Aidan, who attends Yooralla’s Mansfield Community Hub, set off on an overseas adventure in September 2019, when he headed to the United Kingdom with his mother Dawn and his regular support worker Jenny.
While a big part of the trip was to visit family and friends in the Yorkshire area, Aidan and the team at the Hub also brainstormed some other activities he might like to do on his travels, with one activity being the clear winner.
“Aidan absolutely loves trains; steam trains in particular. One of the most memorable days on the trip was when we caught a steam train from Huddersfield to York, where we visited the National Railway Museum.
“There was a cabinet full of little trains that Aidan loved, he stood there for at least half an hour, with the biggest smile on his face,” said Jenny.
Having the support of Jenny both before and throughout the trip relieved some of the pressures of overseas travel.
“It started off as an offhand remark, my coming on the trip with Dawn and Aidan, but I was so happy I was able to travel with them and help things run smoothly,” said Jenny.
Dawn, Aidan’s mum, agreed that she “couldn’t have done the trip without Jenny’s support in the end.”
“Her calmness and support helped us through some difficult situations at the airports. Having another adult to share conversation with, share caring and cooking duties really made the trip a lot more enjoyable from my point of view,” said Dawn.
The team at Mansfield Community Hub supported Aidan in the lead up to his trip, particularly through the use of social stories.
“We used social stories to familiarise Aidan with some aspects of the trip that would be new to him, like the inside of an aeroplane and some of the accommodation we would be staying in.”
“Also, to get him used to the idea that I would be travelling with them, he is used to seeing me at the Hub but not so much me with a suitcase at the airport with them!” Jenny said, laughing.
During the trip, Aidan and Dawn were able to try new things with Jenny’s support, such as exploring the caves in Buxton.
“Aidan loved the caves, we were a bit nervous about how he would go, but he really stuck at it. The tour was actually run by people on the autism spectrum,” said Jenny.
Having the support also meant that Aidan and Jenny could set off on adventures on their own, exploring the idyllic surrounds and rolling green hills of the local English countryside, including the farm shops.
“We became regular customers at the Bolster Moor farm shop, we were there pretty much every second day buying groceries – including lollies and cakes,” said Jenny.
The support also meant that Dawn was “able to get some ‘me’ time – going for a walk or run in the morning on the Yorkshire moors.”
“I was also able to go out for dinner with my extended family without having to worry about Aidan,” Dawn said.
The trip was deemed a success by all, with Aidan and Jenny frequently looking back on photos they took of their adventures.
“Aidan always seems really interested in the photos and always points out all the trains and viaducts we saw,” said Jenny.
Despite the “30 hours of travelling and two changes in accommodation, Aidan excelled himself throughout the whole trip,” said Dawn.
“I would certainly take Aidan back home [to the UK] again but not without support…often you need a second pair of hands while you deal with booking tickets, making arrangements and the like,” said Dawn.
Many airports are introducing new measures to make travelling easier for those who need additional support or understanding.
Jenny agrees that “it is important that people see travelling as a possibility for people with disability” so they can have their own overseas adventures, just like Aidan.