Research Opportunities

27 Jul 2019  Missy  3 mins read.

Research Opportunities

In the fields of Occupational Therapy and Driving Rehabilitation, there are several screening tools and tests for use with older driver needs. Some of these assessments can be used with adolescent and young adult populations but loose impressions are made for various reasons. Very little, if anything, is available with comprehensive and normed data specific to young driver concerns.

Any young and new driver will have additional safety-risks due to lack of experience. Most teens will have reduced general awareness and increased risk-tasking behaviors due to maturity factors and principles of normal development. Several driving-risk factors, however, can be related to invisible differences or undiagnosed conditions with teenagers.

For these reasons, it is important that simple screening tools are present to help the average family assess driving safety risk and know how best to approach concerns. If several needs are present, the family can make a more educated decision about seeking guidance from an OT/DRS professional. Additional clinical or behind-the-wheel testing may be the best choice for safe student driver planning.

I am somewhat of a “do-er” a “fixer” and a “helper”. For those reasons, I have created some informal tools which could potentially help resolve some of the above concerns. There is a detailed Blog topic on the AFTDS and RTDS but the newest screening is called the Functional Insight, Road Signs & Treatment (FIRST) Screening Tool. Note: The current document is restricted because I have created separate research/planning information and documents for clinician vs. students and caregivers.

To briefly summarize, the FIRST helps identify memory or processing delays with regard to important road signage and markings, including those most difficult to see. It also gathers insight about a student’s safety/judgement with regard to less familiar road conditions and environmental factors. The FIRST also examines a student’s basic working memory, active listening, visual perception, and divided attention abilities. With driving comes more complexity to an exponential degree, so it is vital that at a very basic level, a student driver has adequate performance here first.

In order to advance these basic tools into more polished test measures with normative data, I am seeking assistance in research and development.

If you are a pediatric OT (working in any setting with ages pre-teen to late adolescent), a driving rehabilitation specialist with OT background, driver education student without any medical condition, or parent of a kid with a permit or licensure, please consider participating. I will send you all needed information to complete the AFTDS, RTDS, or FIRST screening tools. Students can get credit hours for volunteering. Therapists can add to their toolkit and parents can get an idea of what strengths/weaknesses their new driver could experience.

One important thing to realize before using any of these screening tools is that any average student could experience some or perhaps many challenges. This is okay. This does not mean the student cannot “drive safe” now. It means there are things to work on with the student to improve safety and performance. The noted difficulties are important areas to consider before allowing the teen to get in an unnecessarily risky driving situation before actually “ready”.

Thank you for your participation and support.

If you would like to arrange a professional in-service related to the new screening tools and research opportunities, please reach out to me.

-Missy Bell

Melissa "Missy" Bell

Missy is a licensed Occupational Therapist and Certified Driving Rehabilitation Specialist with pediatric and driving rehabilitation experience since 2001. She owned and operated a Driving Readiness Program for Teens as a part of her specialty OT/Educational Support Services clinic, Extra Credit! LLC.

Missy is advancing her skills through mentorship and advanced education to work with additional populations and for certification in the field. She has obtained AOTA driving badges in adolescent driving, and adult driving and community mobility levels I, II, III and is a CarFit OT technician. Missy is an ADED member and part of a task force working to improve a national safe driving standards for teens with special needs.