Thursday, June 9, 2011

Learning to use Public Transportation?

Being able to drive is such an important part of American life.  To many with autism, including what I suspect is a fair number of those with Asperger Syndrome, it is almost impossible.  So therefore, enter public transportation.

I am not sure Bil has ever been exposed to public transportation.  He has had (up to now) his mother to drive him.   There is little public transportation where he lives.  The ARC he receives services from provides transportation to and from his sheltered workshop job.

What if Bil had to live with us one day?  Would he ever be able to use public transportation?

I do use public transportation, and the quality in our area (buses only) is somewhat spotty.  But we live within walking distance of a major line in this area.  For Bil to learn to use public transportation:

1.  He would have to know where to catch the bus and where to get off.  I think Bil could learn that fairly quickly, especially if he was using the bus only for one or two destinations.

2.  In our area, (with few exceptions), the buses use a "pulse" system i.e. the buses go to one central area (downtown) you get off, you find the bus you want to transfer to.  Again, I think Bil could handle this.

3.  To use the bus, you must have either exact change or a bus pass.  You must swipe the pass and it must register before you leave the boarding area and sit.  Again, with some repetition, I think Bil could use this.

4.  To signal the driver to let you off, you need to pull a cord.  Again, I think Bil could learn this.  On some buses, depending on where you sit, you might have to press a strip.  Having two alternate methods might be a bit tougher.

But, could he put all the actions together?

Where I am not sure Bil could learn is the social interaction.

1.  I think Bil would want to sit in the same place every time.  That isn't possible, especially on the more crowded routes/times.  I think that would be a real problem.  He has a rough time adjusting to small things like having to purchase a new radio.

2.  What if the bus driver had to engage him in conversation, such as if the pass didn't work right? (that does happen).  I think that would totally throw Bil "for a loop".

And, what would happen if the bus wasn't working right or broke down?  That has happened several times to me, so it is a possibility.  More than once the bus has stopped and the driver indicates everyone must get off.  They do this when there is a bus to pick us all up.  We have to walk to the new bus, get on, and in that situation you don't pay another fare.  I think that would totally throw Bil.

It will be most interesting if we ever have to train Bil to use the bus (assuming he ends up living in this area.)  I sure hope there are trained professionals to help us with this.

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