My 16-year-old son has always excelled with fine motor skills, and academically he’s had no real problems. I have always noticed, however, that he was lacking in gross motor skills. He could walk and talk and do all the essential things, but he was uncoordinated and not athletic at all. He has had a job for over a year, is very artistic, likeable, funny and talented. I always worked under the theory that some people are just stronger in some areas than others, and he’s just not an athlete. No problem — he excelled in other areas, so no big deal.
When he turned 15, I started trying to teach him how to drive. There were the usual problems at first of making turns too wide or too tight, etc. My more experienced friends told me to be patient, that those skills would come. But after many times behind the wheel, I began to wonder if he would ever “get it.” He wasn’t noticing cars turning in front of him, would only brake when I yelled to STOP (after saying slow down, start braking, and other encouragements, until it became necessary to scare him into actually stopping), wasn’t noticing when lights would turn yellow or that it had turned red, or even that there was a signal ahead at all. I would tell him to turn into the next subdivision, or some other such instruction, and he would say okay and then just not even slow down. I kept wondering what his mind was on that he wasn’t paying attention to me or the road or anything.
I took a break and a family friend worked with him for a time. The results were the same — my son couldn’t stay in his lane, didn’t seem to be paying attention, and came precariously close to driving full speed into ditches and other cars. No matter how much practice he had, he wasn’t improving. Over the course of several months, I had come to realize that my son was more than just uncoordinated. He had a lack of spatial awareness that was severely affecting his driving ability, and probably other areas of his life that I was unaware of.
I had heard about Little Giant Steps and the neurodevelopmental approach from friends, and I wondered if the program could help my son. I had mostly heard of the program helping kids with dyslexia and auditory processing problems, so I wasn’t sure if my son could be helped, but I wanted to check it out. We had our first evaluation five weeks ago and were given exercises and activities that were supposed to help. Last weekend, I finally took my son driving again, and there was a world of difference! From the very beginning of the driving session, he turned into the correct lane, stayed in his lane, kept the proper distance from other cars, was aware of other traffic, paid attention to traffic signals, etc.
I am so excited about his progress! We still have some practicing to do for sure. I have been letting my son drive everywhere we go, and I have noticed that the longer the session, the less he pays attention. But I am greatly encouraged that with practice and continued participation in the program, he will be a safe driver within a couple months.
K. B. in Dripping Springs, TX July 2009 Little Giant Steps