Conductor stops train for autistic Clinton boy

Saturday , July 26, 2014 - 8:59 PM

Standard-Examiner correspondent

CLINTON -- Twelve-year-old Matthew Mancil, who is autistic, has loved trains for as long as he and his parents can remember.

“I have been liking trains for a lot of years now,” said Matthew. “The level that I like trains is a lot more than anything else.”

Every day he meets his special needs group run by Rise, a private company, at the Meadows Park in Clinton, and the company takes the kids to a variety of activities.

When he is there, he sees the passing trains and tries to get the conductors to honk their horns.

“I like making them blow their horns to let the cars know that they need to stop, so they can be safe. That way the train can pass by safely,” Matthew Mancil said.

Matthew’s parents, Aaron and Rebecca Mancil, say that Matthew is concerned with safety.

“He is very much the enforcer of safety rules,” Rebecca Mancil said.

“Being autistic means that he’s very strict with rules and how he thinks things should be,” Rebecca said.

“Trains do not stop easily, so cars need to look both ways before crossing a train track, or it could result in a serious injury,” Matthew said.

Matthew also carries two train schedules with him wherever he goes, a FrontRunner train schedule and a Trax train schedule, said his mother, Rebecca.

“He uses it as an opener to talk to people,” his father, Aaron said.

So when he was at the park with his special needs group on July 17, and a Union Pacific freight train was going by, and slowed down and stopped for him, he was thrilled.

“I saw the lights start blinking, and the gates went up, and then the train slowed down and stopped,” Matthew said.

“I was so excited, boy, I was going to have to call my mom and dad and tell them what happened,” Matthew said.

The conductor of the Union Pacific train gave him a vest, sunglasses, and a lantern. When he stopped the train, he gave the items to Carissa O’Conner, a staff worker for Rise, and told her to give them to Matthew.

Apparently, the conductor must have noticed Matthew there waving to the train for about a month, because they have been meeting there since June, said Rebecca.

“Now I have a security vest. When I go to my summer program, I keep an eye on people who don’t look both ways.” Matthew said.

“He has limited interests. It’s hard to find things he loves. Since he loves trains, we do family activities around trains, and we know we’ll keep his attention,” Aaron Mancil said.

Matthew is the oldest of 5 children ages 12, 11, 8, 5, and 4. Matthew’s brother Noah also likes trains, but not to the extent that Matthew does, said Rebecca.

“I think it is really neat that the conductor would do this for Matthew. I don’t know if he realized the positive impact that what he did would have on Matthew,” said Rebecca.

“We are really grateful, it took a lot of thought to go and do the act of service that the conductor did. It means a lot that he would do this and it really helped Matthew.” Aaron Mancil said.

“Since this has happened, and people have heard about it, we have received a lot of kind notes, and offers from people. Matthew was invited to tour the Union Pacific training center in Salt Lake City. He got to drive a train simulator, which was really fun for him. We have also had people from Florida call us and we were given a link to a website that has cameras running all the time on a very busy train crossing. A train goes by every five minutes. Matthew has really enjoyed that,” Aaron Mancil said.

“It has been good for our family to hear about others who have autism who also like trains too. It’s great to hear good news and support,” Aaron said. “It’s been a really neat experience.”

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