Hard work pays off as Ryan gets behind the wheel

Ryan Mollgaard has mastered the theory – now he is behind the wheel of a car and practising to take his driving test.

Ryan, 24, wants to work as a gardener, but for that he needs his own transport. A year ago, the Tauranga man started studying for his learner licence, working with IHC volunteer Sara Hillier-Jones.

“I got my provisional licence on 17 December. It is my goal to learn how to drive a car,” Ryan says. “It has been pretty tiring. The hardest was the give-way rules.”

Ryan went online to learn the Road Code, doing the practice tests repeatedly. Ryan doesn’t find handling a machine hard – he learned to fly an aircraft in Morrinsville as an air cadet – but it’s the theory that trips him up. Ryan has autism linked with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

Sara and Ryan started the project in February last year and met at the Greerton Library in Tauranga as often as twice a week, using the public computers to go online to drive.govt.nz. “There are quizzes you can do at the end of each segment. We worked through all those and, once we had completed them, we went over them again,” Sara says.

A perfect score is 35, and she knew Ryan was ready to attempt the test when he was scoring in the 30s. On his first attempt in October he missed four questions – you are allowed only three misses. But in December he passed with all 35 questions correct.

“He was over the moon. It was wonderful. It was worth every minute,” she says. “His perseverance has just been amazing.”

Sara, who focuses on skills-based learning as part of the IHC Volunteer Programme, went along to Ryan's first driving lesson in January to lend some support. “The instructor, Dave, drove to a quiet area before he let Ryan take the wheel. He was so impressed with Ryan’s driving that instead of swapping and driving back into the city centre, Dave had Ryan drive back. At the end of the lesson he told Ryan that it was very rare that someone would drive in the city centre on their first lesson.”

Ryan has lived with Ron and Shirley Sitters since his mother died when he was 14. “He calls us his grandparents,” Ron says. “Shirley and I are very, very proud of the way Ryan has come through. Sara has been absolutely outstanding.”


Photo caption: Ryan Mollgaard, pictured with Sara Hillier-Jones, was confident to drive through the Tauranga city centre on his first driving lesson.


This story was published in Community Moves. The magazine is posted free to all IHC members.

Read the full issue of Community Moves online here.