D/HH Plus Column
New Driver? New Worries!
By Candace Lindow-Davies, Coordinator at MN H&V/Lifetrack Resources
The holidays are behind us and the new year has begun. Hope you all had a chance to relax, enjoy the company of family and friends, and maybe get a few items knocked off your “to-do” list.
Over the break, I had a whole list of things I wanted to accomplish. Some I got to, and some have still yet to be done. One burning item for me was to have our son’s ability to drive evaluated. My son is profoundly deaf and also has some physical challenges that could really impact his control over a large hulking mass of steel and glass (are you sensing where this article is going yet?) Some of you might even recall an article I wrote a few years back about how I watched helpless as he drove a go-kart straight into a wall, crumpling his leg like a pop can. It’s been very hard to erase that image from my head, especially last semester while he took driver’s education class. The good news is there are wonderful community organizations adept at assessing a driver’s capabilities in our area. As I said to the evaluator when we started the interview, “I want to ensure my son can be safe behind the wheel of a car, but I also don’t want to limit him in any way. This child has done nothing short of amaze everyone who knows him, but I need a third party to objectively tell me what he can and can’t do.” The evaluators were truly wonderful. They were sensitive but reassuring and most importantly, very respectful of my son.
When it came time to move from the in-clinic assessment to the behind-the-wheel assessment, I accompanied them out to the car and then watched them drive away, knowing my son would have his first-ever driving experience. I walked back into the waiting room, sat down and started to quietly cry like a complete dork. Took me a while to figure out why I was so emotional. I blamed it on being terrified for him and for the poor shoppers in the Home Depot parking lot where they were headed. But I realized that I was really caught between the fear of the report stating that he could drive and the possibility they would recommend that he never drive. Both results had such serious implications for this sweet young man I have worked so hard to protect both physically and emotionally. I texted just about everyone I knew for support and to help me pass the time while I waited. My poor husband repeatedly texted me back, “[The evaluator] does this for a living. And she has a brake on her side of the car.” A moment later, I saw a tow truck go by with a smashed car--the same model and color my son was driving. (Seriously?!)
Suffice it to say I was SO relieved to see them pull back into the lot. I managed to hold it together while the evaluators read their findings: they felt he had control at this level of speed but would recommend more one-on-one training. Very fair.
As I left there that day, it dawned on me that his hearing never came up as an issue. He did so well on the knowledge tests; he made the maximum use of his FM system and technology, and used visual communication as needed. Remembering back to when I worried about how being deaf might affect his life, it was a nice reminder that it had no impact on this moment in his life. And I somehow wanted to go back in time to when I was first learning of our son’s differences and show my younger self this later slice of his life. I think I would have been comforted to know how far he has come and how much he CAN do. Those days were so dark and discouraging. I obviously still get emotional (which I hate), but it’s because today my husband and I have so much to hope for. What I am still learning to do is to slow down and live fully in today and worry less about the future. It all has a way of working itself out. I have to hold on to the belief that this will all work out too.