No room on the bus for autistic children

Francis and Aoife Kally with their children Ethan, Francis Jnr, and Reeva.

A MOTHER of six disabled children has had to take three of her children out of the school where they felt secure because they had no seats on the school bus.

Aoife and Francis Kally are both parents and carers to their six young children, all of whom have special needs.

Despite informing Bus Éireann last spring that they were moving from a three-bed house in Newcastle West to a house more suitable to the needs of their family in Rosbrien, they were told with just a few days to go to the start of term that their children had no seats on the school bus.

“Now we’re faced with making six journeys a day because they all have different school hours,” Aoife told the Limerick Post.

“That’s 210 kilometres a day driving, and we still have other children in school, including pre-school. Besides which, our car has died. We just can’t do it.”

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Ethan (10), Reeva (7), and Francis Jnr (5) are all on the autism spectrum, while their other siblings also have special needs.

“We’ve had to take the children out of their school and they are now going to school closer to home. While that solves a transport problem and the new school has been very accommodating, the children are on the autism spectrum and any small change in routine causes them huge stress. Changing school at the last minute is a major move for them and all because we couldn’t get them on the bus.”

Before being offered places in a local school, Aoife wrote to Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, to inform them that she would be home-schooling her children unless a transport solution can be found.

“I’m not a teacher, but at that stage with the schools opening, there was literally nothing else I could do.

“I’ve had to fight for everything they need from speech therapy to schooling, I’ve fought every step of the way.

“This is not just about my children, parents and children with special needs have to struggle for absolutely everything. Not allocating promised seats on a bus is just another example of how we’re sidelined.”

In response to a query on the matter from the Limerick Post, a spokeswoman for Bus Éireann said that the transport provider “has received applications for school transport for the pupils attending school in Rosbrien. Applications are being processed and families will be contacted directly by Bus Éireann in relation to their respective applications.”

“Bus Éireann is very conscious of the specialised nature of transport provision for pupils with special educational needs under the School Transport Scheme. All services are planned to meet the individual requirements of children travelling, with the majority of services operating on a door-to- door basis.

“With regard to the guidelines of the scheme, it states that ‘eligible children who are enrolled in an autism class attached to a mainstream school, and who subsequently enroll in a mainstream class in that school, will retain their transport eligibility for the duration of their primary education in this school. Should these children transfer to a different school, a new transport application will be required,” she spokeswoman concluded.