Robert, who Affinity Trust supports in Bedford, is taking driving lessons for the first time.
Affinity Trust has supported Robert, who has a mild learning disability, since 2017. It was a year later that he first told his support team he wanted to learn to drive.
The first challenge was finding an instructor. Affinity Trust supports Robert with things like correspondence and GP appointments – so his support team said they’d find him a driving instructor.
It wasn’t that easy. Will, Affinity Trust’s local Team Leader, contacted local instructors but, on hearing that Robert had a learning disability, they declined to teach him. In all, Will called 12 instructors; all said no.
But persistence paid off. Will struck lucky with his thirteenth call, to Red Driving School in Bedford. Having taken advice from Red, local instructor Stuart said he would be happy to teach Robert.
Stuart’s decision was based in part on his previous knowledge of people with learning disabilities. “I don’t want to treat them differently; why shouldn’t they have the same opportunities?”
And so, since December 2018, Robert had been having twice-weekly lessons with Stuart on the streets of Bedford. It’s just the two of them in the car – Robert’s support staff are not needed.
Is anything different about teaching Robert? Mainly the type of communication, says Stuart. He has slightly adapted his approach, asking simpler questions to suit Robert’s communication style: “For instance, I’ll give him two options. I might say, this is the right situation and this is the wrong situation.” Red advocate client-centred learning, which is ideal for a situation like this.
After three months, Stuart has noticed how Robert’s confidence has grown. “How much he’ll talk with me is a thousand times different. Now we’ll have a little chat.”
At the same time, Robert has been learning driving theory online. His support team helped him research laptops, looking for one he would find easy to use. They also advised on the best websites to practise on. The laptop itself was bought by Robert’s financial advocate.
How are the lessons going? Stuart says: “Generally he’s getting on really well, in leaps and bounds over the past couple of weeks”. Now, at the end of a lesson, Robert will drive home.
And how is Robert himself finding driving lessons? “It’s fun,” he says.