Autistic 3-Year-Old's First Day of School Ends in Hellish 5-Hour Bus Ride Home

school busLast week was 3-year-old Levi Vidal's first day of school. It was surely one filled with much excitement and nervousness for him and his parents as first days typically are. Only his had a nightmare ending that they could have never imagined happening -- that should have never happened.

Instead of coming home on the school bus in a timely manner (his parents estimate the ride from Manhattan to Brooklyn should have taken about 40 minutes), he instead endured a hellish five-hour ride. While on board, he was given neither food nor a bathroom break, and he was terrified. Can you even imagine a 3-year-old forced to sit on a bus that long? Making matters even worse -- Levi is autistic.

His mother, Serena Vidal, described to the New York Daily News just how traumatic the experience was for him.

He was delirious, starving, and in his full diaper. It’s insane, heartbreaking. How can you treat kids like that?

The school bus company doesn't seem to have many answers besides just saying they often encounter problems during the beginning of the school year. That's so not good enough.

And Levi, tragically, isn't the only student to be affected. The paper found another autistic boy, 4-year-old Efraim Shapiro, who was forced to endure a three-hour bus ride last week in New York during which he urinated on himself twice and was "dropped off wet and shivering." Other complaints have been reported as well.

It's as heartbreaking as it is infuriating, and someone needs to do something to prevent it from happening again. It shouldn't happen to ANY child, but especially when it comes to children with special needs, who may not have the same coping skills as typical children, extra care really should be taken. And where was the humanity in this bus driver? Did he or she really not think a child would need food or a restroom after five hours? It's inexcusable any way you look at it.

It's frightening enough to put children who can't always speak up for themselves in the care of others, and it's stories like this that fuel all of our parenting fears and make us want to keep our children by our side always.

Has your child ever been in a scary situation like this?


Image via KB35/Flickr

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Heather Duso Johnson

From what I understand the driver got lost and tied up in traffic, which I believe is common in midtown Manhattan.  It's 40 minutes from the school to their house without heavy traffic and if you go directly from one point to the next.  On Friday it took 3 hours for him to get home.  It's not like he was forgotten or the bus missed his stop, the traffic situation and route are to be blamed.  I guess there is a much faster parkway but trucks and buses are not allowed on it. Can't believe there isn't a program or school closer to their home.  


Why were these kids not on a special needs bus? You can't expect a regular bus driver to be responsible for these kinds of situations. That is why they have special hisses equipt with bus attendants to help the childrens' special needs.

Elizabeth Anne Curless

Wow Kay...I guess you don't live in a place like I do. We all live in the country for the most part so the bus is really the only option if you are a working parent. The drop off doors open at 7:40am and close at 7:50am. I've sat in the parent drop off line for 20 minutes and I got there at 7:30 to queue up. I couldn't imagine being a parent who works and has to be at work for 8am. My oldest is Autistic but very high functioning. I STILL make sure his 1:1 is outside waiting for him. And when they weren't I parked and walked him and my 2 year old into the school, dropped him off at his classroom and then went to the office to ask where on earth his 1:1 was.

gridi... gridironsmom

Was there not a bus assistant on little Levi's bus? My three, now four yr old rides a bus to school specifically for his pre-k. They have the driver and an assistant on board.

Matthew MacDonald

Doesn't a 3-year old with special needs require a para? And if the kid is missing more than an hour, we call the bus company which contacts the bus to ask what is up. If the bus company can't find the child then the School Resource Officer is notified and the local cops become involved. I smell holes in the way the story was reported. Five hours without a 'bathroom break', for a kid in a diaper? Did the parent just wait around until 8-9PM at night and then get mad because the kid's diaper was full?

nonmember avatar Rach

It may be a 40 minute drive from their house to the school, but the bus doesn't just have one child they are dropping off, they obviously have a bus full, and for special needs kids they drop them off at their doorstep. My special needs nephew's school is 15 minutes from my house and it takes 45 minutes for him to get dropped off to my (I'm his after school care); 3X the amount of time it would take for me to drive there. If other parents aren't timely in getting their child off the bus, or if they have trouble getting some of the difficult kids loaded, it can take an hour. So for a 40 minute car to take 2-3 hours by bus is reasonable, 5 hours, if a new route and bad traffic is not good but not unfathomable.

nonmember avatar nikki

who lets a 3 year old ride a school bus?! You are a parent for a spend time with your kids and make sure they are safe...NOT put a freakin 3 year old on a school bus by himself? She sounds like a lazyass who can't take her TODDLER to school in her own

rutha... ruthallen

A couple of years ago my then 4 year old son was left in an empty house because I was just on time and the but was running early. (the door lock had broken the day before we don't usualy leave the house unlocked) Luckly I pulled up before the bus actualy pulled away, but he was in the house alalone and they were leaving.

nonmember avatar Laura

Omg...this breaks my heart and infuriates me soooo bad. I am the mother of a special needs daughter. My daughter has been in school since she was 3 and has rode a bus. Thank the Lord she has had the best drivers and aids a momma can ask for(with the exception of 1 and she was quickly handled). Hannah never has been on the bus for more than 30 mins and only cause it was summer school and the bus load was a little bigger. But she was given a cold bottle of water and a snack ever day by the bus driver. Thank you to all the wonderful people who have taken care of my precious cargo over the years and my prayer r with this lil boy and his family..I hope justice is served for him...he deserves to feel secure..sending love to him and his family.

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