Trans­port cut anger for autis­tic stu­dent

No longer meets coun­cil cri­te­ria for free ser­vice

Harefield Gazette - - NEWS - By Kather­ine Cle­men­tine

THE MOTHER of an autis­tic stu­dent is wor­ried for her daugh­ter’s fu­ture af­ter Hilling­don Coun­cil took away her trans­port to col­lege.

21-year-old Paige Gale, who has autis­tic spec­trum dis­or­der and Asperger’s syn­drome, re­ceived travel as­sis­tance for 15 years to help her to both school and col­lege. Paige would be tak­ing a ba­sic life skills course at Uxbridge Col­lege if the travel scheme had not been re­moved, but in­stead sits at home all day.

Her mother, Clare Harris, who lives in Cow­ley with her daugh­ter, says she can’t un­der­stand why the coun­cil has now de­cided Paige no longer qual­i­fies for home school trans­port. She said: “Paige is very vul­ner­a­ble to strangers. She will walk off with a stranger and that has been proven by the po­lice.

“When she was at school they did a week of ‘stranger dan­ger’ and had plain clothes po­lice of­fi­cers come into school to see which chil­dren would walk away with them and Paige was one of those chil­dren.

“She has no aware­ness of any dan­ger that peo­ple present to her and thinks that ev­ery­one wants to be friends. Ob­vi­ously, she can’t do public trans­port on her own, it would be too dan­ger­ous for her to do it. So she needs trans­port to and from the col­lege to be able to go.”

Paige at­tended Meadow High School and then spent a year at Uxbridge Col­lege, us­ing car travel or­gan­ised by the coun­cil. But this was with­drawn last month on the grounds that Paige lives within three miles of the col­lege.

Ms Harris, who works full-time as a ser­vice ad­vi­sor at a car garage, said: “Be­cause Paige can’t at­tend col­lege she’ll never get a job. She’s learn­ing ba­sic life skills which she hasn’t got. She’s got no con­cept of money and doesn’t so­cialise as peo­ple aren’t nice to her. This was the only so­cial life that she ac­tu­ally had.”

A coun­cil spokesper­son said: “Free home to school trans­port is in­tended for those that meet cer­tain cri­te­ria, in­clud­ing those that are un­able to walk to school.

“We have re­viewed Paige Gale’s cir­cum­stances and she does not meet the cri­te­ria as she is able to walk or get the bus to col­lege.”

Ms Harris says the cost of send­ing her daugh­ter to col­lege will now have to come out of her pocket, as public trans­port is not an op­tion.

A spokesper­son from the Na­tional Autis­tic So­ci­ety, the UK’s lead­ing char­ity for peo­ple on the autism spec­trum, said: “While we have no di­rect in­volve­ment so can’t com­ment about the par­tic­u­lar cir­cum­stances in this case.

“It’s es­sen­tial that coun­cils recog­nise the chal­lenges that autis­tic peo­ple can face when trav­el­ling, some of which might not be out­wardly ob­vi­ous. Many chil­dren and young adults on the autism spec­trum may ap­pear, on the sur­face, en­tirely ca­pa­ble of tak­ing public trans­port to their school or col­lege.

“But autism can be a hid­den dis­abil­ity, and an autis­tic young per­son’s vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties or dif­fi­cul­ties may in­clude a lack of aware­ness of the in­ten­tions of strangers or acute sen­sory sen­si­tiv­ity to traf­fic noise.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.