Published On: 19 February 2024Categories: Stories

It took 12 months and 200 hours of lessons, but Connor Brown prevailed, passing his driving test on the first attempt.

Connor, who has autism, says his final lessons before the test did not go well, needing three attempts to reverse park in the hours before the test.

However, a year’s hard work, patience and perseverance paid off just over two weeks ago when Connor was finally able to place the coveted P-plates on his much loved old Ford Focus.

Connor, 23, earned his rite of passage to drive unaccompanied as a result of a partnership involving Connor’s family, Devonport Chaplaincy Learner Driver Program, and NDIS provider, Wilson Disability Support.

Driver mentor Adam Lyall drove twice weekly from Devonport to Somerset to take Connor for extended lessons. Connor’s parents took him for lessons early in his driving journey before enlisting the support of Devonport Chaplaincy.

“The extra hours (learners are required to complete 80 hours of driving) were to ensure Connor felt adequately prepared for every contingency without panicking or becoming overly stressed,” Adam said.

“This could include being stopped by the police, being involved in an accident, or witnessing one, being hassled by other drivers, or encountering unfamiliar roads.

“He worked hard and listened, and deserves his licence.”

Connor said Adam was a patient teacher who remained calm, even when he (Connor) wasn’t.

“Driving on my own from Somerset to Devonport for the first time today felt pretty good,” Connor said.

“I did notice some people aren’t sticking to the speed limit.”

Connor is now able to drive to work at the local IGA, to his Autism Peer Group meetings, the shops and to visit friends. He’s looking forward to driving with his parents to Hobart and beyond.

Devonport Chaplaincy’s Learner Driver Mentor program is aimed at providing support to young drivers who cannot afford paid driving lessons, do not have access to a vehicle in which to learn, or who do not have anyone to teach them.

One learner a month graduates to P-plates through the free program, which has been running since 2013.

By Paul O’Rourke

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