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First to second » Blogging AS an Aspie
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Matt has Asperger’s Syndrome (AS), an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and is writing this blog so that people can gain more of an insight into how people with the condition process thoughts, feel emotions, react to situations and generally handle life.
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24 Jan 08 First to second

Well, last night was my first time behind the wheel of the car. God help the residents of Hendon I thought as we approached the area where we were to change seats.

The atmosphere in the car was relaxed, and I had raised the subject of my Asperger’s Syndrome within moments of sitting in the passenger seat. This was greeted with a quick question of whether I was ok working 1:1 with my instructor, a welcome surprise given that most professionals just assume it would be. I briefly mentioned the impact AS has on me, for example my social interaction, strange ways of doing things; I even joked about how it mainly affected young lasses that I fancy, given that I’m not too sure on how to go about making friends, or what’s expected of girlfriend/boyfriend relationships. As the young-to-middle-aged male instructor was not a “young lass that I fancy”, we both seemed fairly happy that my AS would have minimal impact on the lessons.

Having spent the last two or three weeks reading through the literature I received with my “Pass Promise”, the instructor was quite impressed at my knowledge of the pedals, main controls, clutch and biting point. It didn’t therefore take him long to introduce me to the cockpit drill or the fine art of moving off and stopping; so much knowledge that I had, I was rather surprised that I moved off, drove along a straight road and stopped the car – all without stalling it. What I did do, was underestimate the sensitivity of the controls, and felt a sharp jolt when I pressed the brake pedal a little harder than perhaps it needed. Oops. And my lovely skill of not stalling the car was soon to diminish, I managed 4 stalls before the lesson had ended, each time was the same cause – I sharply raised the clutch without first applying enough gas.

However, stalling has advantages, as I discovered on my penultimate drive of the evening: just as I stalled, the instructor said “Stop!”, and then asked me why he said it. My response assumed he had anticipated my stall, and so I answered as such. As it was, I had failed to check my right blind-spot, luckily there was nothing in it! When travelling at 10-15mph, I have reasonable clutch control for a driving virgin, managing to press the clutch (just) in time to prevent the car stalling when I stop; I can also use the biting point to slow the car or let it coast as I pull into the side at a snail’s 5mph!

Despite many people telling me that the hardest thing when driving was the gears, I found them remarkably easy. Though greeting the instruction of “keep going straight, use more gas, and when you get to 2500 revs, change up to second” with nervous anticipation, when it actually came to it, I didn’t even think about the gearstick. Clutch in, gas off, hand, clutch out, gas on to same speed. Easy as pie, I didn’t even look at the stick, just felt the pleasing knob at the side of my hand, and pulled back on it gently. Of course, when stopping in second, one has to remember that neutral is up from the position, not down as I kept trying! Then came the stories every instructor must be able to attest: the learners trying to move the instructors knee from first to second, or in this case, the story of one of his female learners attempting to pull his inside thigh up as opposed to the handbrake – one can only assume where she thought the button was located…

As for my great weakness of not always acting upon what I am told, or coming up with my own ways to do things, I’m quite confident I managed this well. Ok, so I used the clutch before the brake when stopping, but at 10mph, what choice do I have? I listened carefully to what my instructor was telling me, and I acted promptly on any advice he gave me.

All in all, a pretty successful 2 hours. And I should hope so too, for 38 quid!

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