. The Karwa Driving School of Mowasalat, Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) and Alshafallah Center are the main partners in this project. Karwa Driving School co-sponsored the two-day workshop as part of its commitment to improving driver training and the licensing process to meet the needs of the community with different psychological and mental abilities.
The workshop aimed to provide practical, evidence-based techniques to driving instructors at Karwa Driving School to help them personalize and tailor their driving lessons to the needs of high-functioning autistic people.
A statement from Mowasalat explained that the workshop covered many questions about autism, characteristics of a person with high functioning autism, autism and conduct. Thirty experienced driving instructors from Karwa Driving School in Mowasalat took part in the exercise.
Dr. Wael Alhajyaseen, Associate Professor of Qatar Transportation and Traffic Safety Center and Principal Project Leader; Wondwesen Mamo, senior research assistant from the Qatar Transportation and Traffic Safety Center, and Hélène Dirix, researcher from the University of Hasselt (Belgium), were the resource persons.
Dr Al-Hajyaseen said it is not always easy for high-functioning autistic people to learn to drive and get a driver’s license; and it is not easy for those (eg the instructor) involved in the driver training process to meet their needs. One possible explanation is that certain autism-related characteristics may interfere with learning to drive. For example, learner drivers with autism report a lot of stress and anxiety when learning to drive, which can also negatively impact the learning process and obtaining a driver’s license. In this regard, it is important to train driving instructors to adapt their lessons to the needs of high-functioning autistic people. The workshop is expected to encourage more people with high-functioning autism to obtain a driver’s license, improving their level of autonomy in mobility, reducing their dependence on others and improving their quality of life.
The resource person said that the driving instructors trained from the workshop are equipped with the knowledge and tools to deliver the same workshop to their colleagues at Karwa Driving School in Mowasalat.
Faisal al-Naimi, director of the Karwa Driving School, said it was important for Karwa to meet the needs of the whole of society in Qatar and to promote the inclusion of people with particular difficulties. “With this program, we can bring them closer to independence while ensuring safe driving behavior. I am proud that our trainers show such enthusiasm for constant training – we consider this our most important contribution to road safety in the country,” he said.
Karwa Driving School (KDS) began its services in 2004. It has been accredited by City & Guilds UK and has 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 of many international driving organizations, including the International Road Transport Union (IRU).