A Dad's Diary

Two fathers explore life with children on the autism spectrum.

The Wheels on the bus – only in NYC

A Continuing Saga of Special Needs Busing in NYC

The wheels on the bus go round and round

Round and round

Round and round

The wheels on the bus go round and round

Unless you live in New York City

 

The following is the ongoing saga of my efforts to get APPROPRIATE busing for my son here in NYC.

 

Dear Speaker Quinn:

RE: (it is now December 1 and we have yet to receive transportation service as outlined on my son’s IEP since school started) 

Thank you for replying to my previous email letter regarding special needs bus service in New York (attached below – we live 1.6 miles from school but the bus trip is two hours). I did receive a call from the Office of Pupil Transportation (OPT) who informed me that the request for a short route for my non-verbal son with autism, sensory needs and colitis is on hold – and has been for the last several weeks.

Though his school (P79) and doctor have completed and submitted the appropriate paperwork requesting a mini wagon, short route, A/C bus and transportation para (all which he had in the past in NYC), apparently there is some person – identified as the DOE (Department of Education) doctor – who has yet to sign-off to have the services added to my son’s IEP. I was further told the “sign-off”, if it did happen, would not be anytime soon. I soon found myself in a bureaucratic game of see no evil, hear no evil. The DOE says contact OPT, OPT says contact the DOE, school officials say try OPT, or the DOE. Acronyms pointing fingers at other acronyms, in the meantime parents and kids suffer.

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OPT attempted to “comfort” me by saying that many students are in this position (bus rides of two hours). Great. For example, I was told there are students a couple blocks away from their respective schools who are on the bus well over an hour. Great. Who is actually in charge of this? Who is responsible for having special needs kids on school buses for hours? Is this even legal? I mean a child who lives a few blocks from school has to be on a bus for hours? I think this is a form of torture. Weren’t we banned from doing this to the terrorists in Guantanamo?

Seriously, can someone tell me who is responsible for bus service? Not the agency, the person or persons. Why do kids have to be on a bus for hours anyway? No kids, regardless of ability, should be on a bus for hours. How can they perform properly in school beginning and ending the day this way? If this has become acceptable care of this city’s future (its kids), I fear New York has seen its best days. There is no leadership on, responsibility for or (seemingly) interest in this issue.

I close with my previous question: How come the “greatest city in the world” cannot transport a child 1.6 miles to school in under two hours? An entity that cannot accomplish this cannot claim greatness, adequacy, or even competence.

Regards,

Ken Siri 

CC:

Mayor Bloomberg’s Office

Chancellor Walcott’s Office

Congresswoman Maloney

Council Member Garodnick

NY Times

NY1

 

Previous Letter: 

You may have heard that here in NYC there has been significant problems with school busing – kids not getting bus service, kids not getting picked up, kids on the bus for ridiculously long trips. Today the City Council held an open hearing and solicited written remarks. Since Alex and I have shared in this “experience” I sent the following to Speaker Quinn.

My son, Alex, is 14 years old. He has autism and ulcerative colitis. We live on the Upper East Side, on 94th street. Alex’s school is on 120th and Madison (1.6 miles), about 5 minutes in a cab ($10). On his IEP he has a short bus route with transportation para and A/C (Alex has many sensory issues, dietary issues and is non-verbal).

When school started this past September Alex did not have any bus route. The school site (P79) worked with us to get Alex a bus route. We refused the suggested route and are still awaiting another. The reason for the refusal – two hours, that is the length of the route. Alex would have been picked up at 6:15am and dropped off between 8:15 and 8:30am each morning. Similar trip on the way home. For any child, let alone a special needs child with health issues, this is unacceptable.

Additionally the financial burden of having to use cabs is extensive. If we cab each way the monthly bill would be $800. Luckily it is difficult to access cab service at 120th (yet another issue) so we have to walk home each day. This lowers the cost of the route but requires time away from work for dad. In the pleasant weather this is actually ok, once the weather turns nasty I have to consider keeping Alex home simply because the DOE/NYC cannot get him to school in the appropriate manner as indicated on his IEP.

It should be an embarrassment that the supposed “greatest city in the world”, cannot deliver a special needs child 1.6 miles to school in less than two hours. If the people responsible for this “service” had to compete in the private sector, they would be unemployed.

 

Ken Siri is a freelance writer and the father of a boy with autism.

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