By Nicole Hegewald
In the beginning of September 2009, there was a dispute between Metro Transit in Canada and a family with an autistic boy. The boy, Izaak Croft, 8, had just left the Discovery Centre on a summer camp excursion with Autism Society Nova Scotia. After less than five minutes, he was escorted off the bus by camp counselors and the camp director.
Like many children with autism, Izaak is non-verbal and unable to deal with the sensory overload caused by the masses of people and loud noises on a large bus. Out of frustration he began to cry and scream which is often unsettling and disruptive. At some point the bus driver stopped the bus and told the group “I can’t drive if that keeps up.”
As quoted from the blog of the boy’s father, David Croft, “…the camp director then made the decision, voluntarily, to remove Izaak from the bus. Personally, and I said so at the meeting, I thought this was a semantic point because the driver had created a situation where there was little choice – due to authoritative and social pressure – but to remove Izaak from the bus.”
Erin Flaim, manager of service delivery , and Lisette Cormier, the Public Affairs Coordinator, at Metro Transit, arranged the previously mentioned meeting with Izaak’s parents. Flaim offered a letter of apology to the boy and to the Camp Director, who assisted him throughout the episode.
Izaak’s parents were satisfied with the outcome of the meeting and were optimistic about the future of special-needs passengers on the Metro Transit systems. Unwilling to be the focus point of any accusation of intolerance, the company will be educating their employers and generating an autism awareness campaign to the general public.
Many parents of children with autism face people who are unaware of a child’s disabilities because they are not physically evident. If the general public were more educated about autism would similar episodes still occur? Would bus drivers and other bus occupants be more tolerant towards a screaming child, if all it means is keeping their own discomfort internal?