Autism is a mental condition, present from early childhood, characterized by great difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts, according to my dictionary. I don’t know a lot about it other than to say I’m grateful neither of my kids ever suffered from autism, and I have sympathy for parents affected by it.
Having said that, I do know a bit about driving taxis though because at one point, I drove taxis by night while paying my way through a course by day. Neither the car nor the plate were mine but that didn’t prevent my needing to return to base a few times to clean piss or vomit from the back seat. Mind you, the cheap rusting Toyotas we drove at the time had worse problems than that. But dealing with the public can be really trying at times.
Today the Indo reports that Bus Eireann has been ordered to pay €5,000 to an autistic teenager who was stopped from eating toast in his taxi to school, to which I can only ask, would you allow anyone eat toast in your bed? Apparently this teenager’s parents have a subsidized taxi pick this autistic lad up every morning, take him to a special school and then drop him home each afternoon. Here’s the thing though,the boy’s parents submitted that, owing to their son’s dietary requirements, he would have his breakfast of a slice of toast, a banana and fruit juice in the taxi en route to school. They maintained that any changes in the teen’s routine could cause difficulty and regression in his development.
Not unreasonably, it is Bus Eireann policy for pupils not to eat on school transport and there are health and safety issues with it too. So Mom & Pop maintain the lad has to have his toast and banana in the car while it is company policy not to permit it. The driver in question had just paid €60,000 for his new car and that’s Mercedes territory, isn’t it? If I had a new Merc and some little brat wanted to eat toast in it, I’d fuck him back where he came from, autism or no autism. But the Workplace Relations Commission found that the company had discriminated against the 16-year-old on the grounds of his disability. What a lot of bollox! The driver discriminated on the grounds of toast crumbs all over his tan leather seats.
But why can’t Mom & Dad feed this lad his breakfast in the family home before leaving for school, you know, in the traditional fashion? Don’t they want the crumbs on their kitchen floor? Are they afraid to slip on a discarded banana peel or perhaps they worry that the fruit juice could be sprayed all over the walls? And what is all this nonsense about it being distressing for the teenager if he can’t eat his breakfast in a brand new taxi? Most of all, why can’t one of them take their boy to school themselves? After all, that’s what the rest of us had to do.
But maybe for whatever reason, they can’t so the State subsidizes a taxi for them – shouldn’t they be grateful for that? Shouldn’t they be willing to compromise a little, move the boy’s breakfast time back a half hour? Instead they are five grand better off, (and the taxpayer will cover that in subsidies to Bus Eireann), and on top of that, they have got their way. Some poor taxi driver will now be forced to drive that this toast wielding autistic child so that his parents can get a break from him and perhaps have the time to blow the five grand.
Have we completely lost the run of ourselves?