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I won’t send autistic son to school until hell over bus service is ended, vows Tyrone mother

By Leona O'Neill

The mother of a 10-year-old autistic child with extreme behaviour problems has vowed to keep him off school until an ongoing row over a special needs bus is resolved.

Vivien Kee's young son Kahlib attends Knockavoe Special School in Strabane.

After the single mother moved from Strabane to nearby Clady in May 2015, Kahlib's special needs bus transport to school was withdrawn and he was offered an escorted taxi service instead.

Ms Kee said that she has endured two years of "hell" since and wants to have the bus service reinstated.

The mother added that the taxi service has been "a disaster", with her son refusing to go in the car, having constant meltdowns, lashing out at the driver and escort, damaging the vehicle and "throwing himself out of the car" while it was in motion.

All pleas to the Education Authority to reinstate Kahlib's bus transport have been refused, she said.

Ms Kee has now vowed to keep him at home when the new term begins on Monday.

"The taxi service provided for my son simply does not meet his needs," she said.

"He has high anxiety and is sensitive to even small changes. The special needs bus comes out in this direction, but stops right before the village. I just want it to come in and pick him up. His safety is not ensured in taxis.

Ms Kee said her son "is in meltdown" to and from school every day.

"He has attacked the taxi driver and the escort. He doesn't settle in school until lunchtime. It's just so upsetting," she said.

"This time last year Kahlib opened the taxi door and got out while it was on the road one day, which terrified me.

"The special needs bus has no windows or doors that can be opened and my son can be isolated from hurting others as well as not being able to get out of the vehicle, putting himself in danger.

"I just want him to be safe going to school. It's a basic human right."

Vivien explained how they moved house from Strabane two years ago.

"Before moving I rang the Education Authority and made them aware of our new circumstances and of my son's extreme physical behavioural needs, the need for continuity in service along with staff that are familiar to him and these behaviours," she said.

"I was told that a taxi service would be temporary and the bus provision would be reinstated. That didn't happen.

"It's been hell and I have given it two years to work and it just hasn't.

"Last year I had to restrict his attendance at school to two days a week, such was the state he got into going in the taxi.

"I just want my son to be able to go to school calm and happy so he can learn.

"I want my son on the bus. It is the only mode of transport he can cope with and I'm not sending him to school until the bus service is reinstated."

A spokesperson for the Education Authority said it was unable to comment on individual cases.

"The Education Authority provides transport for pupils with special educational needs in a variety of ways including the use of taxis and buses," the spokesperson said.

"When making transport arrangements, EA considers a number of factors including the needs of each child, health and safety issues, convenience and journey times.

"It would be inappropriate for the Education Authority to comment on the circumstances of an individual child."

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