Learning to Drive
We are often asked if there are any autism-friendly/specialist driving schools we can recommend. Although we do not have a list of instructors to recommend the following information might help if you are trying to find a driving instructor.
Finding local contacts
There is a database where you can search for specialist disability driving instructors however there are not many listed in our area: https://www.disabilitydrivinginstructors.com/
Although there may not be many driving instructors who specialise in teaching learners with disabilities or additional needs, lots will have experience of teaching learners on the autism spectrum. It can be a good idea to make a shortlist of driving instructors in your area and then contact them to get a feel for if they would be a good fit for you or the person you are supporting.
You can search for driving instructors in your area on the gov.uk website: https://www.gov.uk/find-driving-schools-and-lessons
You can also ask friends and family if they have any recommendations or you can use social media to ask if anyone has an instructor they would recommend.
Some driving instructors have websites where you can get a bit more information about them and their experience. Many websites include testimonials of previous students which can help you see what other learners thought about their lessons however do bear in mind that driving instructors are using these testimonials as a marketing tool so will only show positive testimonials on their website.
It can be good to contact a few instructors for more information before you decide on one. Before contacting them, write down some questions to ask. As well as asking about their charges and availability, you could also ask:
- What is your understanding of autism?
- Have you ever taught someone who has an autism spectrum condition?
- How would you support someone who is anxious about learning to drive?
If you ask the same questions to the driving instructors on your short list, it should make it easier to compare answers and decide with whom you would like to book your lessons.
Making a one page profile for your driving instructor
To help your chosen instructor understand how your autism affects you, or the person you are supporting, you could put together some information to give them before the first lesson. Have a think about what generally works for you when you need to learn something new and how the driving instructor can support you to do your best.
When it comes to learning to drive, everyone with autism is different and will benefit from different supports and adaptations.
Below are some examples of the types of things people might include on their one page profile:
- I would prefer not to chat whilst learning because small talk requires a lot of concentration for me and can be confusing/distracting.
- I can take some things literally particularly when I am nervous. Please give clear instructions and be careful with your language. It can help to explain what you mean and check my understanding.
- I find it difficult to process too much verbal information so please give information in short chunks and allow time for processing. Just say the key things for example rather than saying “ok, next we are going to turn left and then we are going to drive along this road and pull over on the left to park” Say “Next, turn left” “Then, pull over on the left to park”
- I don’t always get jokes/sarcasm so please make it clear when you are joking.
- Use visual supports where possible such as drawing or writing things down – I find it easier to learn and remember this way.
- Write down or tell my parents what I can practice at home in between lessons as I might not always remember.
- Please tell me if I have done well or not so good because I might not tell by your tone of voice or body language.
- I often assume I have done a bad job if I don’t get obvious positive feedback so please always tell me when I have done something right or well.
- I find it hard to adjust to changes. If you need to change the time of my lesson please give me as much notice as possible.