Children on the autism spectrum used their voices to make PSA announcements on major public transit systems, in a yearly campaign that's delighting riders.
“Hey everyone, I’m Ryan. Please stand clear of the closing doors,” one California child announced in a recording for the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) in the San Francisco area.
The Autism Transit Project bloomed during April’s Autism Acceptance Month in metro stations across the nation, including California, Georgia, Washington D.C., New Jersey and New York. The initiative is led by Jonathan Trichter, the founder of two schools in Connecticut and New York for students with special needs.
"My name is Alonso, and I love trains so much that New Jersey Transit let me make the announcement as part of Autism Acceptance Month," another child said in a recording. "Remember to let people leave the train before you get on. Help us keep the trains moving."
"My name is Taylor and I love trains and buses," a child narrated for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority in D.C. "Please be mindful of the priority seating reserved for senior citizens and persons with disabilities."
Trichter tells TODAY.com that the project matched the interests of many children on the spectrum.
“Being around children with autism, I became very familiar with a phenomenon where some kids focus intensely on (for example), systems of mechanical engineering that we encounter every day, which often includes trains,” he says.
Trichter started the project last April in New York City, where for one day, 11 stations participated, broadcasting every 15 minutes during the day.
This year, children were selected by transit agencies in the Bay Area of California, Atlanta, Washington D.C., New Jersey and New York City.
"Children on the spectrum are often some of our biggest fans — what a great way to give them a thrill," BART spokesperson Jim Allison tells TODAY.com. Local volunteers from 17 families supplied announcements that were played every 30 minutes in 50 BART stations.
"Maybe a rider hears the message and gets an emotional lift — BART is a communal experience, unlike inching along the freeway alone in a car," he says. "Perhaps some of our younger riders hear someone their age making an announcement and feel a connection — it’s vital for us to engage our next generations of riders."
Colleen Kiernan, assistant general manager in external affairs at MARTA in Atlanta, tells TODAY.com The Autism Transit Project got immediate approval.
“Autism has touched my family and I knew what a positive impact this would have," she says. "We have received great reactions from our customers, some even asking if we can use the announcements year-round because they brighten their day!"
Trichter says families were excited to hear the finished products.
“You could see the unadulterated pure joy on the children’s faces,” says Trichter. “Many of the parents reported that they saw in their children an advancement in their pride and self-assurance.”
Trichter wants The Autism Transit Project to go global in Tokyo, Berlin, London and Paris.
"This hit a nerve," he says. "It's a chance for people to take a moment to learn that some kids are different but similar — and no less."
This article was originally published on TODAY.com