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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Tricia Langston

I've read the story and all the comments. I do NOT have an Autistic child, but I've watched and assisted in schools. They are beautiful, bright children. Most schools that i know of REQUIRE that an Autistic child ride the bus at EVERY age. The reason is to get them ready for their day of noise and environments. Kay, I'm not sure how you can judge anyone not sitting in the shoes they've been in but I hope and pray that you never get a taste of the nasty medicine you are so willing to hand out. I've been blessed to drive my children to school and be a volunteer in the schools from time my children started at 4 till 5th grade and I loved doing it. I not only helped in their class rooms I was an assistant to anyone in the school that needed help. I too have to ask this because my sister is a bus driver for Durham in SC and they are REQUIRED to run their route and know it before school starts so Why did the bus driver get lost if that is true? I don't believe it. I really think the bus driver needs to be questioned further as to her intelligence and incompetence as a child care giver as well as a person. Anyone who is around children KNOWS they need a bathroom break and why the HELL wasn't the district radioed to assist her????

charl... charliesmommy22

I would just like to say my son has been riding a bus since he was 3. He started at a school that is 20 mins away in Hamburg because of hearing loss up until he was 3 had speech delay. Never has my son ever been treated like this he loved his bus drivers at first step, and then now he rides a big  bus because his school is still over in Hamburg because that school district actually works with students who have speech delay and ADHD, the school district i am in told me to stop trying with my son (when he was 4) and to give up all hope of him ever doing anything. His bus driver is sweat, she picks them up at the bus stop (his bus is only for Crossett kids and only goes to that bus stop) and takes them straight there. She talks to the parents if the child is acting up and i am perfectly happy. Sometimes parents can not pick them up if they are far away i know i couldn't i have a 24 year old car and it does great to get around town but like when he was 3 it could barley make it to the store so to get my child the help he needed he had to ride a bus. I think the blame falls on the bus driver, bus garage and the school district and that something should be done! That being said, Has it been said why the child was on the bus for that long? And most schools have special need buses for children with Autism and that why wasn't he on a bus like that. My sympathies to the  parents and that child!hugs

Christal Orvis Pewterbaugh

Yes as a matter of fact it has. Just this year. My 12 yr old daughter who is autistic, has epilepsy, and safety issues was put on a regular ed bus. She is suppose to get door to door service. I even talked to the driver that morning to let her know that I would be taking her, but that she was to ride the bus to home. She was put on a regular ed bus and let off at a regular bus stop. She had no idea how to get home. She was missing for 2 hours. Her body doesn't regulate like normal, so instead of sweating to cool off in 100* + weather, she just gets hotter. Which is a sure trigger for seizures. On her sickest day EVER, she didn't look as bad as she did that afternoon. Police found her sitting under a tree 2 blocks away.
And to those who say I should never put her on a bus to begin with if she can't speak up or doesn't know her way home......I have 3 special needs kids. Three different schools, and all 3 kids start school and get out of school within the same 15 minutes. I can't possibly be 3 different places at once. Two of them will ALWAYS be late.

Tara Sirianni

My son was 3, and has autism, and was forgotten about on the school bus for 2 hours!!!  Should have been a 25 min ride.  This was in Chester County, PA...On The Go Kids bus company!  They wanted to just re-route the driver, but I got the police to do an investigation and she was fired.  He went to school in the afternoon, and the bus driver drove him to school, never let him off the bus, then picked up the AM kids, drove them all home, then realized my son was still on the bus!  It was in the 90's that day.  Thank goodness she didn't decide to take a break and park that bus.

Nichole Kelly Dunlap

this is so disturbing to me. when its the time my daughters bus should arrive im at the door waiting, 5 minutes late im pacing the floor, 10 minutes im on the phone with the bus garage wanting an explaination......there is no way i would have waited 5 hours or even 1 hour to find out where my baby girl was. (im not blaming the parents here) but wish i knew whether or not they spent 4 1/2 hours on the phone trying to track down the bus location. our bus garage is in constant communication with the drivers via cb radio and can always find out where the buses are.

katyq katyq

@randelle....if you go to other countries you will see any school aged child (kindergarten on up) 100 percent on their own from morning until night. You see 5 year olds navigating through mass crowds in china, hopping into a mcdonalds for lunch, then catching a public bus back to school, and handling their own money of course. Just becuase we don't "normally" put 3 and 4 year olds on a bus in America does not mean they aren't capable, it really is a simple thing...get on, sit, get off.

nonmember avatar jen

What the bus driver did is insane and totally unacceptable... And no blame should be placed on the parents for their young children riding the bus to school... Sometimes thats just what has to be done to ensure your child gets the help and special services they need... My oldest is autistic and he rode the bus at 3 and 4 yrs old it is the bus companys job to make sure all children on their bus are taken care of properly... My heart goes out to the child and the family... And i feel the bus driver should be in a great deal of legal trouble for that incident!

mamab... mamabunny2010

RIDICULOUS! I would NEVER put a 3 year old on a school bus...let alone a special needs 3 year old!! What is wrong with this kids family?! What is SO pressing that his parents thinks it's okay to put a 3 year old in school anyways, does he need extra attention in math and reading...NO, a three year old should be playing in mud and destroying crayons, not sitting on a bus or in a classroom! A 3 year old should be AT HOME with his family or at a reputable daycare learning about hugs and kisses and how to be a kid. People are idiots.

nonmember avatar Todd

I can tell you from personal experience how horrifying this is and the profound and long-lasting effects it can have on a person. It happened to me and I was a "typically developing" (hate that term btw) kid. I am now 39. Just last year it came up in therapy and I started sobbing as though I were 6 yrs old all over again. The therapist explained to me how this trauma had caused certain neural pathways to become "stuck" in development at a six year old level and how I had developed certain (toxic) coping skills to self-medicate the resulting anxiety as I grew older. Now, I have a 3-year-old son who is autistic and I cannot even IMAGINE the damage an experience like this would do to him. It literally makes me want to vomit. I am having a hard enough time dropping him off at a special needs preschool for only 3 hours, 3 days per week. It KILLS me to see him, even for a moment, with tears streaming down his face yelling "Daddy, Daddy!!" as I leave. I simply can't fathom how a child, after a full day of being away from mommy and daddy and just wanting to get home to see them, deals with the bus ride from hell for an hour let alone FIVE HOURS.

Stacey North Schneider

People who do not have special needs children should not comment on things they do not understand. Im so tired of judgemental people. Have some freakin compassion. How about that for a start!!!! blah blah blah

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