Travelling with Aspergers’ Syndrome
I love to discover new places and go on adventures, and having Aspergers’ Syndrome (a type of High-Functioning Autism) means that sometimes despite enjoying exploring my new surroundings, I find it can be difficult to support myself. This can occur in a variety of settings and situations when I am travelling around whether this be in my local area, venturing into unknown places, or just spontaneous adventures.
With Autism and learning disabilities becoming more acknowledged within society; a lot has been done to provide those on the spectrum with tools, systems and strategies to fight stigmas and allow the individual to have independence whilst travelling.
So, to the purpose of this blog…
To help those on the spectrum or those looking to support someone with Autism, here’s my guide to (English Based) transport services including Buses, Trains and the London Underground that may help to make travelling easier and more enjoyable!
Buses are an important method of transport for many people living in both crammed inner-city and more rural, countryside locations. Conveniently located bus stops and regular services (usually, anyway) make it simple to travel to where you need to get to.
We all know that Off-Peak Bus Passes are given to the elderly and the physically disabled; but did you know that if you have an Autism Condition you could qualify to receive one too?
Local County Councils (some may vary, so check if you qualify) have been issuing bus passes to those who meet the criteria of:
You qualify for a bus pass in England if you have “a learning disability, that is, a state of arrested or incomplete development of mind which includes significant impairment of intelligence and social functioning” (From: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2000/38/section/146)
If you meet this criteria (if you have a diagnosis of Autism by a GP, Psychologist or SEN worker) you will receive a bus pass that can be used at Anytime in your home county, and Off Peak (After 9.30am) in any other country across England.
My experience with Buses:
I cannot drive as I would find it too difficult to focus due to my sensory processing difficulties, so using the bus is a good option for me when getting around. My Bus Pass is really useful as I am able to travel independently and learn how to read maps, check-timetables and plan routes to get to destinations. It gives me the freedom to do my own thing and see new places.
If you travel long distances, or need to get somewhere fast, trains are a convenient option. Many Autistic people find the motion of the train a lot smoother to buses (as buses can be bumpy and loud), so travelling by rail is sometimes the best way for someone on the spectrum to get around.
Alternative to a Bus Pass, if you qualify, you can choose opt for a Disabled Train Travel pass which entitles you to 1/3rdoff selected tickets.
My experience with trains:
Despite delays, changes to services and cancellations, I often use trains as they are a lot faster than buses when I need to get somewhere.I use trains frequently to travel home from University or to see friends who live further away.
If you live or travel around or into London frequently, you will be aware of how cramped the tube can get (even during off-peak times). For someone on the Autism Spectrum, it can be really difficult to process the world around them, and using the tube can trigger meltdowns, breakdowns or sensory-processing overloads. To combat this and to help those with Autism or who stay find it difficult to navigate their journey; London Underground offer ‘Please Offer Me A Seat” badges to anyone who has a disability or medical condition, is pregnant, is elderly, or are less capable of standing.
It is free to apply and you can do so on the Transport For London (TFL) website at: https://tfl.gov.uk/campaign/please-offer-me-a-seat
My experience with the London Underground:
When travelling on the underground I wear my badge either on my person or on my bag, so it is visible to other passengers. Often people notice the badge and offer me a seat so I can feel comfortable as I get shaky or panicky when in busy crowds and find it hard to stand-up. Although the badge doesn’t guarantee I get a seat, most people when I ask are than willing to give up their seat.
I often have experiences though that can be really difficult for me to handle, where people have mocked me or looked at me with disapproval because I physically look able to stand. This is hard for me to process and I often have to explain to commuters that I have a hidden disability. Just because on the outside I look capable, doesn’t mean that I don’t have a disability that affects me on a daily basis.
General Tips for travelling if you are on the Autistic Spectrum
Here’s some of the things I personally find useful when travelling…
- Have a plan of your route memorised or written down: This can help you stay focussed during your journey and can make it easier to communicate with people if you are lost.
- Have a back up plan or alternative route: If something goes wrong, you have a back up plan in place (I always try to have some cash on me, or have a friend or family member on stand-but when can give me a lift to my destination or pick me up).
- Always bring water with you. Sometimes it can get busy, cramped and temperatures can rise, so stay hydrated!
- If you have an iPhone, use Medical ID on your home screen: This is a really great feature that Apple have developed for their smartphones. It allows you to manually enter medical information such as Blood Type, Medical Conditions and Emergency Contact Details that are easily accessible for anyone who picks up your phone. Emergency Services are aware of this feature so if you are ever in a crisis and find it difficult to communicate. You can provide them with your information so they can support you in the most convenient way.
- Find a distraction. Whether listening to music, reading a book, having a moment of mindfulness… it’s good to have something to keep yourself occupied or a task to focus on whilst on your journey. This can reduce anxiety and helps with building concentration skills.
- Most importantly… Have Fun!
So go out there and be proud of travelling and seeking new adventures, creating new memories and having amazing life experiences!
(Note: All information gathered is correct at time of blog publishing.)