His thinking is very rigid. The shampoo bottles should be just in one place in the bathroom. If I turn the toothpaste the "wrong" way, he would always turn it back. Action sequences are often ritualised, and routines are to be followed, or he gets very upset.
When we learnt that our trusted school transport team wouldn't be working with the school any longer (sadly, the company went into liquidation), I thought it would be a big problem for Sasha to adjust to a new team. Little did I know just how big a problem it would be,
Since there was little time between the company stopping work and finding new transport teams to take children to school, people without any experience of work with special needs kids were hired.
The first day Sasha returned home after school, he was very agitated and unsettled. The bus driver complained about his behaviour, accusing him of hurting his female assistant (I will refer to her as FA). He said he compiled a report on him. He was very brusque with me, to the point of being rude, and said they might not take Sasha to school any more.
We called the school, and the teacher who observed what has happened said he pushed the FA as she was hovering over him. The teacher reassured me that they would be working with the transport team and explain to them about autism.
The FA told my husband that she couldn't sleep in the night, that she was short of breath and needed to go to see the doctor. At which point my radar started buzzing an alarm.
But we have apologised to the FA and driver for all the trouble.
He continued travelling to and from school with these people, who were absolutely unsympathetic. Sasha's behaviour in the meantime was getting worse and worse. He refused to go in the classroom, locking himself in the toilet to escape people. At home he started hiding in the airing cupboard, again locking himself in, which he has never done before. He looked very miserable, and my heart was breaking. We were very worried and didn't know how to help him.
The school were anxious too as Sasha's behaviour has changed dramatically. He has been doing so well this year at school, and suddenly he didn't want to take part in any school activities,
His anxiety was palpable, and he kept pointing to the symbol of the school bus in his social story.
After the second complaint from a driver the week afterwards, I said I'd walk with Sasha to school myself.
Unfortunately, it was not a solution. My husband commutes to work, and cannot take our younger son to school every day. And both boys attend schools which are in totally opposite directions.
Walking with Sasha to school was so difficult, as he was distressed - it was yet another change of routine for him - that I dissolved into tears in the presence of Sasha's teachers. They were most kind to me, calmed me down, listened to me and offered to help, saying that they would talk to the transport team again.
After struggling for a few days, we reluctantly agreed to send Sasha to school on the bus.
You might have seen these school buses for special needs children, they are not big in size and carry several children at a time, and two adults - a driver and an assistant.
Poor Sash would arrive home in tears, and my heart was breaking to see him so unhappy. When I asked the transport if it were possible to see the CCTV footage, they explained to me that the cameras did not operate.
How irresponsible is that?! The cameras should be working for the protection of both sides.
After I read their reply, I decided we needed to do our own investigation. I ordered a Spy Voice recorder on amazon. It is a tiny gadget, which looks like a USB stick, and can record up to 17 hours in one go. It is easy to charge and operate.
In the morning we put the voice recorder in Sasha's school bag, and waved him good bye. I felt quite bad about spying on them, but had no other choice really.
In the evening, my husband and I listened to the recording together. I had to go back a few times to listen again and again, as I couldn't believe what we heard.
Our vulnerable child who couldn't defend himself or tell us what was going on, was verbally abused by the FA. The driver didn't say much, but he was complicit in my mind, since he made no attempt to stop his FA.
We will never know what has really happened on the days when Sasha was travelling with them. We only recorded one day, but even one day was unbearable enough.
The FA kept taunting him with words like this "I'm bored. You're here to amuse me (telling this to all children). Then to Sasha - You're not, you're rotten little thing. You're rotten, rotten through and through. Aren't you?! You will never be my cherry berry muffin. You would be the cat litter tray, that's what you would be". She also laughed at him, saying that he was "probably ripped that and all, ain't he".
She kept clapping her hands and bothering other children on the bus, clearly to amuse herself.
Sasha was quiet at first, but she kept baiting him to provoke a reaction. It was like baiting a chained animal, knowing perfectly well he could do nothing in response.
It was difficult to listen to that recording as Sasha was getting more and more upset, and none of the adults made any attempt to reassure him.
I was shaking, listening to that woman. In fact, after it ended, I ran to the toilet to throw up.
You trust these people with the most precious in your life - your child, and find out that they abused the position of trust.
How could you say that to any human being, let alone a vulnerable child?! Such vile, despicable attitude! Knowing perfectly well that they were safe from anyone reporting them, with most children on the bus being non verbal. These people should never be working in a position of trust.
We emailed the head of the school at once with the copy of the recording, as well as the social worker who helps us. The head got in touch with the safeguarding team. The driver and the FA were suspended while the investigation was going on.
It was decided that the FA would lose her badge and would not be able to work in the position of trust. The driver who claimed he didn't hear much of what she was saying, would have to do an additional training. He was also remorseful during the panel meeting, while the FA was unrepentant.
A small victory, yet at what cost.
It will take a long time for Sasha to get back to his normal self. He also got such a bad skin rash due to stress that we had to go to the doctor. But that will be cured. It's the inner scars that take a long time to heal
As for the audio recorder, this was the best £15 I have spent in my life. Without it we would have had no clue as to what our son was subjected to, though sadly we'll never know what happened during the days we haven't recorded.
I have been thinking hard whether to talk about it on my blog or not. I might change my mind, and remove the post later. We are all feeling violated.
P.S. I should also add that I am most grateful to Sasha's school - head and teachers, and our social work for all the support and help in this dismal situation.
|One of Sasha's selfies from a few years ago|