My son, Izaak, was kicked off the bus today. A little background: Izaak is eight years old and is autistic. He has been attending the Autism Summer Camp and was with that group today when the incident with Metro Transit happened. He was screaming. A little more background: Izaak’s screams can be an unsettling, almost supernatural experience. They are also loud – they are so, so loud. The driver of the bus, understandably, seemed to get a little rattled. Less understandable was the driver’s reaction, which was to stop the bus and order that kid off it.
The child has autism, it was explained to the driver, lest the sea of bright red shirts with the clear white lettering reading AUTISM SUMMER CAMP in CAPS on both the front and back was insufficient, let us have a moment to calm him down.
Get him off my bus, it was explained to the camp counsellors. I wasn’t there, so I am avoiding direct quotes and relaying the gist as it was relayed to me. The upshot was that Izaak was removed from the bus – his amazing and dedicated counsellor and the (if possible) even more amazing camp director at his sides. Almost as soon as the bus began moving – the rest of the kids and their (what must have been bewidered) counsellors still on it – one of the counsellors realized that with the director off the bus, keys with him, when they actually got back to the camp location nobody would be able to get in. They had to get off the bus, too, and – even after explaining this to the driver, he refused to give them the necessary transfers so that the thirty or so of them could catch the next bus for free.
This is neurodiversity and tolerance – Metro Transit style. Kids with autism aren’t ‘disabled’ enough to use the access-a-bus, but they are too ‘disabled’ to be tolerated by drivers of the standard buses. The blind can ride the bus for free, but some kids with autism not at all? For the record, I have no problem with blind people riding the bus for free (I think everybody should be able to do so), but I can’t accept a special rule, driver-imposed, targeting my son directly and others like him.
In the end, the next bus driver let the whole camp on and didn’t demand the transfers. He knew the camp, the kids, the counsellors. He liked them, besides. the issue was rightly brought to Metro Transit’s attention by the camp director, a file number assigned and an investigation pending.
New details to come, but I have just discovered that CBC is on its way over for interviews so I have to clean up. I’ll keep you posted.