Autistic children hurt by bus cancellations

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A lack of government transport has blocked youngsters on the autistic spectrum disorder programme from attending therapy sessions at special needs centre WindReach.

Parents of children on the programme, based at Paget Primary School, said the Government had told them at short notice several times over the past month that the bus would not be available because it was being repaired — but that the problem had existed for much longer.

Penny Ingham, parent advocate for the ASD programme, said: “Over the past two years the Ministry of Education has not been consistent or communicative regarding the bus that is designated to transport them.

“I have called and written several e-mails to the ministry during these times and am now frustrated to the point where they need to be exposed.

“The excuses remain the same in that ‘the bus has mechanical issues and is in the garage for repairs’.”

She added that the $300 a term charge per child for the WindReach therapy was not refundable if a youngster did not turn up.

Ms Ingham explained that many children on the autism spectrum need a consistent routine and do not cope well with last-minute changes of plan.

The last-minute cancellations have also hit WindReach staff, who said their volunteers have turned up to assist with the autism programme but no children have arrived.

Ms Ingham said: “Last year when I threatened to contact my MP and the Minister of Education, the children finally received an interim minibus solution, but officials were not pleased at the cost to do so.

“We are now at this juncture again when, after the third consecutive week of them not providing a bus, we are being told that the bus has mechanical issues and is in the garage for repairs.

“Only this time they are not prepared to provide an interim mini bus solution. So the end result is they do not care and do not wish to invest in our students and children.

“I personally pay $300 per term for my son to attend WindReach and there is no reimbursement for him not attending.

“My son is unhappy that he was unable to go to WindReach and on top of that my money is being wasted.”

Windreach offers a sensory room where the students can see, touch and talk to a variety of animals to help them with understanding their senses and how to care for and treat animals.

There is also a horse-riding programme where the pupils learn how to ride by listening and learning commands.

Programmes at Windreach provide a therapeutic approach for autistic children and are an integral part of their individual education plan.

Ms Ingham said: “This programme is a vital component in their learning and knowledge on a behavioural, emotional, and physical level.

“The other parents have asked me to reach out to the media and have agreed to support me in whatever capacity I need because like me they too are frustrated.”

Chrissie Kempe, executive director of WindReach, said: “As a registered charity we rely on our dedicated volunteers. This has been a big disappointment for the students at Paget Primary and it is equally disruptive and discouraging for our volunteers.”

The Ministry of Education did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

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Published May 24, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated May 24, 2018 at 1:21 pm)

Autistic children hurt by bus cancellations

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