In one of my first posts I discussed being diagnosed with Dyspraxia (you can go back to that post here). Today I thought I would talk about my experience with driving and to what extent I think Dyspraxia affects it. As I mentioned in my last post I learnt to drive a manual car when I was around 18 or 19 years old. I wasn’t diagnosed with Dyspraxia until I was 20 so I was unaware of my learning difficulty at the time of learning to drive.
If I am honest looking back now I feel Dyspraxia may have impacted on me learning to drive in terms of multitasking and spacial awareness. I found it hard to read the road and look out for hazards whilst managing the gears on my car. I also found it hard to parallel park. I learnt the Highway Code very quickly and was aware of the rules of the road. The part I struggled with the most was changing gears. In total it took me about a year to learn to drive a manual car and pass my test. I had two-hour lessons each time and in addition made sure I had lots of practice in my own car with my parents. Both my instructor and my parents were very patient whilst I was learning. I failed my practical test the first time and was disheartened but it meant that when it came to the second time I knew what to expect and was able to relax more. I passed on my second time with only one minor, which I think is very good considering how I struggled. My first car was a manual and although I managed to drive it safely I am glad that I have switched to an automatic with my new car.
I prefer driving an automatic now as it allows me to concentrate fully on reading the road and looking out for hazards. It also makes it more simple to go into car parks and manoeuvre as I only have the drive or reverse gear options to choose from.
If you have Dyspraxia and are considering learning to drive or have Dyspraxia and want to improve your driving skills I thought I would put together some helpful tips. They are:
- Consider learning to drive an automatic car or switch to an automatic car: This might not be the answer for everyone but it is worth considering. There is no shame in learning or driving in an automatic-I know of people who learnt to drive an automatic simply because they wanted to pass their test and get on the road quicker! By driving an automatic you have one less thing to think about when you are on the road. As a lot of people with Dyspraxia find it hard to concentrate this will allow you to focus more of your attention on reading road signs, anticipating what is coming up and looking out for potential hazards, rather than worrying about gear changes.
- Leave early and take your time: This may seem obvious to some people regardless of whether they have Dyspraxia or not but if you find driving difficult it may be worth leaving slightly earlier than required. Some people with Dyspraxia often get stressed or anxious more easily as their brain has to work harder to process certain information. So if you take a wrong turn or get stuck in traffic, leaving early will help prevent you from getting so stressed or worried about arriving at your destination on time.
- Plan your journeys and use a SatNav: If you have a long journey to go on or are not sure exactly where you are going it always helps to plan in advance. If I have somewhere to go that I do not normally travel to then I always look the route up beforehand on Google Maps to familiarise myself with where I am going. It can also help to have a look online at where there is parking so you don’t find yourself driving round aimlessly and this also takes out some of the stress! Keeping a SatNav or having Google Maps on your phone is always useful so that if you get lost you can easily clarify your route.
- Practice regular journeys: If you have destinations that you will be travelling to regularly e.g. work, the gym or a friend’s house it may be worth practising these journeys with an instructor or experienced driver before you go it alone. Although, keep in mind, you will eventually have to drive by yourself so make sure not to get too reliant on having a passenger there to support you.
- Get rid of distractions: Another one that may seem obvious but is worth remembering is that some Dyspraxic people get distracted easily. When driving it may be helpful to put your phone on silent so that if it rings the noises in the background do not distract you from driving. Also if you are an inexperienced driver it could help to not have the radio on for your first few independant journeys just so you get used to driving confidently first. Once you are confident on the road then having music on in the background will probably be fine!
I hope that some of the tips will help at least one person out there with Dyspraxia!
I think I am quite a confident and experienced driver now. The only thing I would like to improve on is reverse and parallel parking!
If you have Dyspraxia-what are your driving experiences? I would be interested to read them.
Thanks for reading,