Learning to drive with a learning disability

Learning to drive with a learning disability

Driving instructor Bill has been working with Ryan, not only teaching him how to drive but also preparing him for life on the road. Ryan has special educational needs which means his driving journey will be a little different to other peoples, but that’s not stopping him! We’ve asked Bill and Ryan how they’re getting on with the driving journey.

Bill - Approved driving instructor 

I have been teaching Ryan for around a year now after being kindly sponsored by the deserving young driver's scheme that the Marmalade Network offer. A friend of mine actually told Ryan’s Mum about me. I had just retired from the ambulance service, I’m a qualified paramedic and a state registered nurse and of course – a recently qualified driving instructor, so it seemed like a great fit that I would be the one to help Ryan on his driving journey. I think my background has really helped this driving journey!

Getting started

First things first - I helped Ryan in getting his provisional licence sorted and as soon as we had this, we set out on our first lesson. Ryan picked things up pretty quickly, and although I was still changing gears with the dual controls, he was progressing very well. It didn’t take long to get the basics in to place, and we moved on to busier areas.

After a few lessons in a manual car, we switched to an automatic. This helped Ryan a lot as he didn’t have to worry about the gears at all. He was rapidly progressing! I think the best moment for me so far in teaching Ryan was when I picked him up from his grandparents’ house and they were able to watch him drive the car away. This is something they never thought they’d see and everyone had a tear in their eye.

Using a sat nav

Ryan struggles with remembering his left from his right, so having a sat nav in the car with us on lessons is invaluable. Using the sat nav, Ryan is able to work out where he needs to go, especially at roundabouts when he can determine if the exit is before 12 o’clock or after and therefore which lane to get in.  The only issue we’ve had so far with the sat nav is that he struggles with the voice stating he should do something in a matter of metres or yards. To fix this, we use a bright green setting on the sat nav rather than a standard purple option, as he’s able to follow the lines.

Problems we’ve faced

The biggest problem we’ve found on Ryan’s driving journey is the theory test. There have been issues getting one booked that will meet Ryan’s needs but luckily we have especially assisted theory test book in for this month!

Ryan - Learner driver

We asked Ryan some questions on how he feels his driving journey with Bill is going.

"How have you found learning to drive so far?"

I love driving with Bill, I look forward to it every day! I will wait for the text from Bill the night before to confirm my driving lesson, and I’m eagerly waiting at the door until Bill arrives. In the first few lessons, we practised on quiet roads, but we’re slowly working our way up to busier areas. It’s even better now we’re using an automatic car! I don’t have to worry about the gears and can try to focus just on the driving.

"What’s your favourite part about learning to drive?"

So far, the best part of learning to drive was when my grandparents were able to watch me drive away from their house – everyone was really happy and proud! Now that I’m learning to drive, I’m practising for my theory test too. I’m getting better scores each time I do a mock test which is great. Bill is helping me with my theory, as well. He always tests me on different signs and road markings when we’re driving so I can remember what they’re telling me to do. I’m also in a WhatsApp group with other learner drivers and Bill. He will often send us stuff about training, other people who have passed and lesson slots, which makes me feel like I’m part of a student family because we’re all learning together.

Thank you so much, Bill and Marmalade for helping me learn to drive. If I pass my test, it will change my life – especially if I get a job in the future. Even if I can only drive with my mum in the car it will be amazing. Thank you Bill and Marmalade for giving me a chance to do this – I could never have started without you.

Marmalade Foundation's Helping Deserving Drivers

This inspirational story comes from all of the hard work coming from the Marmalade Network and the Marmalade Foundation’s Helping Deserving Drivers scheme (HDD). They added: “Bill put Ryan forward for the award and we were delighted to be able to help. Bill goes out of his way to help his young drivers and it is great to see how Ryan has come on since having the chance of these extra lessons.

Since we started up the scheme in January we’ve awarded 15 lots of driving lessons to deserving young people and it’s really exciting we hear of someone passing their theory or practical test.”


HDD provides free driving lessons for really deserving young persons living with challenges, and award winners are chosen either on individual merit or because they'll benefit their community.  Put simply, becoming mobile will make a visible difference to their lives and to the lives of all those around them!

HDD applicants can be put forward by instructors with first-hand knowledge of their situation or by charitable organisations and if you’d like to speak to someone about the scheme or if you know of someone who could possibly benefit, just drop a quick line to info@marmaladefoundation.co.uk

The Marmalade Foundation team is based in Dorset and can be contacted Monday to Friday, 9-5 on 0333 323 2615.

Find out more about Helping Deserving Drivers at:



Bill and Ryan

Driving instructor and learner


LDW 24 under 24

The LDW 24 under 24 is now closed.

The Learner Driver Week competition is now closed and all our wonderful 24 winners have been announced.

We will be returning next year for another action packed week of content and goodies but in the meantime don’t be a stranger – our news section and social channels are bursting with lots of useful news and tips to support you on your driving journey.