Alex from Newmarket – 23 – Autism and Asperger syndrome.
Passed in a manual car, May 2018, His fourth test with 3 faults.
I had three instructors before learning with Keiran. I had started learning where I used to live in Bury St Edmunds with a very good instructor, I then moved to Newmarket, he could no longer teach me, and I had to stop lessons with him. I then had two more instructors that I struggled with because they couldn’t give me the time I needed, and they had a set way of teaching that didn’t suit me.
I have Autism and Asperger syndrome. It makes me think a lot and can overload me with thoughts, I see things in a very black and white way. Things are either right or wrong or its safe or unsafe. With my driving it took me a long time to understand that I didn’t have to drive at the speed limit and that if the gap was small, I could fit, but I had to drive slower to be safe.
When I started with Keiran I could drive a car but I didn’t always feel under control. Keiran started off working with me on driving procedures, focusing on getting me to move away, stop, and turn safely. When I made a mistake or got something wrong, he kept me up to date on what would happen if I didn't follow the correct procedure, he did it in a very clear and calm manner that didn’t stress me out.
Once he helped me to be more in control of the car Keiran worked with me to make better safety judgments. He tried a range of different ways to get me to understand issues such as braking distances and safe speeds in different speed limits. Keiran would talk me through each issue. For example, he would get me out of the car and walk to where I thought the stopping distance would be at a speed that I was driving at, and then Keiran would show me the actual distance I would have stopped. I found it really hard to understand when it wasn’t safe to drive the speed limit, and how close to parked cars I could get to. Keiran really helped me with this.
Keiran understood I needed good communication about what we would do on a lesson, and about lesson times and dates. He made the lessons fun but professional, I always felt that I was learning but it wasn't too serious. We could have a chat, which helped me to stay relaxed. When I made mistakes and got stressed, Keiran would get me to calm down and help me deal with what I needed to do. He would get me out of any difficult situations, then he would talk me through the situation so I could deal with it better next time.
I passed my 4th test. I should have passed the test before, but I made a silly mistake that I will never make again. I struggled with stress in the first tests and I found it really difficult, but Keiran worked with me on practice tests and I did it.
A few months after passing I did Pass Plus with Keiran, I found it helped me quite a lot, in driving on my own. It took me through the usual routes, but also in new areas I didn't know. This helped to widen my experience of areas I didn't know and gaveme a wider perception of what is to come during different travels. I experienced different road layouts and road markings all on my own, but I had[JG14] Keiran’s support if I got it wrong. I drove on a 5-lane motorway, and I feel this has helped me to gain confidence and to be a better driver.
When Alex started with me, he understood how to drive a car and what all the controls did. He could drive under full instruction and was able to complete what he was told to do. However, as soon as I tried to get Alex to make his own decisions, he struggled. For example, situations such as when to pull away or what speed he should be driving at. Alex found it difficult to make decisive decisions. Alex had to fully focus on what was in front of him, and as a result his awareness of what was around him fell away, which greatly affected his and other road user’s safety. When I looked into Alex’s driving lesson experience, it was clear his first instructor had worked hard at getting Alex to understand how to drive a car and what each control did, and this instructor had done a good job of this. However, his subsequent instructors had just got Alex to drive under full instruction, and they didn’t let Alex make decisions. Consequently, Alex could drive a car but he had little understanding of why he was doing what he was being told to do.
Once I had built Alex’s confidence up again in his basic driving skills, I took Alex back to the basics of moving away, stopping and turning. I focused on getting Alex to make the decisions on when it was safe to go, on how his actions would affect other drivers and the safe speed to turn corners at. Alex picked up basic driving routines with relative ease and when he was not under pressure, he was able to repeat these on a wide range of roads. With practice, Alex was able to implement these procedure’s under pressure in heavier and heavier traffic conditions.
Once Alex mastered the basic skills, we started working on decisions such as when it was safe to emerge from side roads. Alex was very cautious to start with, but with practice he was able to read traffic conditions better. Alex found left turns easier than right turns across traffic. Alex’s biggest challenges regarded making choices on safe speed, safe distances to pass parked vehicles, and hardest of all safe distances to pass moving vehicles such as cyclists.
Alex found repeating a scenario over and over again, such as how to pull out of a blind junction to be his most effective way of learning. We would start off by doing the exercise under full instruction. Then over the duration of a lesson, I would reduce my instruction and hand over more responsibility to Alex. When he made a mistake, I would explain where he went wrong and get him to repeat the exercise. Alex found fluid situations much harder to learn, for instance, passing cyclists or going around a bus at a bus stop. These situations were much harder for me to recreate so he could repeat the specific situation. In cases such as this, I had to put clear guidelines in place for Alex to simplify the decision, we would then drive in an area where we hoped the situation would arise again, and see if Alex was able to deal with the situation better.
Once Alex was driving safely and making good clear decisions in all traffic situations and in all conditions, we started focusing on Alex’s test. It was clear to me that the test would be an emotional challenge for Alex, and I expected Alex to need a minimum of 2 to 3 tests to pass. When I started, Alex struggled under pressure, it took him time to get used to me and he found new situations a challenge. The combination of normal test stress, a new situation, not knowing what was going to happen, not knowing where he was going (if he was going to have a SatNav, or signs to follow), not knowing what maneuver he was going to have, as well as having a person he didn’t know sitting next to him was always going to put Alex into a difficult situation.
I sat in with all of Alex’s tests to support him and make him feel more comfortable. It was very apparent sitting in on the first two tests that Alex was struggling, and that a major fault was imminent. The third test Alex nearly passed. He drove so well, I could see the pressure was building on him, but he was dealing with everything so well. He then made a mistake that I had never seen him make. He had misread a sign, and this caused him to fail. His fourth and final test was a pleasure to sit in on. Alex knew he had very nearly passed the test before and this relaxed him a lot. He understood what was going to happen and he just drove, passing with only three faults.
After a few months of driving, Alex completed the Pass Plus course with me. We started on roads he knew well, I was so impressed with Alex´s driving. As we went into areas he didn’t know, I thought Alex might struggle with decision making on lane choice, and when it would be safe to go at busy complicated junctions he hadn’t seen before. Alex drove just how I had taught him. When he was unsure, he slowed down, took his time, made sure it was safe to move and then drove decisively not giving other drivers any doubt about what he was doing. The only area Alex struggled with was the 5-lane section of the M25, but once he understood what was happening, he dealt with road without an issue.