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Mother says her son with autism was ‘mocked’ by rail staff after asking about an earlier service

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(Not written by me)


Mother says her son with autism was ‘mocked’ by rail staff after asking about an earlier service

Sarah Hilary said her son was becoming stressed at Paddington station in London and had hoped they might be allowed on an earlier service 


Josh Barrie

Wednesday October 24th 2018


A mother claimed she and her son, who has autism, were “mocked” by Great Western Railway staff at Paddington train station after she asked whether they might be allowed on an earlier service. 

Sarah Hilary, a crime novelist, said she had booked to travel on the 6.20pm train from London home to Bath but her son, 17, a vulnerable passenger, was struggling. 

“They were accusatory and it felt like they were mocking me and my son”

Ms Hilary said he can become overwhelmed on a sensory level in places such as hectic train stations. Given he carries a disabled person’s railcard, she hoped GWR would allow them both to start their journey early and avoid any upset.

She said to i: “They [staff] acted like gatekeepers, they were intimidating and belligerent, and it seemed like they were trying to save GWR profits rather than support customers, which is their job.

Nervous and upset 

“They were accusatory and it felt like they were mocking me and my son. It was bullying. They were acting like they thought we were ‘pulling a fast one’ and I was only asking to have some flexibility to get a freebie. 

“It distressed my son and he was visibly agitated and nervous. He doesn’t react well to these situations and hates confrontation. I showed them his railcard, but they just scoffed. 

“When I explained my son was autistic, one of the men said, ‘yeah, so’s mine’. If he is, I’m worried for his son, given the way he is. 

“I’ve never been treated so badly. It was horrible to experience, especially in front of other passengers.” 

Ms Hilary, who shared her and her son’s experience on Twitter, said she felt “humiliated” by the ordeal. 


After complaining at the ticket office, she was eventually allowed to change trains and was put on an earlier service. 

“I explained the situation and they were quite dismissive”, said Ms Hilary. “I didn’t receive any apology after I said I would like to complain – they just stamped our tickets and allowed us on an earlier train.” 

Ms Hilary said the carriages were incredibly busy and she thought her son “might collapse”. She took him to 1st class, and added that the train manager on board was “very gentle, kind, and understanding”. 

After taking her complaint to GWR head office, the novelist said senior staff at the rail company were helpful, offered her a refund on her journey, and free tickets on a future fare.


But she also said the experience really affected her son: “He told me afterwards, ‘mum, if that happens again, just sit me in a corner and I’ll ride it out. Please don’t ask the help desk again’.” 

GWR said what happened was “totally unacceptable” and said it has launched an investigation. 

A GWR spokesperson told i: “We are sorry to learn of Sarah’s experience while at London Paddington with her son. We work closely with a leading autism charity to give all staff awareness training as part of our customer service training programme. 

“An investigation has been launched into the issues raised. We are grateful to Sarah for bringing this to our attention and are in contact with her as part of the investigation.”

Source: iNews

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Yeah, people don't seem to give a sh*t about people with disabilities. If you tell them, you only put yourself in a vulnerable situation. They don't do sh*t, just stand there and misjudge you. F*cked up people they are. The world is is a sh*tty place, full of bull cr*p.That kid shouldn't give into that bull sh*t.

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I feel for the teen and as much as his mother was just trying to help, sometimes that can add to the anxiety. 

I don't like being singled out or treated differently. 

I'm a bit unsure why an earlier train would be less busy. I think it probably makes sense where the story is taking place though.

I would likely just try finding a spot and riding it out or figure out if I actually needed to get on that train.  Depending on how badly I need to get somewhere at a certain time, I can fight through the anxiety of a crowded train to a certain degree. Although it depends on other factors of the day.

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Just because they care about physical disabilities, colour vision deficiency, intellectual impairments, etc, doesn't mean they care about autism.

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