Mom slams subway passengers who ignored her autistic son’s cries for help

Mom slams subway passengers who ignored her autistic son’s cries for help

A mother has sharply criticised commuters on a London Underground train who ignored her autistic son's cries for help, after he ended up lost and afraid on his own while travelling on a central line service. On Saturday, November 17, 19-year-old Idrees Malik, who hails from Ilford, in east London, jumped on the wrong train while travelling with his carer from Stratford to White City station. Aside from autism, Idrees also has ADHD, asthma and dysphagia. Terrified, he began panicking and screaming for help.

However, the other commuters, who were either disturbed by, or indifferent to, the commotion, ignored Idrees while his carer and family began frantically looking for him. Although he was eventually found safe and sound, his mother Zakia Khan was outraged that her son was neglected by other responsible adults travelling on the train, and believes that the stigma surrounding autism endangered her son. Now hairdresser Zakia, who also works as a support worker to disabled children, is urging people to help vulnerable strangers in distress while on their daily commute.

Zakia Khan and her son Idrees Malik. Credit: Press Association

Commenting on the incident in question; "He was screaming and kicking the doors, but the other passengers ignored him. I don’t know how they can sleep at night. All it takes is opening your mouth and asking if someone is okay. My son wouldn’t hurt anyone, but clearly people are just too busy on their phones in London ... Every Saturday morning for years, he 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. 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 ... 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."

She added: "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. 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."

An image of Idrees Malik. Credit: Press Association

Thankfully, Idrees was saved by a kindly stranger (who wishes to remain anonymous) who saw him having a panic attack and came to the rescue. The stranger worked with disabled people himself, and recognised the signs that meant Idrees was in need of help. He managed to calm him down, top up his oyster card, and escort him home.

Although Zakia is deeply grateful for his support, she wishes that there were more people like him out there in the world. So if you see someone in distress next time you're out and about, then do them a good turn and speak to them. You could be making all the difference in the world.