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Training gives more independence to Richmond student with autism

A mother praises a training program that taught her son to ride the bus and socialize more.
TransLink gives training to people with disabilities to help them navigate on public transit.

A young adult from Richmond is riding the bus with ease after taking a routine-changing workshop.

Before Joshua Li received training from TransLink last September, his mother, Brianna Qiu, used to drive him to school each morning and drop him off at his extracurricular classes.

But Li, who was diagnosed with autism at six years old, now commutes independently and with confidence after learning the ropes of taking the bus and SkyTrain.

“He can get anywhere, and I remember how proud he was when he went to downtown with his cousin,” Qiu said. “He was able to walk on Robson Street freely …. So, even his confidence is not only for (commuting), it also shows through in terms of (him feeling) comfortable making decisions on his own.”

Li received transit training as a part of Explorations: Pathways to the Future, a Richmond School District program that prepares Grade 12 students with diverse abilities for adulthood.

The training begins with a workshop on how to plan trips and take the bus and SkyTrain, taught by Chris Chan, manager of travel training at TransLink. From there, teachers accompany students in taking transit until they can commute on their own, according to TransLink.

Qiu said Li has a key and commutes to and from school, goes out for haircuts and overall looks after himself. She added the transit training also taught her son how to travel safely and has improved his social skills.

“He’s able to talk to people better because when he sits in the bus, he might have to somehow interact with people, so it’s better than (me) personally driving him. He didn’t have to talk to me. You know how teenagers (are). They don’t talk to their mom,” she said.

Besides learning the ins and outs of transit, students — who are accepted into Explorations through staff referrals — learn about post-secondary education and how to get a job. Qiu said Li helped out in a seniors home and felt good about giving back to others.

She added she is very proud of her son and from talking to his friends and teaching assistant at school, they have seen him grow up so much.

For more information about TransLink’s training program, visit their website.