Driving After a Stroke

This week, I worked with a client whose stroke left him with expressive aphasia. While he was able to easily understand what was said to him, at times, he had trouble finding the words to answer questions and even express himself.

Can you imagine how frustrating this is?

He had recovered well in all other areas – was able to walk, had returned to exercise, had returned to work and managing his home & yard – but he had one more thing he wanted to regain – he wanted to return to driving!

His family & even some of his medical team were skeptical. How would someone who had difficulty expressing himself do with driving? He hadn’t done well on many of the cognitive tests and there were concerns.

He decided to complete a comprehensive driving evaluation with me. Through his evaluation, I began to realize his poor performance on the language based cognitive tests, was most likely related to his aphasia, and not due to his cognition. So instead of proceeding with more question & answer testing, I put on my OT hat and first asked him to do a few functional tasks in the home, and then progressed him into the driving rehab car.

In the car he did beautifully. He demonstrated a strong pattern of safe driving behaviors and even responded quickly to an unforeseen hazard.

At the end, he was so grateful that he had been given the chance to be evaluated and return to driving. He expressed that even he had had doubts about his ability to return to driving.

To help stave off any concerns that may arise from his difficulty to express himself, we created an identification card that he placed with his driver’s license and car insurance. This card stated his medical condition, how it impacted his language, and included emergency contact information, so if ever needed, it was right there.

Strokes can affect a wide range of skills and abilities. Working with an occupational therapy driver rehabilitation specialist after a stroke can be a great way to determine when you are ready to return to driving and if any additional help is needed.

To learn more about driving rehabilitation, visit adaptivemobility.com 


Susie Touchinsky

Susie Touchinsky, OTR/L, SCDCM, CDRS is an occupational therapist and certified driver rehabilitation specialist offering decades of experience, knowledge, and professional support for drivers, families, caregivers, and practitioners.