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Driver rehabilitation program makes it safe to go on the road again

November 22, 2017

When a person’s driving ability is affected, life can seem limited. For people with complex brain and balance disorders, this is all too common. That’s why Kettering Health Network’s NeuroRehab and Balance Center offers the Driver Rehabilitation Program.

The center and the program are located on the Southview Medical Center campus and can help give neurological patients freedom and independence. The driving program is for new and experienced drivers, and all participants receive an evaluation and training.

“The main reason someone comes in for a driving evaluation is that they have had a change in functioning, and they need to see if they are safe to return to driving or to continue driving,” explained Emily Haffner, occupational therapist at the NeuroRehab and Balance Center.

Who they are

The Driver Rehabilitation Program is a licensed, class D disability driver training school in the state of Ohio. Instructors are occupational therapists who also are licensed disability driver training school instructors. A certified driver rehabilitation specialist is on staff, as well as a case manager who is able to assist clients and their families with community resources and referrals as needed. 
Who they see

“We see patients diagnosed with medical conditions such as dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, or peripheral neuropathy and patients who are experiencing a decline in physical and or mental functions,” said Haffner. “We also see individuals following a medical event such as a stroke, brain injury, spinal cord injury, or amputation who have been through a recovery process and are ready to see if they are safe to return to driving.”

A smaller percentage of the patients seen at the clinic are young adults with disabilities such as ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy and spina bifida who want to learn to drive for the first time and may need vehicle modifications or specialized training to learn.

How the program works

You must have a referral from your physician in order to complete the driving evaluation. The reports from the evaluation, as well as driving recommendations, will be sent back to your physician.

“As certified driving instructors for the state of Ohio, we offer a comprehensive driving evaluation completed over two different days,” said Haffner.

The evaluation includes:

  • Gathering information on a person’s medical and driving history
  • Clinical assessment of vision, perception, cognition, physical skills, and reaction time (using a driving simulator)
  • On-road assessments as needed

To complete the clinical evaluation, you must be at least 15-and-a-half years old, with parental consent for anyone under the age of 18. To complete the on-road assessment, you must be at least 18 years old with a valid license or temporary permit. 

After the evaluation

Following the evaluation, a summary is reviewed with the patient and provided to their referring provider. As part of that summary, driving rehabilitation specialists make recommendations for resuming or continuing driving, driver’s training, vehicle modification, or driving retirement and options for alternative transportation.

Click here for more information on the NeuroRehab and Balance Center’s Driver Rehabilitation Program.