Who we are
All Aboard Club was set up by Richard Semmens in 2018, using his personal lived experience of autism and ADHD. It was originally called Engine Shed – South London and became All Aboard Club in 2020.
Following my autism diagnosis in 2015, I realised that there are few opportunities for autistic children to play together in the same way as other children.
They needed a space where their sensory and environmental challenges could be accommodated, and their autistic behaviour would be accepted and understood.I created a small community group to run local events in a local youth club in south London.
From these initial sessions, we learnt from the parents and children about the importance of their special interest in trains, and how it can unlock their potential. Using their interest in trains as a platform(!), the children could develop their social and communication skills, their independence and their sense of identity.
By providing child-led play sessions, the children can share their interest with their peers and develop ways to play together. They build their confidence to take on new and challenging tasks, working with other children who they have never met. Their parents regularly comment on their children’s focus, patience and teamwork with other children.
Staff and volunteers
We are very lucky to have a team of staff and volunteers who have personal experience of autism – being autistic themselves, the parents of autistic children or working with families of autistic children. They really understand the needs of the children and provide an understanding environment for them to enjoy their trains.
At our play sessions, we have huge Tomy and Brio train sets which the children can build and play with.
- Brio: Wooden trains and tracks, with magnetic couplings to join locomotives, carriages and wagons together.
- Tomy: Plastic trains and tracks, some based on the “Thomas the Tank Engine” characters and other based on modern trains. All locomotives are battery-powered with simple on/off switches for the children to operate.
All our trains are checked for each session and comply with safety regulations.
Some of our trains are powered by small batteries. These batteries are tested and replaced regularly and cannot be removed from the trains without specialist tools.
We work with a wide range of organisations to provide inclusive events for autistic children and their families:
National museum providing sensory-friendly events for families with children who need a quieter environment to enjoy the museum.
Heritage steam railway providing Autism Days with Engine Shed.
Battersea-based organisation providing better outcomes for children with special educational needs.
National Autism Society, Lambeth branch
Providing parents and carers with children on the autistic spectrum and autistic adults with events, advice and support.
Support group run by parents/carers living and caring for a child or adult on the Autistic Spectrum.
Providing support, advice and information for families with disabled children, no matter what their condition or disability.
Helping families with young people on the autism spectrum in the London Borough of Lewisham.
Experienced autism practitioner providing training and consultant to families and professionals.
An autism support group based in Caterham delivering workshops and training for parents/carers, schools and workplaces.
Lansdowne School, Stockwell
A special needs secondary school.
The Arc, Caterham
Providing a community space in the heart of Caterham.
London Museum of Water & Steam, Kew
Telling the story of London’s water supply, the site, its people and the amazing pumping engines.
Station Hall, Herne Hill
A community space in the former railway station waiting room.
Subscribe to our newsletter
Join our mailing list to receive the latest news from All Aboard Club