NEW YORK — Straphangers will hear young voices welcoming them to the subway system this month as the MTA rolls out its second year of station announcements from New York kids with autism.

They’ll play throughout April for Autism Awareness Month, with the aim of increasing acceptance of New Yorkers with autism and making them feel welcome on city transit.

“Hey, everybody!” begins an announcement debuted at the Fulton St. Station on a recent Monday morning. “My name is Aydan and I love trains so much that MTA is letting me make an announcement as part of Autism Awareness Month.”

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Five-year-old Aydan Lyazidi, sitting with a dozen other young New Yorkers on the autism spectrum, gave a wide smile at the sound of his voice.

“Remember to let people leave the train before you get on,” Aydan’s recording continued, “Help us keep the trains moving!”

Participating made him “so happy,” he said.

“His being acknowledged, it’s amazing,” his mother Luliana Preotu told the Daily News. “He is absolutely obsessed and in love with the subway system — he knows every station, every train, so it’s such a treat for him.”

Of New York City’s roughly 830,000 public school students, 25,656 receive special education services or support for autism. Students on the autism spectrum account for 14% of all kids in the city with individualized education programs.

Announcements by Aydan and 22 others remind straphangers to offer up their seats to older riders or those with disabilities and to stand clear of the platform edge until a train is in the station.

The messages will be played at many of the system’s largest stations.

“All of the kids did a fantastic job in explaining the rules of our subway system and we’re delighted to have them here with us,” said Demetrius Crichlow, the agency’s senior vice president for subways.

MTA bus drivers, train conductors, station agents and other workers were on hand to field questions from children in attendance.

Morgan Calles, 6, asked Crichlow why only one of the MTA’s new R211 trains has been put into service so far on the A line.

“Once it operates for 30 days of service without any problems, then we start introducing more and more trains into the system,” the official replied. “It’s only one train right now, but more will be coming.”

The subway system is especially important for youths with autism, said Jonathan Trichter, the founder of the Autism Transit Announcement Project.

“A lot of children with autism are intensely fascinated by trains,” said Trichter, a local businessman and investor who has opened a special needs school in Manhattan.

“These kids first learn to interact with other New Yorkers through their love of the trains. It’s how they first come to civic engagement. It’s a hugely important part of their lives,” Trichter said.

“The fact that they’re going to play (the announcements) publicly will bring acceptance and awareness to the rest of the ridership, so that they understand that these kids are different but similar, and no less.”

Since launching last year in New York, the Autism Transit Announcement Project has expanded to transit systems in San Fransisco, Atlanta and New Jersey.

With Cayla Bamberger

© 2023 New York Daily News
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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