Man with mental age of four told to remove Thomas Tank Engine costume
Train enthusiast, 27, with mental age of four, is told to take off his Fat Controller costume at a Thomas the Tank Engine event because he was ‘impersonating a member of staff’
- Gareth Bell from Dundee, has rare genetic disorder called Angelman Syndrome
- Dressed up at Brechin’s Caledonian Railway event in Angus, Dundee, Scotland
- Mother Laurie Alexander said Mr Bell would needed to remove hat, jacket and tie
- Mr Bell was told to sit away from other visitors to prevent ‘mistaken identity’
An adult with the mental age of four was ordered to remove his fancy dress costume at a Thomas the Tank Engine event, because he was ‘impersonating a member of staff’.
Gareth Bell, 27, who has a rare neurogenetic disorder called Angelman Syndrome – which causes severe intellectual disabilities – dressed up as a station master to attend the event at Brechin’s Caledonian Railway, in Angus, near Dundee, on Saturday.
Mother Laurie Alexander said the family were shocked when they were told Mr Bell would have to remove his hat, jacket and tie on health and safety grounds.
Gareth Bell, 27, who has a mental age of four, was ordered to remove his fancy dress costume at a Thomas the Tank Engine event, because he was ‘impersonating a member of staff’. Above: Mr Bell in a ticket office in his garden which his parents built for him
Mrs Alexander, from Dundee, said her train enthusiast son was also told to sit away from all the other visitors before boarding for fear of mistaken identity.
‘I’m totally broken and can’t stop crying about what happened,’ she said.
‘Gareth has Angelman Syndrome and he’s a gentle giant. He is a toddler in a big man’s body.
‘The man asked if Gareth could remove his hat, jacket and tie because he was impersonating a member of staff. I was also told he had to sit further along the platform away from all the other visitors.
‘They blamed health and safety.’
Gareth eventually travelled on Thomas with his uniform left behind on the station bench.
Mother Laurie Alexander said the family were shocked when they were told Gareth, who has a mental age of four, would have to remove his hat, jacket and tie on health and safety grounds
Mrs Alexander said the experience was hugely upsetting.
‘Gareth has always loved trains and he adores Thomas,’ she said.
‘I just wanted the ground to swallow me up and I thought I was going to start crying. But I kept my emotions in check because Gareth was unaware of what was happening.
‘When I asked him to take off his costume he told me: ‘Bad mummy’.’
His father Robert said Mr Bell recently went to Perth to see the Flying Scotsman while dressed as ‘Station Master Gareth’, without any difficulties.
‘The staff there did everything they could to accommodate him and he even got to wave the train off from the station,’ he said.
‘Gareth is six foot three and doesn’t look like he has learning difficulties but not everybody that is disabled is in a wheelchair.
‘The situation could have been handled totally differently and it’s a real shame that it has come to this.’
Mrs Alexander, from Dundee, said her train enthusiast son was also told to sit away from all the other visitors before boarding for fear of mistaken identity. Above: The Brechin Caledonian Railway event
Mrs Alexander said: ‘Gareth has Angelman Syndrome and he’s a gentle giant. He is a toddler in a big man’s body’
The couple turned the shed in their garden into a station for Gareth who is a well-known figure in the Fintry community.
A spokesman for the volunteer-run Caledonian Railway apologised and has now invited Gareth back to Brechin to make amends.
He said: ‘We would apologise for any upset that was caused which was never our intention.
‘We are not here to single anybody out and this was a case of miscommunication between the two parties.
‘We would like to clear the air and invite Gareth to join us next weekend at the station for a look around and a train ride.’
Angelman syndrome (AS) affects about one in 15,000 people, or about 500,000 individuals worldwide.
Symptoms include severe intellectual disability, developmental disability, speaking problems, balance and movement problems, seizures, and sleep problems.
What is Angelman Syndrome?
Angelman syndrome is a genetic disorder that affects the nervous system and causes severe physical and intellectual disability.
A person with Angelman syndrome will have a near-normal life expectancy, but needs looking after for the rest of their life.
Most people with the syndrome will have intellectual disability and limited speech throughout their life.
The typical characteristics of Angelman syndrome aren’t usually apparent at birth.
A child with Angelman syndrome will begin to show signs of delayed development at around 6-12 months, such as being unable to sit unsupported or make babbling noises.
Later, they may not speak at all or may only be able to say a few words. However, most children with Angelman syndrome will be able to communicate using gestures, signs or other systems.
The movement of a child with Angelman syndrome will also be affected. They may have difficulty walking because of problems with balance and co-ordination (ataxia). Their arms may tremble or move jerkily, and their legs may be stiffer than normal.
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