Shared space on the ‘L’

My professional life of working with people with disabilities brings me joy every day. And, seeing people with disabilities out and about and living their daily lives in our shared community brings an instant smile to my face.

Living in Chicago, I get to ride the ‘L’ train to/from work everyday. Accessible transportation is a huge issue in the world of disability rights. I get to see people with visible disabilities almost daily on my train. When I see people with disabilities on public transportation, I think that the work I do may be producing results. They -– like me -– are on their way to work, going to a friend’s house or heading downtown for a film -– living life.

Sometimes I get to see a person who is exhibiting some of the characteristics of autism.

Last week I entered the train and took a seat behind a young man who was grinning ear to ear. Most of us have a bit of a scowl, so this in itself was pleasant. As soon as the train took off he began to slowly rock to the motion of the train, and his smile widened.

The world of the ‘L’ is basically each person stays in their space and operates in their own universe. This young man clearly knew the rules. He rocked in his own space and never swayed out of his personal bubble zone.

Did people take notice? Maybe.

Did they see his big smile and experience some shared joy. Hopefully.

Is he a person with autism? I will never know.

But sharing space with someone who experiences that much pleasure from a simple train ride reminded me that everyone has something to contribute to brighten our world.


 

Comments may not reflect Easterseals' policies or positions.


Please read our community guidelines when posting comments.


  1. bonnie mcgrath Says:

    that’s what I hope, that seeing my daughter molly with autism out there on public transportation–and otherwise–makes people smile…


  2. Patricia Wright Says:

    Deb and Lori – thanks for your interest and information regarding communication. Many people with autism do not develop effective spoken language; they rely on augmentative and alternative Communication (AAC)to communication with others. AAC users utilize signs, photographs, picture communication symbols (see http://www.mayer-johnson.com for more on picture communication symbols), and/or speech generating devices to communicate with others. The American Speech and Hearing Assocation (ASHA)has a great introductory article on AAC: http://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/Augmentative-and-Alternative.htm


  3. Lori Robb Says:

    Deb, people with developmental disabilities are no different than anyone else except that their communication skills may be not as developed. Be very clear in your expectations with them. Be specific and try not to use slang terms as people with limited communication skills often do not understand slang or nuiances in speech. They rarely understand sarcasm. If they are non-verbal find alternate ways of communicating such as a picture board (called PECS) or sign language if it is known. Hope this helps.


  4. deb Says:

    I RECENTLY STARTED A JOB IN A VOCATIONAL DAY PROGRAM FOR THE DEVEPLOPMENTALLY DISABLED. I MYSELF HAVE A DAUGHTER WHO IS 4 AND DOWN SYNDROME. NO SIGNS OF AUTISM. BUT THE PEOPLE I WORK WITH ARE, PLUS ‘MR’ ( MENTAL RETARDATION)
    HOW IS THE BEST WAY TO COMMUNICATE?


Leave a Reply