Q&A WITH A SEN DRIVING INSTRUCTOR
We sat down with Harry Debling from Wheels In Motion Driver Training Intensives to find out about getting on dyspraxics behind the wheel and on the road.
Hello Harry, please could you tell us a bit about what you do and how you came to teach people will specialist needs how to drive?
I am an approved driving instructor and run my own driving school Wheels In Motion Automatic Intensives. I specialise in automatic intensive driving courses and training those with various specific needs including autism, adhd, dyslexia, dyspraxia and anxiety. I myself am autistic and I wanted to help those with specific needs how to drive. I am based in Margate Kent and been a driving instructor since January 2012.
What advice do you have for someone with dyspraxia who is worried about learning to drive?
Find a suitable driving instructor, don’t just go with the cheapest. There are specialist driving instructors out there who have done training courses / have experience of training those with dyspraxia. Let the instructor know about your dyspraxia and what he or she can do to best help you.
Should they learn automatic?
Depends how severe the dyspraxia is and I suppose cost may come into it for some people. It can take a person with dyspraxia sometimes a lot longer to learn to drive then a non dyspraxic person, even in an automatic car. But in general I would say automatic is the best bet all round – Why struggle when you don’t need to.
Everyone is different but does teaching dyspraxic people differ from your average student?
Not really no – As you say everyone is different – Some of the training techniques I use with SEN pupils I will use with everyday pupils.
Are people with dyspraxia allowed to drive and is it something they ought to warn an instructor about before taking lessons?
Yes they are allowed to drive and yes they should.
People with dyspraxia can have issues with their processing of information and short term memory. Does this affect the way you teach?
Yes it can. This is why an automatic can be a better bet. Demonstrations can work well, and lots of repetition. Its also important not to give too much information verbally on the move – condense things eg roundabout exit 3 your right, not at the roundabout I would like you to go right 3rd exit. Also use pointing.
What advice would you have for a dyspraxic student who is getting frustrated with themselves and feels like giving up?
Don’t give up, keep trying and you will get there. If you are not happy with your instructor then change. If you are learning in a manual car, try an automatic, even if the instructor you are with says you can learn in a manual or family / friends say you can do manual.
I’ve found repetition is the best way of learning. Is this true of learning to drive?
Yes it is.
Spatial awareness can be an issue amongst Dyspraxics. Do yo have any tips for remembering the dimensions of your vehicle and position on the road?
Yes looking and scanning well ahead. Make sure eye sight is ok. Use the centre wear mark in the road.
Is there a special body which covers specialist needs driving schools – are they that common or could a dyspraxic just as easily learn with a standard driving instructor?
There is the Queen Elizabeth Foundation (QEF) formally Banstead, based in Carlshorten Surrey. I have done their 3 day training course and they have a directory of specialist driving instructors which I am on. There is also the Disability Driving Instructors Directory which I am also on. A dyspraxic could learn with a standard driving instructor, but it would all depend on the pupil and the instructor. One that’s done training and has experience of training those with specific needs may cost more, but may be better value in the long run.
Would you recommend a dyspraxic student learning automatic or trying manual first?
I only do automatic. So I would say automatic. Why bother with manual when you don’t have to. If you want to do manual, make manual the upgrade. Make it as easy as you can , especially to start off with.
People with dyspraxia can sometimes be anxious individuals especially when it comes to performing tasks. Do you have any advice for someone who gets especially nervous in test situations?
I think any pupil can get nervous / anxious, some more then others. If you mean the driving test, then my advice is be prepared before you take the test. Get in plenty of training, private practice if you have that option. Some find a pre test assessment with another instructor helps which I do with mine. I do not do mock tests. Also let the examiner know about the dyspraxia. Let him or her know what extra help / support you need. They can within reason make reasonable adjustments for candidates with specific needs. Also keep calm, give a good safe drive, don’t think about the result and if you muck it up there is always next time.
Some people with dyspraxia can be very sensitive to Noise and light. Are there any special adaptions student with dyspraxia can have put in place when they take their theory test?
They can ask for extra help yes. But they would need to email proof of their disability to Pearson who run the theory tests to get the extra help.
Are you legally obliged to inform the DVLA of a dyspraxia diagnosis?
There is no requirement to inform the DVLA if you have dyspraxia.
Is there anything stopping a dyspraxic person from driving if they put everything into it?
Generally no, with the correct training, correct instructor and correct car (one with an auto gearbox)
A number of people with dyspraxia also have an ASD (autism spectrum disorder) diagnosis and sit on this spectrum. Any advice for an autistic dyspraxic who is worried and communicating and interacting with an instructor?
I am ASD which is Autistic Spectrum Disorder. Depends where on the spectrum they are. How bad is the dyspraxia. You can get a person with mild ASD and more severe dyspraxia. One with more severe ASD and mild dyspraxia. But if I just talk about the ASD my way is be direct, be to the point, be clear.
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