Driving

One of the enormous benefits of being on the waiting list for an autism assessment is that everyone has stopped nagging me about driving.

I learnt to drive at 17 in a little manual-gearbox Vauxhall Nova – a fairly standard experience for British teenagers. What wasn’t typical was how many lessons I needed to learn. I have forgotten the actual number but believe it was upwards of 40. Everyone else* only needed 20ish lessons.

My inability to learn how to drive was the subject of much discussion among my classmates and my parents’ friends. Obviously I must have had a bad driving instructor because, and I quote, “That’s not right, someone your age shouldn’t take that long.”

Now I don’t know if he was a bad or good instructor, but he said something funny (as in peculiar) that I have been reminded of recently. I spent my teenage years living in the Cambridgeshire Fens and learnt to drive there. My driving instructor taught people from all over the area, including Cambridge University Dons. My driving instructor explained that I reminded him very much of some of them. He had noticed that many of these Dons, despite being very good academically, for whatever reason the “normal” life-skills that came so easily to people less academically able alluded them and they found that learning to drive was immensely difficult. My driving instructor told me of one particular Don that eventually gave up driving altogether and continued to cycle everywhere – however this was not always successful as his absentmindness, head on “another planet” and lack of executive functioning meant that he sometimes forgot whether he had cycled or walked to work and would leave his bike attached to some random Cambridge lamppost until he got home and found his bike missing.

Eventually I took my driving test and passed the test – first time I might add. But I rarely feel comfortable driving. I find it all hugely anxiety provoking. And generally I only drive on roads close to my home that I know well. And preferably quiet country lanes rather than busy dual carriage-ways and roundabouts and never motorways.

* i.e. neurotypicals …

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