Part 1 of 2 from our Guest Contributor Greg Sneath (see part 2)
Cast your mind back to the very first time you ventured out on your own, or with friends, but explored with independence from your parents. It was exciting, fun and empowering. And so it is for all our children and young adults. Furthermore, having the ability to use the public transport opens a lot of doors and opportunities.
For our kids, the practice required to learn independent travel takes quite a bit longer, needs quite a bit of additional guidance and therefore, it is best to start at a young age.
Our family was very fortunate that we only ever had one car. This meant that from the very start, catching the bus was a normal routine when getting about. The steps along the way became second nature and very familiar at a young age. When it was eventually time to encourage independent travel, the challenge was not related to unfamiliar processes, but for taking responsibility for the steps.
Each step was practiced regularly; such as recognising the correct bus number and destination name. Also acknowledging the bus numbers and destination we didn’t want, so they could be allowed to pass by with confidence! Raising a hand clearly when the right bus is seen to be approaching. Checking with the bus driver as we stepped on board. Paying the fare. Knowing the right seats to use (passing by the front seats for elderly). These are all easy steps to take individually and if they have been followed studiously time and again on bus rides, then the opportunity to develop the skills to take responsibility for each step is more readily attained.
Identifying and recognising the key land marks for knowing when to press the button and to plan to get off the bus was a big challenge. We would practice knowing which side of the bus to sit on to look for the petrol station, or the church or park which provided the best landmark for when to press the button. We always used two landmarks; one as a prompt to be ready for the next landmark. The second one providing the signal to press the button.
So, while the car is so much more convenient, plan ahead, make sure public transport is a familiar option for your young person. Leave the car in the garage, catch a bus, save the planet, and provide the groundwork and practice for future independent travel skills.