Learning to Drive with Learning Difficulties

country roadLearning to drive can be a difficult task in itself but add to this, attempting to learn to drive having been diagnosed with ADHD, Aspergers and Dyspraxia and it can bring to each lesson, a whole different level of challenges.

“I struggle to take direction and get very frustrated quite easily. So when I make a mistake, I’ll beat up myself.” Tom, a driving pupil, dealing with learning disabilities told me as we chatted over coffee. My driving instructor has to be patient, because I can become quite agitated. I don’t like making mistakes.” This was one of the ways that his ADHD, affects his ability of learning to drive.

Dyspraxia affects his coordination. “I would say I struggle with my left and right. I have to think about it. So I write an L and an R on my hands, so I know my left and my right.” This is a great tip, not just for those with dyspraxia but for anyone learning to driving and forgeting which is which, it happens often.

Dyslexia affects my reading and writing.” This means that Tom found the theory slightly more challenging.

Aspergers Syndrome: everything has to be done in a systematic way – I’ve managed to make it more black and white, as learning to drive can be quite grey. Different things happen and you have to respond to deal with those different things. My driving instructor is very understanding on that part.”

“How does she help you, did she know you had learning difficulties?” I asked him.

“She takes her time on instruction. Sometimes she just says, this is the way to go and lets me get on with it. When I make a mistake she corrects me. She is a very kind lady during our lesson. Before we met I explained that I would be beating myself up about the mistakes I’ll make. She speaks slowly, she shows and then I do. She does things in a repetetive nature so that I can get it all into my head.

Tom initially took a block driving course for five days, to help him systematically settle into the beginning stages of learning. He needed this to enable him to go over and over again the first steps of learning to drive so that he could absorb the information, which he says doesn’t happen quickly. Each day he had a two hour lesson so that he could pick up the basics and have time for it to be absorbed. One lesson would not suffice because he needs more to help him learn. Tom doesn’t learn or absorb the information quickly.

“Where driving can be quite grey, I can get quite confused.”

For some it can be important letting your Driving Instructor know beforehand, if you have learning difficulties – Tom did this, to ensure she understood the type of challenges which would be involved, with teaching someone with these particular set of learning difficulties.

“Repetitiveness is important to ensure I can absorb it. She speaks slowly and repeats everything. I forget information quickly.”

“It takes me 10 or 15 lessons sometimes to pick up things that other learner drivers may pick up in one to two lessons. I have to write things down to get them into my head. Creating rhymes out of the actions of learning to driving and then putting the words into a rhythm, helps me to remember it.

“My driving instructior didn’t know how to deal with it when I initially gave her my formal statement, she’d never had this before.”

“What does a formal statement let people know?” Having never seen one before I was unsure what it would tell a driving instructor.

“It lists out the disabilities a person has, where they’re going to struggle, what they’re going to struggle with and you can put that in an educational or driving environment.” Tom told me.I know not everyone choses to share their difficulties in learning but it seemed to make sense to me.

“Yes,” Tom told me. “It’s a report.”

“So it gives them more of an idea about you and your specific set of challenges, before you even get in the car. Which prepares the driving school, so they have the best instructor suited for the learners particular needs.”

It all made sense to me.

“I also respond to personalities as well. I think that’s down to my ADHD and Aspergers. If someone is going to shout at me and be agressive. I’m going to switch off and not want to be near them. So the instructor needs to be very calm and collected. They cannot be a stresshead!”

Its important that before anyone commits to driving lessons, they research the company beforehand. Because A Pass 4 U has many different Driving Instructors – if you call the company on 03458 121007 and let them know the kind of personalities you respond well too, then A Pass 4 U  will be able to match you, with the best instructor to suit your needs.

Tom recommends from his experience – going on a single lesson with an instructor to see how you get on, before committing to a block booking. It took two different single lessons with different instructors, for Tom to find the right one for him.

He also recommends that if you are studying in higher education, you wait until you have finished before learning to drive. So you don’t put to much stress on yourself.

I’d like to thank Tom for sharing his personal experience of the challenges involved, when dealing with these disabilities whilst learning to drive.

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Janice Stringer

Involved with the driver training industry for some years, Janice writes for A Pass 4 U, frequently offering her advice on the rules of the road.

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