Dyslexia And Learning To Drive

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Many people fail their first driving test, and 44 percent of learners fail the written part of the test. The written test is tricky for the average candidate, but if you have a reading disability like dyslexia, the odds worsen. Up to 20 percent of the American population shows some symptoms of dyslexia, which presents a challenge to learners and tutors alike. If you or a family member suffers from dyslexia, learn more about the effects the condition has when you learn to drive, and the steps you can take with your tutor to improve your chances of success.

About dyslexia

Dyslexia is the world's most common learning disability, affecting 80 percent of people with a developmental problem. People with dyslexia aren't stupid. Indeed, sufferers often have the same level of intelligence as anyone else, but dyslexic people struggle to read and decipher words. Many doctors refer to dyslexia as specific reading disability.

Surprisingly, dyslexia is not actually a visual disability, and there is nothing wrong with your eyesight if you suffer from the condition. If you have dyslexia, your brain is not fully able to translate the images it receives from the eyes or ears into language that you can understand. In simple terms, your brain simply cannot translate the words on a page into the correct meaning.

Common symptoms of dyslexia include difficulty learning to read, problems with speech, slow learning skills, and poor co-ordination. Sufferers also sometimes struggle to determine left from right, and many people with dyslexia have a poor attention span. These (and other) symptoms can cause trouble for people with dyslexia when they learn to drive.

How dyslexia impairs driving ability

Strong visual skills are critical to drive safely. Competent drivers must quickly recognize signs and other information while they are behind the wheel. If you suffer from dyslexia, you will often struggle with these simple tasks.

That aside, driving is harder for people with dyslexia in several other ways. Problems include:

  • Difficulty dealing with numbers. Digits may reverse or appear upside-down. This could cause problems when trying to read speed limits.
  • Short-term memory. Many people with the condition struggle to hold information, which makes it difficult to fully concentrate on the road.
  • Interpersonal communication. Some people with dyslexia struggle to communicate clearly and effectively. This can present challenges during driving lessons and assessments.
  • Perceptual problems. Many people with dyslexia also suffer with perceptual problems, which make it hard to absorb crucial information. For example, in busy traffic, somebody with the condition may become confused and disoriented, which can quickly cause problems.

A 2005 study found that dyslexia could have a more serious effect on drivers than alcohol. The study found that people with dyslexia took, on average, 30 percent longer to react than other road users.

Steps you can take with your instructor

If you or someone you love suffers from dyslexia, it's often worth looking for a driving instructor with expertise in the field. People with dyslexia successfully learn to drive every day, but it's important to acknowledge that the process may take longer than with other candidates, and the instructor will need to account for the condition. If you cannot find a specialist, you should still ask your tutor to adapt to your needs.

When dealing with left and right, ask your instructor to use terms that you can cope with. For example, some people prefer to use 'left and the other left' or 'that side and the other side'. Explain how you cope with these issues on a daily basis, and ask your instructor to accommodate these needs during lessons.

Your driving instructor can also help you absorb information more slowly, to counter problems with your attention span and short-term memory. It's important to acknowledge that many tasks will take you longer to learn than other candidates, so your instructor will need to progress through each new skill more slowly. Ask your instructor to break tasks down into stages too, so you can avoid lengthy explanations that are harder to remember.

Visual tools can also help people with dyslexia learn. For example, ask your instructor to use hand signals to say which way he or she wants you to turn, and not just issue a verbal instruction. Some instructors will help candidates learn through visualization too. People with dyslexia often find it easier to think of the steering wheel as handlebars, as this stops them from panicking and making sudden, excessive turns.

Somebody with dyslexia will also need patience and determination. He or she may need more lessons before a test than other candidates, and is more likely to fail the first test. As such, it's also important to find an instructor that you feel comfortable with. You're going to spend a lot of time together, after all.

Dyslexia is a common learning disability that affects millions of people in America. People with dyslexia generally find it harder to learn to drive, but, with the right instructor, there's no reason you still cannot enjoy the freedom of the open road. Click here to investigate driving lessons offered in your area.