Sometimes when we get a new referral to do travel training we find out what we think we are going to do isn’t what actually ends up happening. This was the case when I received a referral from a counselor at the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. She was interested in having her client, Ricky, learn how to get to his new job at Office Depot using public transportation. Ricky had some bus riding experience; however, occasionally his autism made him feel overwhelmed and anxious.
When I met Ricky and his sister I found out that the job wasn’t ready for him to start. So…now what…? His sister was very supportive of him learning how to use the public transit system to become more independent and build his self confidence. Rather than cancelling the travel training, Ricky and I decided to practice how to go to other places he was interested in…like the Park Meadows Mall.
In the past, sometimes when Ricky would ride the bus he would get lost and call 911. I explained that that wasn’t a good way to handle feeling anxious and “lost.” Instead, as part of the travel training process, I encouraged him to talk to the bus driver if he thought he was lost or to call me if he was feeling anxious. Ricky worked very hard at learning the bus routes and changing his behaviors.
Also, Ricky learned how to travel to Panera Bread in Aurora to meet with his job coach. On the third time, Ricky was able to complete the trip on public transit independently without any assistance from me. I met him at his destination and when Ricky arrived at Panera he was so proud of himself. “I did this on my own,” he told me. After only three months of travel training, Ricky had learned some bus routes and was able to travel on public transportation independently and with confidence to places that were important to him.
Brent Belisle, Via Travel Instructor and Transit Advocate for People with Disabilities