Jack’s Travel Training Story
Jack was initially referred for the ITT programme by the team at Samuel Laycock School. Originally, it was planned that Jack would be trained from his home to school however there was no trainer available until the end of August. Therefore, it was agreed that Jack’s training would be completed to Tameside College where he would be going in September.
Jack was really keen to undertake the training, some of his friends from school had either gone through the travel training programme or were in the process of being trained by Pure.
The programme is individualised, taking into account the needs of the young person. Jack has a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome as well as Ocular Albinism. Although the trainers are hugely experienced working with young people with a diagnosis of Autism, Ocular Albinism is a new area of support for them.
Mum, Karen, explained. “Ocular Albinism is a lack of pigment in the eye and presents as nystagmus so it’s a shaking eye. The pigment in the eye helps you to absorb the images coming in, therefore, as Jack doesn’t have enough pigment as we do, he doesn’t see things clearly as we do”.
Jack has lived with this all his life. “I don’t know any different to be honest so it’s something that I sometimes forget to realise how much of a challenge it is.”
The challenge for Jack was to make sure he stopped the correct bus service for his desired journey; as the time between him seeing the number of a bus and putting his arm out could sometime be quite short. This is not an issue if there is only one service due at a bus stop but more complex if there are multiple buses arriving at one stop.
Travel trainers have access to a wide range of resources they can draw upon. Jack already had a bus hailer and this was utilised so he could make the drivers aware of which service he required.
Another part of the training that was individualised was the use of landmarks. With the clocks now going back and the mornings getting darker, it was important to make sure any landmarks worked for Jack. As he is his own expert on his condition he told us.
“I have a tint on my glasses so as not to let too much light through. Even with that tint, I still struggle in sunlight but, because the sun is higher up, it’s much easier for me to make my journey to college. Before the clocks went back, I was struggling a bit more because, early in the morning, it’s a bit closer to my eye level so it makes it a little bit harder to see.
When I’m travelling, I use the landmarks like I’ve been taught. I sometimes look at people and where they’re getting off the bus as a way of checking where I am but you can’t always rely on that. I did nearly miss my stop once.”
Mum picks up Jack’s comment ‘nearly’ missed his stop. “Why, what happened?” showing that there is still a degree of nervousness.
“In a way it’s good that you get familiar with a journey and you ease into a journey and that’s a normal thing to do. I don’t want you to be on high alert every time you go on a journey. The fact that there was a slip up and you corrected yourself is fine.”
The travel training programme covers a range of scenarios and every young person works through these at their own pace. Part of the training tries to alleviate any anxiety parents and carers might have by supporting the young person to communicate regularly to re-assure parents or carers that they are okay. This would normally be at strategic points along the journey; when they are at the bus stop, when they are at the Interchange and when they reach their destination. It was clear during the conversation that Jack wanted to re-assure his mum
“That did happen but then Jack was ‘over-telling me’ I’m leaving the building, I’m at the bus stop, I’m on the bus, I’m getting off the bus, I’m in Ashton. When he got home I said it’s great that you keep me updated but I don’t need that level of re-assurance.”
Likewise, the programme also covers what to do if things don’t go to plan.
If anything went wrong I’d have used Google maps or the tools at my disposal to find out how to get to college. Phoning people, phoning college, using Google or the bus apps to figure out where I am and where I need to go.
It is clear that Jack’s independence had definitely increased. Whilst talking it became clear that Jack is using his new skills to access the shops in the local area. “The shop at the local Texaco garage isn’t that expensive really.”
There is a look of curiosity on mums face. Which brings us on to the freedom being independent gives someone.
“I’ve been to a few shops that are very local, I’m always with friends, I don’t go on my own and I make sure that I don’t get ‘mugged off’!”
Mum can also see a change in her son. “He’s increased in confidence, he’s come out of himself, making choices himself, we have discussed the odd one. I have said to him that he doesn’t check everything with me. It’s good to hear that he’s been doing that and he’s made choices about getting later buses and he’s been confident about that, it did take a while but then it was great to see that he was then confident to know, if I stay at the gym, I can get myself home. So it doesn’t have to be that bus at that time; which I thought might happen because of his Asperger’s. It wasn’t that, it was him knowing that I can get THAT bus at THAT time.”
“I’ve definitely seen an increase in confidence in Jack, He’s been to Ashton with a friend, while he was there he text me and he went on to Hollywood Bowl. So they got themselves to Hollywood Bowl, spent some time there and they got themselves back. That was huge, I wouldn’t have let him do that before. We’ve already talked about Jack getting the bus to his drama rehearsals because it’s only in Denton…I do prefer to drive him, he is my son and you look after them don’t you. But, if I have to take my other son somewhere or I’m out, if Jack can get himself there then it means he can still go to his rehearsals.”
As is always the case, travel training is always promoted better by those who have experienced the impact it makes. When asked what she would say to other parents Karen responds. “I’d say go for it wholeheartedly because it just makes a huge difference. It gives the teen confidence and parents quite often, especially parents of children with additional needs can keep their children too close and too cosseted. As hard as it is, you have to let the apron strings go. It’s all regulated, you’re talked through it, it’s safe, it’s 100% you’re not signed into anything; you’re not signing your life away it’s all a negotiation. You’re consulted, ‘are you okay with that’, ‘is that alright’, you get feedback. I’d just recommend it.”
And Jack’s sales pitch? “I’ve seen it myself, and I understand, that I’ve done a lot more and am capable of doing more and I’m happy with myself for that. It’s something that’s extremely beneficial even if you have experience, just give it a go.”