London is a challenge for someone with autism.
My brother wanted to go to London. Why? To see Buckingham Palace.
It’s the simple things.
He visited London as a very young child, but can’t remember it at all. His only experience of the big city is what he sees on the news. So, I planned a trip. He thought the coach would be the preferred mode of transport, but over three hours on the M4 was not my idea of fun, so I booked the train.
He can’t even remember ever being on a train. I think the last time was when he was about five years old and we went to Dawlish for a day out with our Gran. We didn’t get off to a good start as the seats I had reserved weren’t there. In fact, the whole carriage wasn’t there! There’s always an upside though – we sat on the drop down seats in the wheelchair area, which meant he could see out sideways for the whole trip. Astounded at the green countryside and how when we approached a town, it became more built up.
Remember that he lives quite a lonely life and has a limited outlook. Things that we take for granted, are often things he has never seen. Like the Westbury White Horse on the hillside and the barges on the canal. When I said, ‘look at the horse on the hill,’ he was looking for a living horse. Things like going through a turn-style was a whole new experience for him, but he dutifully followed me and showed no real anxiety. He did say that it was all different, but he doesn’t have the capacity to explain how he actually feels. The noise, smells and just the speed of everything must be quite tricky for him to deal with.
Just like in the films!
I didn’t think until later in the day that he probably hasn’t been on an escalator for years, and here I was expecting him to go into the depths of the earth on a Tube! As we walked from Paddington Station down on the Bakerloo line, he said, ‘It’s just like in the films!’ He has only ever seen it on the TV.
Explaining where we were going, and which direction the train was coming from, I was praying it wasn’t going to be stacked with people. It was. Obviously, it was the Tube! Thankfully, most people vacated, and we even got seats. He was astounded that it didn’t take long at all to reach our destin