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Autism: Learning to Drive

29 Jul

Though my older brother rushed out right away, owned his first vehicle, and was driving as soon as he was allowed, this was not something that was of interest to me. In fact, it downright terrified me. Yet shortly after my sixteenth birthday, I went for my first written test, joined driving school, and within a year had my license.

It wasn’t something I wanted to do, but since Graduated Licensing was about to come in, my mother insisted it was something I had to do. So I did.

I passed the written test without issue. On the second day of driving school, my instructor had me drive in the busiest part of downtown, in the very large city where we lived. There were cars, buses, and people everywhere – and something like four lanes of traffic in each direction. Aspie nightmare!

“Look at this,” he said, “did you see the bus?” “watch the people,” “did you notice…”

I was strongly headed towards meltdown, the tears silently streaming down my cheeks – but I had to make it home. “I hate this!” I thought, “Never again!” Somehow I made it through the lesson, but everything from that moment is blocked from my mind. I fell apart in the privacy of my room, and of course, did continue my classes. After all, my parents had paid for them, and always the pleaser, I didn’t want to disappoint.

In a further lesson, I was taken onto the highway. Strangely enough I found I didn’t mind highway driving quite so much as city driving. Though to be fair, he didn’t take me to the busy highways with Toronto traffic, but on a relatively quiet highway going in the other direction. I found it easier with the larger spacing between vehicles – which all flowed in one direction – and no pedestrians!

On the day of my test, just as I was driving down, I passed a dead cat on the road that had been hit by a car. I cried at the power to kill that comes with driving a vehicle, and very much did not want that power for myself.

Despite my very strong anxiety and dislike of driving, I only made one mistake during my test. Instead of checking my side windows after I had put the car in reverse, I checked the one side just before. And just like that, I had my license. I had no vehicle, no job, no money, and no desire at all to ever drive again. The bus system in that city was really good, and inexpensive. I either used that, or walked, for the city was quite flat and good for walking.

Seven years later I moved across the country to a small town, where nearly every street was rolling hills. The townhouse I was renting was nowhere near grocery stores, or anything else that I needed (except the community pool, which was nice) and there were only a total of three buses in the entire city. We couldn’t walk. The buses were impractical, and the trips long – leaving me with bad motion sickness on every trip.

So we (my mom moved across the country with me, but then my father was diagnosed with cancer a couple of months later, and my mom had to move back to take care of my disabled brother and very sick father) leased a vehicle. Seven years after my driving exam, I started driving again.

Sixteen years later, I am still a very anxious driver. I still hate city driving, and prefer quiet highways. Though eight years ago, my mom and I took turns driving across the country and back, I still refuse to drive in my hometown (or anywhere near Toronto.)

Driving

I even learned to drive standard along the way. But make no mistake, I still hate driving! There is too much unpredictability along the road.

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