Autism and Finding Strategies to Deal with Buses and Trains

Today I had to go in the back of the minibus with students as part of my job as a Learning Support Assistant. Luckily I know all of the students really well now, as it is nearly the end of the year, and I get on with them all too. The hardest part for me was the fact that I had to sit in-between two students. As I have touch issues it was really hard for me. I am sure that one of the students, like me, has high functioning autism (Asperger’s) so I tried my best to not touch him in case it caused him some discomfort. The other student seemed fine but for me it was quite difficult and even painful. It was all the light brushings in my arm that hurt me due to me having touch sensory problems. I managed to turn my body to the side a bit so it was not as bad but it was still it difficult and long bus journey.

I am normally in the front of the minibus and sometimes without students and other times with. As I sit next to the door I can normally sit close to it to make sure I do not have the light touches that hurt me or cause discomfort. Sitting in the back was unavoidable for me this time and fortunately I do not have to do it often. I do feel for the students that have touch sensitivity though that have to do this on a regular basis. As well as having the touch issues I get incredibly bad travel sickness. Especially when I sit in the back of a bus or car and I cannot see out of the window. It would have been unbearable but I have managed to find some good travel sickness tablets that work well for me called Kwells. As I go in the minibus quite often I have to take them about twice a week and they work really well. The only side affect is a bit of drowsiness but it is well worth it for the positive affects.

Communication was also a massive issue, as it normally is. Now I am older I am a bit better at making (or attempting to make) small talk but overall I still find it very difficult. Most of the time I am just quiet. Most people seem to be fine with it though. It used to worry me when I couldn’t think of things to say to other people but these days I don’t worry that much as it is just the way I am. I understand we can’t all be chatty and talkative all the time and as there are people that are overly talkative there are people like me, on the other end of the scale, that are very quiet.

There are some strategies that can help on public transport such as buses and trains which are:

  • Learning how to drive and get either a car or motorbike.  Is by far the best solution but probably the most expensive and difficult.  Life is certainly better when you have your own car though as the space is incredibly private, you can choose what music you want to play or have not music at all, and you decide who you want with you.
  • Wearing headphones.  Will almost always signal to other people that you are not free to engage in a conversation.  Also other people will often not choose to sit next to you as they do not want to listen to the music you have on.
  • With travel sickness, sitting in a seat where you can see out of the front window helps a great deal.  Or if there is a choice between using a bus or a train I find a train is the smoothest and more comfortable ride.  I also find travel sickness tablets help a great deal.
  • If it is getting into work or school you could choose to get the earlier bus, train or tram and see if it is less busy which will help with touch issues and feelings of being trapped.
  • Incentives will help a great deal.  This can be promising yourself a treat for going through this difficult time or if you are the parent of someone with autism offering them a reward for going on the bus.
  • If it’s a shorter distance consider using a bike or walking instead.  When I was younger and didn’t have a car I used to walk several miles a day to either get to my friends house and back (who lived over two miles away from me) or to visit family and even to get to college and back occasionally (which was about three miles away, other times I would cycle there and back).  At the time I couldn’t afford buses and preferred to walk than wait for them and have to deal with all the sensory issues they caused.  It had the massive benefit of making me a much fitter person and still enjoy exercise to this day.  There were times when I would walk in the cold and rain but I feel it made me a tougher person enduring these difficult times.

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