Teaching autism sufferers to drive

By Kevin Unitt 05/04 Updated: 10/04 08:22

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Buy photos » David Myatt has launched his own driving school specialising in helping autism sufferers learn to drive. (s)

AN ASPERGER'S sufferer from Leamington is taking direct action to help others with the disorder – as a driving instructor.

David Myatt launched Halo Driving School in November last year and teaches students across south Warwickshire.

The 51-year-old believes he is the only instructor offering such a service in the entire Midlands, and one of just three Driving Standards Agency registered instructors in the UK with Asperger's syndrome, a disorder which like Autism can affect communication and social skills, making everyday tasks and the challenge of learning to drive more difficult.

But Mr Myatt's own experiences have helped him provide practical, step-by-step support to his students, two thirds of which have disorders on the autism spectrum. His first pupil with Asperger's is set to take her test in the next two months.

He told the Observer: “Communication is key. I can't pass on complex instructions, as I know how I struggle with them too, so I break everything down into small segments and give simple, concise instructions.

“With one student I actually stood with them by a roundabout to explain how to negotiate it. Just telling someone what to do might not work as they can't process that information.

“Some of the coping strategies I have picked up I can pass on to my pupils.

“It is great to see their confidence start to improve, along with their driving.”

Mr Myatt, who was only diagnosed with the disorder nine years ago, was a design and print manager for much of his working life but decided to pursue a new career path after being made redundant in 2007.

He initially gave up before finishing a driving instructor course, as he found the training difficult, but was inspired to try again after watching the BBC's Autistic Driving School documentary.

After emailing the programme with his praise for it, a producer put him in touch with a driving instructor with an autistic disorder – Julia Malkin MBE – who trained him.

Mr Myatt added: “People with autism sometimes struggle to empathise with people's feelings so I may get blunt responses, but I don't take offence.

“Actually, if they don't understand something the feedback is much more instant and honest than with other people, so it helps us move forward together.”

Visit www.halodrivingschool.co.uk or call Mr Myatt on 07787 42122 for more information on the business.

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