My husband’s oldest sister and her husband live in Wales and husband has decided that he will go and visit them for four days during half term this year, as I will be visiting my family in Norway and celebrating my mother’s 70th birthday there.
He was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in 2015, but before that one of this fears was and still is travelling alone in places he has not been before or is not familiar with.
To travel to his sister’s town in Wales, he has to catch the train from here and change at Birmingham New Street to get his connection. He was really not relishing this because Birmingham New Street is a big station and he was getting more and more worried about how he would find his way and know he was on the right train, and all in all finding such a busy place with lots of people and sounds overwhelming. It was making him very anxious and he was contemplating not going at all. Previously if there have been journeys he’s had to make, such as for job interviews, and nobody were able to to a trial run with him then he would simply not go. Once when he was travelling to work his bus was diverted and he ended up at the end of the line very distressed and it took him a long time to find his way back and calm down about it happening.
I had already booked the tickets for his train journey but I suddenly had a brainwave on Friday. Now that he has a diagnosis, surely he would be eligible for assistance from the train company?
I had a look on Arrive Trains Wales’ website and there is a number you ring (you have to book 24 hours in advance) and the process was very straightforward. You give them the time and date and where you are going and what kind of assistance is required, and they get the assistance booked for you. And the lady I spoke to was very nice and nothing was a bother at all it seemed. We asked that he was met at the platform in Birmingham and taken to his connecting train to Wales, and I asked if they could please stay with him until he is on the train in case there are any platform alterations.
You get an email receipt with everything that has been booked and you print this and take it with you together with your tickets. They do ask that you make yourself known to a member of staff at least 20 minutes before departure so we will make sure we are there in good time.
For my husband who does not have a mobility impairment but who does have Asperger’s and epilepsy, this means that he will be met at the train station where he is leaving from. They will then phone ahead to Birmingham New Street to let him know what carriage he is on so someone can meet him on the platform there. They will then take him to his connecting train and stay there until he gets on and the train leaves (in case there is a platform alteration, something he might not register in a busy station). The station he is travelling to in Wales is not manned but the conductor will be told where he is and when they get to the station, they will ensure he leaves the train and his sister will meet him there.
He will then have the same assistance coming back again.
I’m so pleased I thought of this and hopefully it sets his mind at ease a bit. When he has made the journey a few times he will more familiar with it and know what to do but for now it helps him see his sister, something we can’t normally do as I work so much. He is looking forward to his trip now and looking forward to having a break from work, something I think he needs at the moment.
I’ll let you know how it went!