Mum slams Tube passengers who ignored her autistic son

Single mum slams passengers who IGNORED her 19-year-old autistic son’s screams for help when he lost his carer on the London Underground

  • Idrees Malik, from Ilford, London – who also has ADHD – looks like a grown man 
  • Teen became separated from his carer on the London Underground last month 
  • Luckily a kind stranger stepped in to help Idrees and bring him back home
  • But his distraught mother Zakia Khan has hit out at passengers who ignored him 
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A mother has told how her autistic son’s cries for help when he lost his carer on the London Underground were ‘ignored’ by his fellow passengers.

At 6ft tall, 19-year-old Idrees Malik, from Ilford, east London – who also has ADHD – looks like a grown man.

But he has the mental capacity of a child, according to his mother Zakia Khan, and suffers developmental delays because of autism, ADHD, asthma and dysphagia, which affects swallowing, all of which make him extremely vulnerable.

Zakia, a hairdresser and support worker to disabled children, recalled what happened on 17 November when Idrees accidentally hopped on a different Central Line train to his carer.

‘He was screaming and kicking the doors, but the other passengers ignored him,’ said Zaika, 46.  


Zakia Khan, left, has told how her autistic son’s cries for help when he lost his carer on the Underground were ignored by his fellow passengers (pictured with 19-year-old Idrees, right)


Idrees Malik, from Ilford, east London – who also has ADHD – looks like a grown man. But he has the mental capacity of a child, according to his mother Zakia Khan

She added: ‘Every Saturday morning for years, [Idrees] has gone on the Central Line with his carer from Stratford to White City. They get something to eat and come back again. He loves this routine and never changes it.

‘But, for some reason, Idrees accidentally got on the wrong train without his carer, going back to Stratford. 

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‘He wasn’t wearing his lanyard, which has details hanging from it, giving his special needs and before his carer realised they had been separated, the carriage doors had shut, leaving him trapped, alone and terrified.’

Without any medication, or a clue about where he was going, Idrees panicked and started screaming.

Meanwhile, his carer alerted station staff, asking them to put out an alert, giving his description and called Zakia at the salon, from where she contacted her five sisters and three nephews, asking them all to help find him.


Speaking about her son Idrees (pictured), Zakia said: ‘Idrees is very verbal and loves to talk about his interests – especially food and haircuts’

Zakia recalled: ‘I spent 45 minutes on the phone to the police, begging them to find Idrees.

‘As a single mum since I split with his dad when he was born, he’s my world and all I have. I knew that him being autistic would make him so much more vulnerable.

‘He may be 19 years old and 6ft tall, but mentally, he’s half that. He’s just a child.’

With her sisters rushing to every nearby train station, hoping he would turn up, eventually, Zakia went home to break the awful news to her mum, Nazir, 78.

‘She’s even more overprotective than me,’ she said. ‘I knew her world would crumble, but 20 minutes after I got home, I had a call from the salon to say he was on their doorstep.

‘I ran across the road to the salon and grabbed Idrees the moment I saw him. I was so out of breath I barely noticed the stranger standing next to him.’


Idrees, pictured, became distressed after getting lost on the tube last month. Luckily a stranger bought him a bottle of cola and topped up his Oyster card to get him home safely, leaving Zakia overflowing with gratitude for his kindness

Fortunately, the stranger – who wishes to remain anonymous – worked with disabled children and, realising Idrees’ behaviour indicated he was probably autistic, had stepped in to help him.

Zakia said: ‘He told me how everyone else on the train had put their hoods up or plugged their headphones in, to ignore my son’s cries for help.

‘But this man approached Idrees and just asked him a few simple questions – like if he was okay and needed help.

‘My son replied that he’d lost his carer and wanted his mummy, so the kind man – who is practically my hero now – decided to bring him all the way back home.’

The stranger also bought him a bottle of cola and topped up his Oyster card to get him home safely, leaving Zakia overflowing with gratitude for his kindness.

But, equally outraged by the people who ignored her son, Zakia said: ‘It’s a good thing this guy was such a kind man, but the reality is he could have been anyone. He could have been dangerous and no one tried to stop Idrees from going off with him.’


Zakia with her son Idrees. She said: ‘As a single mum since I split with his dad when he was born, he’s my world and all I have. I knew that him being autistic would make him so much more vulnerable’

Now back to his normal self, Idrees happily chats to Zakia’s hairdressing clients as if nothing happened, but she has been left determined to try and raise awareness, so strangers will understand her son.

THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF AUTISM

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with autism have trouble with social, emotional and communication skills that usually develop before the age of three and last throughout a person’s life. 

Specific signs of autism include: 

  • Reactions to smell, taste, look, feel or sound are unusual
  • Difficulty adapting to changes in routine
  • Unable to repeat or echo what is said to them
  • Difficulty expressing desires using words or motions
  • Unable to discuss their own feelings or other people’s
  • Difficulty with acts of affection like hugging
  • Prefer to be alone and avoid eye contact
  • Difficulty relating to other people
  • Unable to point at objects or look at objects when others point to them

‘Autistic people aren’t scary or vicious or aggressive, they can be vulnerable people and are totally entitled to have their part in society and be represented,’ she said.

‘Idrees is very verbal and loves to talk about his interests – especially food and haircuts.

‘When he sees me upset over what happened, he climbs on to my lap and gives me a big squeeze. I suppose he doesn’t realise his size.

‘Situations like these make me wish we lived in a better world, where autistic people were safe and cared for, rather than ignored, so I didn’t worry every single time my son stepped out of the door.’

Now Zakia is urging people to think if they see someone in distress, like Idrees, to simply smile and ask if they need any help like they would with anyone else who seemed confused or upset.

She said: ‘As bad as it sounds, I worry about what will happen when I die.

‘How can I rest in peace, knowing my son has been left alone in a world like this, with no understanding of his condition? It’s too ignorant for someone like him.

‘Hopefully, things will change and, with more awareness, we will be able to remove the stigma from disabled people of all ages.’

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