Monday, 9 June 2014

Another disappointment

Saturday it was time for Lucy to take her theory driving test again. It would be the fifth time. The exam consists of two parts: hazard perception (clicking in time to avoid hazards on the road whilst watching videos of real driving) and multiple choice theory. In the past she has always passed one part while failing the other, normally by just a few marks. It has been a terribly frustrating and stressful time for her. 

As an autistic person she actually is quite able to drive a car, even a manual one. Granted it has taken her a long time and many lessons to learn, using an instructor experienced teaching those with special needs, but we have been very impressed with what she has achieved. We don't actually want her to drive because of the cost and because she has a freedom pass that allows her to travel free on buses and trains. However her determination to get what she sees as independence through having the freedom to drive, in fact every young person's dream, is admirable and we are actually very proud of her. Especially since she has been paying for the lessons herself, making good use of her benefit money. 

She cannot get her licence without first passing the theory test. So it is attempt five now. After the last failure I called the dvlc company responsible for running these tests, to find out if there was a way to accommodate someone like Lucy given she has difficulty comprehending the multiple choice questions despite knowing very well what the rules are. Her difficulty is understanding what they want to know. Why do they keep saying it in different ways? She just remembers how they ask a particular question, what words they use to see if she knows who has right of way, or what a particular sign means she has to do, or whether she needs to be careful up ahead. She knows all this, and is a very safe driver as a result. However, the tester tries to be clever so as not to ask the same question in the same way every time! You know, this can ONLY disadvantage someone like Lucy. It does not mean "aha, see she didn't really know how to obey rules!"  No, it just means that you are messing with her head, and whereas she totally understands what the answer is if you ask her one way, she will process it as a completely different question if you rephrase it. And this doesn't mean she doesn't understand how to obey the rules of the road!

How horrible must that be. It is like learning something in one language and being tested on it in another language. How unfair for Lucy. So I tried to address this by calling the test centre. I wanted there to be someone who could rephrase the questions for Lucy without actually telling her the answer. Despite my protestations all they are allowed to do is provide a "reader" who can't rephrase and extra time to do the exam. Well Lucy has no troubke reading, it is comprehending! In the end I just went for extra time. It can't hurt. 

As it turned out we could only get 8am last Saturday and it was a long time booking in advance. So by the time the exam came there was plenty time since the last failure for Lucy to get herself well wound up. She was more negative than usual, this time claiming she would fail. Unfortunately when you go in with this attitude it usually becomes reality. She did not sleep much on the Friday night and as a result(I think) managed to fail her hazard perception. No excuses really for that. I also found this a very difficult test. It is normally touch and go if you get enough points, but she did quite badly. Probably because she was tired and not alert. Shame because she managed to pass the theory! So once again for the fifth time a disappointment for Lucy, and still she plods on, hoping as ever that she will drive a car soon. 

On the Sunday we passed by the local used car place and she stopped and showed me which car she would like to buy. I imagined her one day driving it, being independent, with some kind of job that makes her feel like a normal adult and a useful person, with a bit of confidence to deal with the world. It was all I could do to stop myself welling up, as we linked arms and walked home together.