Travel Training: Fostering Independence for People with Special Needs

Meet Kevin, Program Graduate

Travel Training Graduate from Community Transit on Vimeo.

Kevin turned 16 and decided to get in his father's car and drive. Trouble was, he didn't have a driver's license. He may never have one. Kevin is autistic. He is also fiercely independent. He just needed the tools to manifest this independence. Thankfully, his family found just the thing - Community Transit's Travel Training, which provided one-on-one training individualized for Kevin's needs.

After the driving attempt scare, Kevin's family realized that their son was determined to go out into the community on his own. Kevin's mother, Wendy, said, "He's not going to take no for an answer. He wants to go places on his own and do things on his own. We needed him to be successful in knowing how to do that and being safe while doing it."

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Meet Kevin, Transit Instruction Program Graduate

Thankfully, Wendy had heard about Travel Training and realized that now was the time to find out more. She shared how Kevin's teacher at Lynnwood High School encouraged her to give us a call, "I found a random number for Community Transit and said, 'My son's teacher said someone can teach special needs kids how to ride the bus; how do I find out about that?'" Wendy and her husband were so surprised this program existed, and that it would be free. We put her in touch with our program director and soon Kevin was on the road.

Kevin's family was excited, but also nervous. They realized that Kevin needed to learn more than just the logistics of riding the bus, he also needed to learn how to be safe. Wendy explained that her son is very trusting, has limited communication skills, and is quick to answer people in the affirmative. She was worried people would take advantage of this, "I knew he would be fine knowing where he was, but knowing how to interact with the community while he was by himself made me nervous. It was a really big obstacle for me, and she (Kevin's instructor, Christine) did a really good job of addressing that and holding on to him until she felt that he could deal with it and she gave him a lot of role playing type situations."

Like many nervous moms would do, Wendy followed the bus the first time Kevin went out on his own. He did great! "It hit me, he's okay. He had become capable with it and didn't need my help." Not only is she proud, Kevin is proud, too. The first time he went on the bus alone he went to the church where his father is an assistant pastor. As soon as he saw his dad, he exclaimed, "I did it MYSELF. I can now have my independence." Since then Kevin enjoys going to restaurants (Panda Express is his favorite), Half Priced Books, and the Lynnwood Pool. He has memorized the Bus Plus book, and knows all the stops for Routes 120 and 112.

Wendy knows as he matures, this independence will serve him well, and Community Transit will be part of his life as an adult. "As he becomes employed later to get to work, to get to and from by himself, and just the independence, the self-sufficiency to be able to do what he want to do." His older sister, who also has special needs, has seen the independence Kevin has gained and how he can go places on his own without having to ask a parent. A little sibling rivalry was all it took for her to find the motivation to gain her own independence. She has just started Travel Training herself!

Do you know someone with special needs who would benefit from Travel Training? Visit www.communitytransit.org/traveltraining or call (425) 348-2379.