I’m in the middle of two fifteen year olds who are learning to drive. If my mom were still alive, I’d surely be calling her to apologize for all the extra grey hair I caused her as a teenager!

It has been an interesting process. I like to joke that I’m the third string parent, but at this juncture I’m more than happy to not be the primary caregiver that is ultimately sitting in the passenger seat as these two kids learn the skills necessary for driving!

Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes, they nail it. They have their RADAR on and are aware of their environment and are paying close attention to what they are doing and what other drivers are doing. I feel safe and confident. I get lulled into a belief that this kid is a good driver. And then…

Something happens. It’s not always the same something. Once, the something was a great song came on the radio. Once, the something was that their cell phone rang. Once, the something was rain. Once, the something was that the neighbor’s car was parked in a different spot on the street. Once, we were talking and the conversation was too funny.

You see what I’m saying? Who knows what the distraction might be, but it has an impact on their skills. And then, suddenly, I don’t feel very safe and I’m not at all confident!

I have often – many years before the kids were of driving age – correlated the need for practice of the physical skills to driving. I have used the following (and I’m sorry I can’t cite the source, but I learned it from Tim Geels):

Unconsciously Unskilled – this was the kids when they were itty bitty. Kids will pick up something round and make motor sounding noises as they pretend to drive. They have no idea what they don’t know about driving.

Consciously Unskilled – this is the kids when things go wrong. It’s raining, or they’ve veered out of their lane, or something has happened that puts them on higher alert. The are very much aware of the fact that they are still learning to drive. They don’t yet have all the skills necessary.

Consciously Skilled – this is the kids when things are going well. When they are paying attention they know what to do and are able to do it well.

Unconsciously Skilled – this is most of us as adults. Have you ever driven a familiar route (maybe going to work) and once you arrive you think back and realize you don’t even remember the drive? Things are automatic. You don’t have to consciously think about what you are doing.

We want people to get to the point of “Unconsciously Skilled” as much as possible. However, the only way to get there is by practicing. Practice the physical skills. Talk through the crisis cycle and discuss how caregivers should respond. Practice being more proactive. Make this a part of your daily routine. Things need to be practiced so they become automatic.

Practice, practice, practice!

Nikki Wince – Mandt Faculty Supervisor