Living with a disability can have an impact on things many people take for granted, but that doesn’t have to mean losing out on the freedom of driving. Here we catch up with Michael, who was diagnosed with dyspraxia as an adult.
Dyspraxia is a common disorder that affects movement and co-ordination. Tasks requiring balance, as well as playing sport or learning to drive can be challenging.
When he was just six years old, Michael found himself face to face with tragedy when his best friend was hit by a car and killed.
Michael admits the thought of driving always filled him with anxiety and, after passing his test in 2005, says he did little driving. “I used to live in the town centre, so everything I needed was within walking distance, including my workplace for my last job.” One day, Michael, as part of a training course, was forced to attend an out-of-the-way venue in Liverpool with poor public transport links. It meant he had to get back behind the wheel. Following that experience, Michael recalled seeing an IAM RoadSmart advert and decided to confront his fear of driving once and for all.
In 2018, he joined the local IAM RoadSmart group in St Helens in Merseyside although he failed the Advanced Driving test three times. Despite this, the training, Michael says, improved his confidence and made him a better driver.
Michael trained with several different Observers in the St Helens group and says he learnt something valuable from each one and is currently doing research into Advanced Driving principles and navigation.
Diagnosed with Dyspraxia in February 2021 at the age of thirty-five. Eighteen months later, he was also diagnosed with autism. Michael says he stumbled through life unaware of his condition. On one of his Advanced Driver sessions with IAM RoadSmart, his Observer pointed out that Michael tended to drift towards the right when driving down a road with two-way traffic, putting him dangerously close to oncoming vehicles. Michael believes the only logical explanation for this was his attempts to avoid the parked vehicles on the nearside, but due to poor spatial awareness, it puts him too close for comfort to oncoming vehicles.
“My own personal experiences show that it takes someone with dyspraxia much longer than the average person to learn to drive, so you need to have a lot of patience and persistence, and perhaps more importantly, you need a driving instructor/Observer with a lot of patience. I was extremely fortunate that my Observers at IAM Roadsmart St. Helens were excellent in this area, and I didn’t even know at the time that I had dyspraxia.”
Michael says he wants to conduct his own personal research in the future and will focus on visual processing. “Every advanced driving book I’ve read highlights the importance of vision and eye scanning, and having completed a free Eye-Gym assessment, it shows I’m below average in visual awareness, eye-tracking, decision-making, and reaction-time, so I want to learn how I can improve in these areas.”