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How Nonverbal Learning Disability Affects My Driving

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This is a follow-up to my earlier story “Why It’s Important to Recognize Nonverbal Learning Disability as a Diagnosis.”

The year is 2025, and the COVID-19 pandemic has finally ended. I just recently purchased a Tesla Cybertruck, and you’re lucky enough to be the first passenger I will be taking for a drive! Excitedly, you hop into the passenger’s seat and buckle up. I press the start switch, and head for the exit of the parking lot.

Unfortunately, there’s a minor problem: there’s heavy traffic on the road. I stop at the sign and wait. And wait. And wait some more. Cars whiz by on the road, yet I still haven’t moved an inch. A generously sized gap appears between two cars, and another car effortlessly pulls onto the main drag. And I’m still sitting here. The driver behind our truck grows impatient and honks the horn. You become frustrated, and think to yourself: Come on Toren! Are you ever going to go anywhere? You’re not a new driveryou should be able to pull out now. Finally, after what seems like an eternity, the road becomes free of cars. I make my turn and the road trip begins in earnest.

Does this sound like a situation you’ve experienced? While there are a number of reasons why someone might be hesitant to pull into traffic, a reason you might not have thought of before is a deficit in visual processing speed.

I am all too familiar with the above situation. Despite having driven for six years, I still have a massive amount of difficulty judging when to pull out into traffic. As I live in the country, this isn’t too big a deal, but I can definitely say that I would not enjoy driving in a big city. If you’re curious, my visual processing speed is in the 9th percentile, and my visual-spatial working memory is in the 1st percentile (in stark contrast to my higher-order verbal skills, which are in the 94th percentile). Put those two together, and it shouldn’t be surprising that my ability to quickly judge the speed and distance of oncoming traffic is… not great.

So, next time you’re stuck behind a driver who’s hesitant to pull out, be patient. I’m not texting or taking a mini-nap, and am doing my best to safely pull into traffic. Becoming impatient and honking your horn at me is, at best, ineffective. At worst, I’ll feel pressured into making a decision quickly, which… surprise surprise, will slow down my processing speed even more, and increase the time you’ll spend waiting behind me. Thank you for understanding.

Getty image by 5dan5.

Originally published: September 2, 2020
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