One of the many challenges for young people and adults who have Autism, Anxiety, Asperger’s and other learning difficulties is actually learning how to drive. It isn’t just about driving, but also about being a safe driver, knowing how to respond and to be aware at all times, especially on busy Brisbane roads.

At GPS, we are passionate about helping others with additional learning needs overcome their fear of driving and obtain a license. Our teaching strategies reflect a more specialised and in-depth approach to managing the extra steps needed to achieve success and drive safely.

Can people with Autism Drive? Can people with Asperger’s drive?

If you or your child has Anxiety, Autism, Asperger’s or other needs, a specialist driver trainer may be a critical and necessary step when learning how to drive. This will provide the optimal outcomes to develop into a successful, licensed and independent driver.

Professional practice continues to confirm that we can teach students with learning difficulties to learn how to drive. We can put them into a position to interact with all other road users and hold their own on the roads.

Over the last 10-20 years, an increasing number of people have been diagnosed with Anxiety, Autism, Asperger’s and other spectrum disorders as well as a range of other learning difficulties. As these children have progressed to driving age, it is increasingly common for parents and learners to consider the prospect of achieving a license and driving, seen as a key step to independence for many adults.

The ‘good news’ is having learning and attention issues does not mean you cannot drive!

The reality is some young people and adults with Anxiety, Autism, ADHD and other learning difficulties do have the necessary skill set for driving and choose to drive. Some young people and adults are unable to drive. Others may be able to but choose not to, most often because they find it extremely anxiety-provoking.

Some self-assessment questions to ask before considering driving may include:

  • Are you ready to accept instruction and constructive criticism?
  • Do you feel ready to accept the responsibility for driving and the safety of other road users?
  • Do you know how to apply the rules of the road?
  • Are you able to maintain attention for a reasonable length of time?
  • Are you able to solve problems, multi-task and react quickly?
  • Are you willing to invest the time and resources needed to achieve the goal of driving?

Road blocks to learning

Within the context of learning to drive, there are common barriers to learning including overcoming an initial fear of driving as well as coming to grips with a general lack of skills and experience on the road. However, our time spent working with students with learning difficulties highlights additional and sometimes pronounced challenges that require more effective management.

Examples of learning issues observed in lessons include:

  • A genuine fear of driving
  • High anxiety while driving
  • Short attention and concentration spans with some students having ‘mind blanks.’ These moments are typified by complete inattention to driving, for example, failing to notice a busy roundabout or red traffic light ahead and driving straight through them!
  • Issues with reading, processing and responding to signs, lines and road markings in a timely manner.
  • Reduced problem-solving and slower decision making skills
  • Slower reaction times and the co-ordination of multiple tasks
  • Difficulty remembering and following instructions to complete a task
  • Can be impulsive behind the wheel and may over react to random situations like   ‘fail to give ways’ by other road users or become easily distracted.

The BIGGER learning picture

Driving is a multidimensional, complex task and requires a driver to be able to recognise and respond to hazards, solve problems quickly and choose a safe response. For example learner drivers need social interaction skills to interpret the language and actions of other drivers and road users, and communication skills to convey their actions to others.

Drivers need coordination to quickly put in place actions to avoid crashes. In driving terms this can mean causing a rear-end collision with the car in front or failing to notice the indicator on a large bus or truck preparing for a wide turn.

Drivers need constant focus. When a driver takes their eyes off the road for as little as two or three seconds, to answer a text or call, their chances of being involved in an accident increases dramatically.

It can also be more challenging for learners to read all the road signs, scan the dashboard and control the car while simultaneously watching for pedestrians, cyclists and other motorists and so on.

Processing all these tasks can seem overwhelming at first!

Students with Autism, Asperger’s and Anxiety may have challenges with any or all of these requirements. These challenges do not mean learning to become a safe independent driver is unachievable. It might just take longer and require more focused practise and training.

Choosing an effective trainer

Your GPS trainer is a very experienced, qualified and patient Master Driver trainer. He is knowledgeable and experienced in helping students with a variety of mental health and learning difficulties who want to learn to drive and achieve their QLD driver’s license.

These include:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Anxiety
  • ADHD
  • Asperger’s
  • Bi Polar
  • Depression
  • Dyslexia
  • Hearing impairments
  • Learning difficulties
  • Panic Attacks
  • Schizophrenia
  • Other concerns.

In the Industry of Driver training, there are no specific qualifications for driving instructors who wish to work in this specialised field. Choosing the right trainer is a very important first step to ensure you are receiving the right help and support. Your instructor at GPS has some of the highest qualifications and relevant industry experience available anywhere!

GPS Driving School receives referrals from Occupational Therapists for people with learning difficulties  seeking driving lessons and assessment.

Your instructor has worked with hundreds of people in high schools, prisons, treatment centres, youth clubs and other community settings struggling with issues affecting their overall development and learning. This dedicated practice has spanned across a broad range of disciplines including teaching, counselling, mediation, case management and coaching. With over 25 years of professional practise, you can be guaranteed to receive the highest quality driving lessons available anywhere in Brisbane.

How we teach driving lessons to people with learning difficulties?

This requires specific, individualized and intensive instruction to better help students successfully manage their thoughts, feelings and behaviours when interacting with other road users.

Effective teaching means providing every student with the maximum number of opportunities to learn and experience success.

Our training specifically targets those learning needs unique to each individual student. We do this by providing close assessment, clear guidance, supported training and supervision during all lessons, identifying the student’s strengths whilst developing their weaknesses.

Our training fundamentals emphasize safe vehicle control and defensive driving. This is a key step to progressing a student’s sense of confidence and control behind the wheel. It is particularly effective in reducing anxiety levels and their fear of driving.

Equally important to better manage anxiety while driving is creating a safe and comfortable learning environment where students feel supported in their learning and able to take on new learning and perform these tasks more confidently.

Some of our common teaching strategies particularly helpful for students include:

  • Breakdown learning into small steps
  • Draw diagrams to reinforce visually
  • Demonstrate instructional practises so student know what is correct
  • Provide independent, well-designed intensive practise drills and plenty of them
  • Supply regular, bite size pieces of quality feedback
  • Engage students in extension type activities and commentary driving.
  • Pace the lesson to suit the needs of the student
  • Continually check for understanding and learning
  • Review all learning and maintain records and assessment profiles for all students.

What we do in driving lessons for students with learning difficulties is:

  • Offer plenty of patience, reinforcement and encouragement
  • Remain focused on where the student ‘is at’ in every lesson
  • Strive for quality learning outcomes
  • Maintain consistency in lesson standards
  • Utilise a broad range of teaching strategies
  • Ensure learning is fun and interesting.

Getting your license can be a challenging process. Overcoming your fear of driving takes the right practise and approach. Here are some suggestions to help:

  • Find a quality driver trainer
  • Know your road rules
  • Remain calm – practice some breathing exercises or use your own coping mechanisms to compose yourself when driving
  • Talk aloud as you drive- explain what is happening ahead and behind you- what important signs do you see and what are other road users doing?
  • Remain committed to the process even when it seems difficult.
  • Pull over and stop if you are feeling overwhelmed or anxious.

If you are seeking the professional services of a patient, professional and qualified Trainer to help you learn how to drive safely, please call Trevor at GPS on 0430 284 285.

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