Drivers Education – Teaching Mel to Operate the Car

Teaching Mel to drive has been more of a challenge than I expected.  I do not know if it was because Coleman completed his training at a community facility and basically took care of all the requirements himself or I have a chip on my shoulder as I hate to be required to do anything as a result of lack of equal opportunity.

Don’t get me wrong, I know good and well why driver’s education corporations do not accept or teach a child to use hand controls. So many variables. So many different needs.  It would probably be an insurance nightmare.  Getting to know the needs of each and every person an impossibility.  Mel did have one community option.  Mel could have gone to Baylor to get her driver’s training.  The cost astronomical.  The two-hour drive to and from Baylor was also not an enticing factor.

Mel’s only real option, home training.  I selected a computerized driver’s education web site for the book learning.  When Mel passed the final on-line test, we were provided with a step by step, “How to Teach Your Child to Drive” guide.  It listed a process and the hours of driving recommended for each targeted skill.  I used that as my starting point and then adapted the syllabus to meet Mel’s needs.

I do not know what I expected.  However; I do know I did not expect the level of training I now know, Mel needed.  Mel is a regular education student.  Her classwork is not modified.  She makes good grades.  She does have prism glasses to help with spatial concepts.  Her eyes do not work well together.  She has never been good at multi-tasking. She despises making quick decisions.  She and I have always been directionally challenged.  And thus, teaching Mel to drive has been a lengthy process.

Looking back now, my greatest regret is not getting her to ride in the front seat at an earlier age.  I think this would have made it easier for her to combine all the concepts.  Now, this would only have helped, if she was not texting, or totally tuned into her music.  The way the garage is set up has just never facilitated Mel getting the front seat very often.

See my blog https://transitionalmoment.wordpress.com/2013/05/12/drivers-education-what-you-can-teach-prior-to-the-learning-permit/ for other skills a child can work on prior getting behind the wheel.

In teaching Mel to drive, I broke the process into skill specific units.

First emphasis was on getting her to feel the car. Mel spent a good six hours on at least four different days driving in different parking lots.  In the parking lots, she focused on starting, stopping, going straight, turning, backing-up and parking.  She kept the speed under 15 miles per hour.  I would scope out a large parking lot for its features.  Mel and I would then spent around sixty minutes working on one or two targeted concepts.  I selected different parking lots as each lot had a different feel and different characteristics.

The next lessons occurred in familiar, basically-empty, neighborhood streets.  For at least four, one hour lessons, Mel focused on generalizing the skills she learned in the parking lots to the streets.  I would add a specific task to each lesson i.e. staying in ones lane, using the blinker, turning, stop signs, and such.  Mel kept the car under 15 miles per hour and I turned on the hazard lights when a car was in our general area.

The next set of lessons took place in less familiar, neighborhood street with an increase in traffic around Mel.  Mel focused on increasing her speed.  From fifteen to twenty-five miles per hour.   Sundays became  driver’s education day.  Mel was hesitant but typically could be prompted into at least a one-hour lesson each Sunday. I found if she did not drive at least one-hour each week, her confidence and skills tended to wane.

Mel worked at thirty miles per hour for sometime.  She drove on the streets that connected the neighborhoods.  Intersections were a challenge.  Backing up out of parking spaces, a challenge.  With each challenge, Mel rose to the occasion.  We had a few tears, a lot of uncertainty; however, I could see each lesson building on the past skills.

Mel attained her learns permit in May.  I calculate she has around twenty hours of training under her belt.  She is reaching speeds of forty to forty-five miles per hour.  She still has not driven on the interstate.  Parallel parking has not been attempted.  Lane changes still need work.

The state of Texas requires a six month period between a learners permit and the final drivers test.  October 17th in the date her license indicates she can take that test.

Will she be ready?    Maybe.  I’ll let you know..            uncertain

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One thought on “Drivers Education – Teaching Mel to Operate the Car

  1. Pingback: Drivers Education Training | Transitions and A Medically Complex Child

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