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How travel training is transforming lives of students with diverse abilities

How travel training is transforming lives of students with diverse abilities


When Joshua Li was diagnosed with autism at age six, his mom Brianna Qiu worried that he would never be independent. And up until recently, Jason Gubbels needed his parents to drive him to places to get around. This meant his ability to make plans was entirely dependent on their schedules.

But fast forward to today, Brianna realizes that was unwarranted after seeing how Joshua’s confidence has transformed over the last year.

Joshua’s newfound independence and ability to problem solve is in large part thanks to programs such as the Richmond School District’s Explorations Pathways to the Future, which accepts students through staff referrals. It prepares Grade 12 students with diverse abilities the skills they need to transition from being a high schooler to a young adult.

The program reduces differences in experiences and abilities between neurotypical students and students with diverse abilities.

Eve Minuk, the teacher with the Explorations program, had noticed that most neurotypical students graduate with paid employment experience. However, she says it was hardly happening with Explorations students.

That’s why as part of the Explorations curriculum, students explore in detail how to get a job, practice how to take transit, and learn about post-secondary education. To practice getting a job, they do exercises to determine what to wear and how to communicate. Then, they apply their learnings through mock interviews.

In travel training, students attend a workshop from TransLink where they learn the basics of trip planning and how to take the bus and SkyTrain. It’s led by Chris Chan, manager of travel training at TransLink. The students then practice what they learn with teachers who follow them around until the students can ride unsupervised.

For Joshua’s classmate, Jason Gubbels, his mom Candy Gubbels was nervous as Jason had not been on a bus before. The travel training workshop has since put Candy at ease. She’s even become Jason’s travel training student as he knows more about taking transit.

Students receive Travel Training from Chris

By gaining work experience and learning how to take transit, the students are not only becoming less dependent on their families, but they also have the freedom to make choices and even develop friendships.

Eve recalls a student telling her:

“Now that I’m transit trained, I can go anywhere, anytime, with whoever I want.”

This change is also evident for Joshua and Jason.

Joshua has been inviting friends to travel around Richmond and get coffee, as well as shopping in downtown Vancouver with his cousins. Jason has been with friends more too. He sometimes travels to Vancouver for lunch and rides the SeaBus to North Vancouver just to hang out.

What was once unimaginable for some parents is now possible.

The students’ ability to go places is no longer conditional on their parent’s availability. Now, they can explore more and do more.

It’s many thanks to parents for placing their trust in a program like Explorations. And of course, thanks to Eve, and Educational Assistants Cindy Carr and Teresa McMillan, as well as Chris from TransLink for their commitment to ensuring students graduate with the basic tools they need to thrive as young adults.

Are you, or know a senior or person with disability who needs help with independent travel? We provide large group informational workshops and you can be a part of it! Contact our Travel Training team at 604-953-3636 to learn more or to request a workshop.

Students, teachers, and Chris chat in the classroom


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