School bus

The mother of a 9-year old autistic boy, who is banned from taking the bus to school, says there needs to be more supports.

Last week the young boy cursed at the bus driver after being separated from another student when the two were having an inappropriate conversation.

Jennifer Young says she doesn’t condone her son’s behaviour, and agreed the original punishment of keeping him off the bus for two days was perfectly acceptable.

But when the Brooklyn mom was called into a meeting and told her son would be put off the bus indefinitely it was a blow.

“I don’t feel the punishment fits the crime,” she said.

Eventually Ms Young said officials agreed to review the situation in March.

“That is a long time to be removed from a bus,” she said.

“We are talking about a child with a disability and there needs to be more supports in place.”

Ms Young said there is support at school with EAs (Education Assistants) and she would like to see those services expanded to school buses.

“If the school isn’t going to put supports in how can they expect children not to fail?” she added.

Routine is key for many children with autism and travelling on the bus is a huge part of her son’s day-to-day that didn’t come easily.

Ms Young is frustrated and sees solutions that could be beneficial for everyone involved.

The latest statistics from Health Canada released in 2018 state one in 66 children and youth are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, ASD in Canada and in PEI in particular one in 59.

Considering the high rate, Ms Young believes things have to change.

From the time her son started school there has been constant communication with the school and that is a good thing, but as the population of autistic students expands, support has to keep pace.

Particular to the issue of having special needs children on the buses, Ms Young offers some ideas.

Having cameras on the bus can serve a couple of purposes, she explained.

“It would show the kids exactly what behaviour is unacceptable,” she said, noting it would eliminate any he said-she said in delving into any incidents that may occur.

In Ms Young’s case it was suggested she could receive funding to drive her child to school.

It is not a solution for her family, she said.

“What about autism training for the bus drivers?

“All the EAs that are getting very few hours, why can’t they get some more hours to be on buses?”

“I don’t know why we have to fight so hard to get supports for our children,” Ms Young said.

Nadine Williams of Whim Road agrees.

She lobbied to have cameras on school buses more than a decade ago. At the time she was concerned about activities on the bus and lack of supervision.

“Bus drivers need to focus on driving and getting the kids to their destination,” Ms Williams said, explaining how cameras and/or EAs on busses would go a long way towards helping drivers do their job.

Neither The Public Schools Branch or the Department of Education responded to questions on what supports are in place before press time.

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