Tuesday, 24 September 2013

GOT MY DRIVER'S LICENSE!!! And an update


I kept screwing up, because I had terrible failing anxiety. Then I got myself an exam where they took my failing anxiety AND autism into account (they actually got someone from another city for me, to accomplish that. Isn't that nice of them?) and it helped a lot.

I'm allowed to drive in my parents' cars (my dad's work-car and our own) and I've already driven around in them for quite a bit around town, so I can get used to driving in another car. I'm slowly easing into it.

Getting my driver's license is a very big accomplishment for me. Of course, it is for most people, but there's an extra reason for me. I first started driving lessons with another driving instructor. This woman said she was skilled at teaching people with autism to drive a car. Well... She clearly wasn't. She had me do almost everything in a very short time span.

Then she told me that I had to fill in this form (Eigen Verklaring), in which there are several questions. One of them is whether or not you've ever been at a psychologist and/or had therapy. Of course my answer is yes. This form actually cost me 22 euros. (yes! For a piece of paper!) After that I would be summoned for a screening at a specialist, which would cost me a lot of money too. If he would find me fit to drive, then I would still have to do a medical driving test. IF I got through that test, THEN I would be a allowed to take my exams. Even then I'd just get my driver's license for 3 years max. (This will change starting the 1st of October! I didn't know that back then though) At the end of this all, I would've spent somewhere between 200 and 300 euros and still not be sure whether I'd be able to even get a driver's license or not.

I told my instructor that I thought that was horrible. A lot of people, including me, who even qualify for such a screening, are also in government profit. This means that they won't have a lot of money. Still they want those people to pay that much, just to know if they're even qualified to take their exam or not! And this is being forced upon them. If they want to drive, they will have to pay that much and still not be sure if they will eventually end up with a driver's license.

My instructor sympathised and she told me that I should just stop my lessons until I had gone through my medical driving test. Then, if I wouldn't get through the test, I wouldn't have spent that much yet. I asked her if I would be good enough for the test with that few (7) hours of lessons. She said that they would adjust to my level, that they just wanted to know if I had what it takes to even get on the road. Not how far I was in my lessons.

Relieved, I went through the whole progress (feeling my wallet getting lighter, metaphorically speaking). At the day of the medical driving test, I was told I had to drive there myself with a car that I had to rent from the driving school. Suddenly I was told I had to have the skills to drive the whole car myself, so I had to practice that by driving to the test myself. I asked how for God sakes they could ask that from me, seeing as I had 7 hours of time spent on the road, and there was a lot of time between those lessons and the test too. The instructor told me she couldn't remember having told me that I should stop taking lessons and that I had to face the consequences now. Like, seriously? I wouldn't just stop my lessons for fun, knowing that there would be a test, would I?

Well, I probably won't have to tell you that I dramatically failed my medical driving test. How was I to make it while having to control things I never learned to control?
I explained the whole situation to the man who was testing me, but my instructor kept insisting she never told me to stop my lessons and the man believed her and told me that it didn't matter anyway. He said that he could see that I couldn't divide my attention (ever tried to do several things you never did at the same time and tried to divide your attention between them without making a mistake? You'll fail. If you don't, you're probably a genius) and that if I can't divide my attention between my car and the rest of the world, I wouldn't be able to drive. He advised me that I would be better off in an automatic car, instead of driving stick.

I told the man again that I only had 7 hours of lesson time, which isn't enough for me to understand everything enough to divide my attention between them, but that I was sure that when I understood them, I would be able to use everything with much more ease and divide my attention.
The man and my instructor looked at each other and me and shook their heads. I kept insisting that it might even take me a year, but that I would make it. The man said "Well, a year half a half maybe! But even then I doubt it... I think you should try automatic and even then I can't promise anything..."

Isn't this a very grim outlook? I should drive automatic and even that wouldn't be sure...
I asked my instructor how she could think that she could teach someone with autism how to drive a car. Her response: "I have had other people with autism and they did fine..."
Wait, that was her proof? People, memorize this sentence please: "If you've met one person with autism, you've only met one person with autism."
I got angry and resolved. I went out to find someone who was ACTUALLY qualified to teach a person with autism to drive a car.

One day I was asked to show my talents at a table at an autism information market. I was in one room with three other people. One of them was a nice woman who was a driving instructor for people with autism!
I wasn't to be fooled again, so I asked what made her qualified to teach people with autism how to drive. She told me she actually had a 'Ster-opleiding' which would literally translate to a Star-education, which is an education to teach driving instructors to teach people with autism how to drive. She told me about the different techniques that she used and what an average lessons would look like.

I was completely amazed and knew that she was the right person. Just one thing... She only teaches how to drive stick. Not automatic.
I didn't care. If anyone was to drive me stick, it would be her. I took an introduction lesson and after that I immediately knew that I had the right person. She also told me "I have no idea why they told you that you wouldn't be able to drive. Nonsense. It won't be easy, but you're very fit to drive."

When I re-did my medical driving test, I happened to end up at the same man who tested me before. It had to be faith. This time I was fully prepared and I aced the test. I can still remember the look on his face and it still makes me smile.
I got through my theoretical test in one go too (I did take an individual test).
I didn't get through my exams in one go, but that was mostly due to my failing anxiety. The moment I got a failing anxiety exam, I aced that one too.

Everyone reading my blog: If people are telling you that you can't do a certain thing based on ridiculous assumptions, and you're sure that you can do it: Do it!
"Then what if I still fail?" Then at least you know for sure now and it won't be a 'what if' situation. But what if you DID make it? Then you wouldn't have someone else telling you what you can and can't do. The person who knows that the best is you.
Advice is a great thing and take it to heart, but nobody can tell you what you can and can't do. Decide that for yourself.

As for the update: I got the help that I needed to fill out the form to apply for the money to get the right guidance. I got all the information written down now. It just needs to be made in a good story. Suprisingly, I can write blogposts, but I can't make this story right... People keep telling me I have a low chance of getting this indication, seeing how strict the rules are now, and now my failing anxiety is acting up again. I fear that I write something down wrong and I cheat myself out of the right guidance. This makes me lock up completely.
My psychologist promised she would help me get through that, so next time I'll be bringing the form and all the information to her and we'll be working on that together.

So yea, I'm making progress. Slow progress, but progress nonetheless.

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