Sunday, 12 May 2013

Learning to Drive with Specific Learning Needs by  Dyslexia Dublin CETC © 2013

Learning to drive for most of us is nothing short of hell on wheels. Imagine if on top of all that you had a specific learning need like dyspraxia …ADD…ADHD OR ASD!

Provisional drivers with such conditions find the whole process daunting to say the least, from having to multi-task, to coping with concentrating for prolonged periods and sitting in the same place for up to one hour can all lead to overload and if you don’t have a tolerant person next to you it can virtually turn into a form of bullying which does absolutely nothing for your self-esteem. This can lead to many finding it a tough ask and indeed giving up due to these high demands.

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I can remember being taught by my father who, like me, hadn’t a clue I was dyspraxic. He literally stopped the car one day, duly gave me the hot seat and quickly ran through a serious of about ten instructions. I managed to retain the first two, hence why I turned his beloved Humber Super Snipe into something that resembled a kangaroo with wheels!…he was less than impressed and yelled at me too bring the poor ‘roo’ to rest!

My father, however, was a determined man so very quickly we moved on to driving. After a fashionable take off down the road and guess what!... there were no white lines in the middle of our quiet country roads back then, so imagine my horror when I met a car coming towards me! My dad was so kind in taking the wheel and carrying out a nice gentle manoeuvre (not!) whilst at the same time communicating his anger and balling me out!!! At this point, I really wanted to just get out of the car and walk home…and we had only been out twenty minutes!!

He was, as I mentioned earlier, unaware of my spatial co-ordination and memory problems. I kinda knew I was different…I had one thing going for me though and that was fight, not flight.

I started to take lessons and managed to find an instructor that was so laid back it was like being alone in the car…he didn’t suit one bit! My next instructor was a local man from our village, so he had to give it his best shot with the local lad.

I managed to master the four wheeled mass of metal to the point of him bravely entering me for my test and, do you know what, I cannot ever remember thirty minutes passing so quick! At the end, the tester had so much down on the sheet he had to use another… took my instructor for ever to read!

Back to the drawing board… over the next few months we worked on this massive list and slowly my confidence grew and he decided it was time to put me in to bat again.

A cancellation came up in our neighbouring town and all my luck must have come at once…we set off from the test centre and the tester asked me to turn right which I had mastered (not the turn… but which was my left and right!)… waiting around the corner was the refuse lorry and it was taking up the whole road so I had no choice but to duly follow it on it’s slow journey up the street. This left little time for those troublesome manoeuvres which I carried out kind of ok. Test over, I couldn’t believe my luck when he informed me that I had passed!!

If my dear father, instructors, testers and indeed myself, had known about dyspraxia, then it would have made things a whole lot easier. Dyspraxia requires a whole different mind-set in all those who strive to teach us how to drive. It requires patience in understanding that those with problems with their spatial awareness and short-term memory will require more frequent lessons with less content in each. Lessons of more than an hour are not advisable.

There are many hidden disabilities that the world fails to notice… but they are there all the same. Around 25% of the population have some type of learning difficulty… how many driving schools/instructors fail to notice/pick up on this? Even something like reading the Highway Code/Rules of the Road can prove a minefield for someone with dyslexia and braking distances for the person who has dyscalculia. Left and right can also be a problem for those with dyspraxia and people with SPD can have a problem with seat belt covers and steering wheel covers.

Many of us have to drive to survive, so not being able to is not an option. It is key therefore that we are aware of the driving schools/instructors who can take account of our individual needs.

The good news however is that those with most specific learning needs all get there in the end. Some take longer than others and many have to practice ten times harder than anyone else… it’s all about remaining focussed and taking things slowly but surely. Vehicle checks and controls can be shown and then take five mins before the next thing and make sure the instructor overlaps each lesson. Demonstrations work very well with many that have SLN and then copy rather than being instructed verbally… flashcards are a great way of presenting information that can be taken in through the visual channel and this has a greater chance of being retained. The test routine should be practiced from the earliest opportunity with test conditions… this will get the student used to the driving in silence that will happen on test day.

Try and start lessons close to the expected test centre, again familiarity reduces anxiety.

To overcome everything, the main ingredient is a good instructor and one that will work to your strengths… pick the right place and the correct time of day to give you the best chance. Also, they will notice when you are having a bad moment or mini meltdown, that is the time for the instructor to change seats and do a demo to settle you down and it’s always great to finish on a high.

This is one area that puts us at a disadvantage, as there are so many things to learn just to move off! The new lesson criteria in most countries works against those with SLN, as it requires fewer taught lessons and more working to a plan, with instruction being given by a sponsor (family member or friend)… unlike the old days when you could practice one thing till it came right. It’s fair to say that there is little or anything in the law to assist those with a silent disability.

To all those Driving Schools I would say that those, like myself, with an SLN will be trying a lot harder than many of your other pupils and this is always worth bearing in mind… take it slowly and you will produce an excellent driver who will be a credit to you.

Find a school that understands you…it will be worth it!

If any Driving Schools feel they can offer the above, please feel free to contact me and I will gladly pass your details on, as I love to hear from all those who can break the mould of the draconian days gone by.
Driving lessons 4u in Celbridge Co Kildare offer a very friendly service 01-6544000


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1 comment:

  1. My son has high functioning Aspergers and is slowly trying to get around learning to drive competently but since he lives in the city with his older brother it depends on him. He would really relate to this article!