Special Services Update

11/13/15

Repeat Train Thief Steals NYC Bus

The New York Times reported yesterday that Darius McCollum, 50, stole a Greyhound bus from a terminal in midtown Manhattan. The bus, which was discovered missing just prior to its scheduled departure time for a trip to Virginia, was found shortly thereafter in Brooklyn with no passengers aboard and Darius behind the wheel.


Darius is well known to law enforcement for similar exploits. When he was 15 years old he managed to take control of a subway train, and, since then has stolen several buses and successfully entered a control room of a midtown subway station. As a consequence, he has been arrested more than two dozen times and spent a significant portion of his life in prison.


Darius has Asperger's syndrome, a type of high functioning autism that can result in narrowly focused behaviors, such as his obsession with driving public transit vehicles. The NY Times article reports that his friends and family have tried to keep him out of trouble by trying to satisfy his obsession by getting him a job at a train museum, which he eventually abandoned.


As I read this article I thought, why doesn't he work for the NY Port Authority? Why isn't he a bus driver or a subway conductor, or in his case, both? Clearly he exhibits the desire and the ability to excel at an occupation such as this one. In fact, he successfully drove the subway train six stops to the World Train Center as a self-trained teenager.


Sometimes I think educators and families of loved ones are limited by the presence of a disability, and don't see the abilities that an individual has, or, most importantly, the possibilities. Darius is a great example of possibility, if only he were operating on the right side of the law. Often our attempts to shelter and assist students results in learned helplessness and students who don't go on to become all they are capable of becoming. I wonder if Darius had been given the opportunity to work for the transit authority if things would have turned out differently for him.


I hope times have changed for individuals with disabilities since his first joy ride in 1981, and we are able to see that individuals with disabilities are capable of accomplishing marvelous things. As we prepare our students for their future lives, we must maintain high expectations for their work and independence, and always foster the creation of a foundational platform where anything is possible.


Darius is not deterred by his recent arrest, and continues to believe that anything is possible. When processed he told detectives "I'm stealing a plane next." My money is on Darius.


Here's your tool of the week, an outline of the social and cognitive aspects of play: http://www.tooloftheweek.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Social-and-Cognitive-Aspects-of-Play.pdf


Jennifer F Connolly, PhD

Director of Special Services