Travel Training Children with Autism
“Kids have to be exposed to different things in order to develop. A child’s not going to find out he likes to play a musical instrument if you never exposed him to it…” (Dr. Temple Grandin, https://www.templegrandin.com/).
As Dr. Grandin, a person with Autism, expressed, exposure is key. Exposing children with Autism to as many experiences as possible will give them the best chance at success. This makes the work travel trainers do even more essential for children with Autism. Exposing children to navigating paths of travel, crossing streets, riding and alighting buses and other types of vehicles, and possibly most important, exposing them to social situations allowing them to build the commonly lacking skill of interacting appropriately with others will enrich their lives and help them to achieve the highest level of independence. Of course, not all children with Autism are appropriate candidates for travel training if your program goal is to ensure independent travel skills upon completion of training. Having said that, there are many skills and experiences travel trainers can provide that will enhance their lives and, for many, could lead to independent travel. As a parent of a child with Autism, a past travel trainer and transportation service provider, and a current educator on accessible transportation, I’d like to offer you a few tips on travel training children with Autism.
Tip #1: Learn about Autism and the Specific Characteristics, Traits, and Learning Abilities of your Trainee
“Wanting to be free. Wanting to be me. Trying to make people see. And accept the real me.” (Scott Lentine, https://the-art-of-autism.com/scott-lentine/)
Each child with a disability is distinct. This is never truer than with children with Autism. Each child’s Autism characteristics present themselves in different ways. Many through their lifetimes will develop coping mechanisms to better assimilate into the social and behavioral “norms” that most of us easily learned as a child. It is also the case though, that the coping method, as well as teaching method you will use to work with them, is not a one-size-fits-all. First and foremost, you should learn all you can about Autism and, more specifically, all you can about the individual characteristics and preferred methods of learning of the child you are working with. This will require not only talking to your trainee, should he/she have communication skills, but also speaking to family members and others providing services such as teachers, occupational therapists, speech therapists, etc.
Tip #2: Create an Individualized Training Plan