Encouraging independent travel

It is so important for young a person to access life as an independent, happy adult, wherever possible. However they do need to a feel safe and have autonomy.   To support and teach them these important skills, it needs to be started when they are young and not leave it too late.

A professional in one of our special schools was discussing this recently,

“I know all this depends on the needs and ability of the person but I DEFINITELY believe it can and should be done – not being able to make decisions about their own travel and get about the immediate community around them is so debilitating for our young people with SEN and it should be a huge priority.”

“The key to it all for us is really just persistence and practice, and noticing the tiny bits of independence they are gaining each time – might be getting their wallet out of their own pocket unprompted one day, or finding their own seat on the bus, or scanning the bus pass themselves etc. All those bits add up but obviously the complete process is completely daunting at first when you are aiming at complete independence. Visual schedules with photos of different key parts of the process (bus stop, number of bus, ticket scanner, landmarks on route so you know you are going in the right direction etc.) are all really important if you have someone who relies heavily on that prompt for it to be successful”

This is worth considering when making baby steps towards your young person being able to be independent within the community.

These are the areas to consider teaching your young person.

  • Walking to school end of year 6 and to secondary school
  • Walking to a friend/family member's house
  • Popping to the local shop
  • Going into town
  • Going into a shop/café
  • Getting to ollege by bus or train
  • Problem solving
  • Does your young person need a Thames Valley Autism Alert Card?

Teach them to know and understand the following

  • Learn the route/journey/planning a journey
  • Practice the journey and learning alternative routes
  • How and where do I buy a ticket, what do I say and ask for?
  • Where do I sit on the train/bus. Where do I wait?
  • How do I search or look at a timetable?
  • How do I use my smart phone and apps
  • If using a taxi, make sure I know which company to call
  • Build on confidence and becoming independent
  • Personal safety and problem solving – crossing roads, Stranger Danger
  • Learn to ‘Wait’

How to Cross a Road Safely

  • THINK FIRST - PLAN. Find the safest place to cross then stop. ...
  • STOP. Stand on the pavement little way back from the edge. ...
  • WATCH AND LISTEN. Look for traffic in all directions and listen.
  • WAIT UNTIL IT'S SAFE. Wait patiently and let the traffic pass. ...
  • WATCH AND LISTEN. When it's safe, walk directly across the road.


  • Put together timetables to show them when and what time it is,  ready to leave – older children can use their smart phones
  • If need print out or send them pictures of landmarks
  • Make sure they have your contact numbers
  • Put together a 'What If' card if things go wrong.
  • Make sure they carry their Alert Card (Autism)

This will take time and there is no rush, however please start early and slowly their confidence will grow along with their independent skills. It will also open up new travel opportunities for you and your family.

Back to top of page