The Essential Guide to Safe Travel-Training for Children with Autism and Intellectual Disabilities – Dr Desirée Gallimore
Long-time blog visitors will remember this book appearing on my 2017 “Books I’m looking forward to” blog post. Well, at long last in January 2019 I have finished reading it.
This book appeared on the list in 2017 because I work in the same field. I wanted to see how the advice and guidance given in the book compared to my own experiences.
When I got to the end of the book I decided that this book was not aimed at me. That’s not to say there isn’t valuable information within it – there certainly is – it just didn’t go into as much detail as I had expected it to. There were also a few strange things in it that I didn’t agree with – I’ll highlight two of these things further down.
Travel training is the term given to teaching people to travel independently using public transport – usually people with disabilities, older people who have lost confidence in travel independently, or people going through rehabiliation following an injury. It’s one of those fields where you say the title of your job and people tend to go “Huh?” (unless they’ve engaged with travel training in some way previously).
This book is something of an introductory guide to travel training and the basics of teaching someone to travel independently, from finding out “Who is x (travel trainee)?” and what do they want and need from travel training, through planning and assessing the route, through to actually delivering travel training. It takes an empowering approach to supporting people to learn to travel independently, focused on the wants of the individual and reiterating throughout that learning to travel independently shouldn’t be forced upon a person nor should random routes be used that have no meaning to the individual.
There is a strong sense throughout the book that anyone can learn at least some of the skills to be safe when travelling and that level of independence and autonomy is unique to each person and valuable regardless of distance.
The books focuses on backwards and forwards chaining methods of teaching, dividing journeys up into segments and focusing on teaching one segment at a time before both increasing independence and beginning teaching on a second segment. It details how to teach basic travel skills, starting from walking safely along a pavement to crossing a road, to navigating buses and trains. It gives detailed advice on judging when an individual is ready to progress and guidance on how to “shadow” an individual and provide fading support so you can help them should unexpected events occur that they don’t cope with, for example diversions or stranger interactions.
The area of strangers is one where I personally wouldn’t take all of the author’s advice, specifically including “women with prams” in the same safer strangers category as police officers or bus drivers. While I can appreciate that the author reasons that she has many years of experience that suggest women with prams are safer to approach for help, I would not teach someone accessing any travel training I delivered this same rule.
I mentioned earlier that there were some other unusual things discussed in the book, take a look at the quotation below:
When considering a travel training (for children with ADHD), the goal must not include high risk activities such as road crossing or public transport. Instead, children can learn short walking routes where there are no driveways although for things, for example, from the car into the football club walk from home to the local park.
It doesn’t state whether this goal referred to is the first goal, or just any goal. The way it reads in the text is that children with ADHD can’t engage in activities like road crossing or using public transport because it’s too risk for them. There are few other things like this there are just a bit odd and this takes away from what is otherwise a good introductory guide for independent travel training.
As I said at the beginning, this book is probably not aimed at somebody like me who is already working within the field and has done so for a number of years. I say this because there just isn’t the depth of detail that I would expect on teaching the emergency situations. There are parts where there’s a little bit more detail, for example during some of the case studies it goes into more detail about how to help young people learn how to self regulate or manage difficult sensory environments, but it doesn’t get into the different techniques and strategies you can you used to teach a young person how to manage when a bus goes on diversion or when a train breaks down.
This for me is the biggest letdown of this book. The young people I work with are often really quick at picking up the road crossings and learning the route, it’s the more abstract concepts that can’t be practiced regularly without some considerable engineering of the situation the court and difficulty.
Overall, I do like this book and I like the fact that it focuses on learning new skills regardless of a person’s age and that it is about empowering people to do what they want to do and at their pace. For anyone looking to get a beginning idea on how to support someone to learn independent travel skills, it’s a decent place to start.