Driving instructor motors ahead despite dyslexia

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Derry’s newest driving instructor always knew it would be difficult to earn the required qualifications.

Former rally driver Paul Callan was quietly confident in his ability, quietly confident he could pass on the requisite skills to the city’s learner drivers but a formal qualification meant study and exams - a major challenge for a man with dyslexia.

When he embarked on the road to becoming an instructor in 2009, Paul had little idea just how bumpy the road ahead would be.

He signed up with a UK chain of driving schools who were teaching would be instructors and who had recently entered the north. And with their boasts of 100% pass rates and rich financial rewards, Paul says they seemed the right people to get in touch with.

“I told them I was registered dyslexic and they said it wouldn’t be a problem, “ Paul told the ‘Journal’ this week.

“They said there would be no reading or writing. But within minutes of me signing up to their franchise - and paying £4000- they had handed me this huge book and told me I would have to read it.”

He says within weeks he realised he had made a wrong choice.

“I told them because of my dyslexia I would need extra help but it was becoming obvious that I was wasting my time.

“I should have caught on - so many things didn’t add up - they were promising £30k per year, yet the people that were teaching us were on £12K.

“They promised the world and delivered nothing. I hope my story serves as a warning to others.”

Paul’s luck changed however, when he contacted Jim Doyle, from Foyle School of Driving, an instructor widely regarded as one of Ireland’s best and most well qualified.

“I started asking about and was given Jim’s name,” Paul says.

“From the day I first got in touch with Jim everything seemed to fall into place.”

Jim says it was vital to teach Paul in a way he could easily comprehend.

“It was important to find out how Paul had learned things in the past, to tailor the lessons to what suited him best,” Jim says.

“The learning was adapted to specifically suit Paul. Everything was looked at in a practical level, there was no handouts nor resource material”

Now having passed all the required exams Paul says he wants to warn people about his experiences with the chain of instructors - “ if it seems too good to be true, then it usually is,” he says - and encourage others with dyslexia not to fear getting behind the wheel.

He says he is indebted to Jim and his individually tailored teaching methods.

“The way Jim taught me made all the difference - there was no reading or writing, I wasn’t put into any position that made me panic.

“The learning techniques were tailored to how best I learn - that meant everything, the difference between passing and failing.”

Jim is equally proud of his pupil.

“Now Paul is in a position where he is a good point of contact for learner drivers out there who are dyslexic and are wary of learning to drive because of the theory test.

“He can say to people that with the right learning techniques, there is no reason to believe you can not do the same.”

Paul is now getting ready to hit the road with his first batch of learners. Anyone who would like to contact Paul can do so on 07752425894