Harold Wood bus drives off with autistic teenager after being told to wait by mother
PUBLISHED: 07:00 22 August 2018 | UPDATED: 10:42 22 August 2018
A Harold Hill mum was left shocked after a bus driver drove off with her 14-year-old son with autism despite his assurances that he would wait.
Penelope Kelly, 35, from Amersham Close was on her way home with her five children, including her son Sebastien Hall at around 12.20pm on Monday, August 20.
While waiting for the 496 bus at Harold Wood station, Penelope allowed Sebastien to sit on the bus while her two other sons topped up her oyster card.
“I asked the bus driver how long was he waiting for and he said that he was waiting for a few minutes,” said Penelope.
“I told him that my son is disabled, he’s autistic and he said ‘okay’.
“My little boy [Oliver] came up to me and said there’s something wrong with your oyster card. As I was turning around to get Sebastien off the bus, the bus driver suddenly closed the doors and drove off.”
Sebastien is 14-years-old but he has the mental age of a five or six-year-old and he uses makaton sign language to communicate.
Peneople quickly tried to sign the word home to him as the bus drove away. She tried to get a hold of the bus driver by asking the station to call him however he wasn’t picking up his radio.
Thankfully Sebastien made his way off the bus at the right stop and his brother, Austin, 11, discovered him at home.
“He ran out of the front door crying and wanted lots of cuddles,” said Penelope.
“I’m so lucky that he was able to come home. He could have wandered anywhere - and that thought would scare any parent.
“It’s just horrible to think that [the bus driver] couldn’t wait, they don’t listen to people.
“Because he’s not in a wheelchair, you wouldn’t think that there’s anything wrong with him. But he’s not allowed to be on his own, he can’t go out like a normal 14-year-old and he has to be with an adult at all times.”
Penelope hopes that the experience won’t prevent Sebastien from travelling on buses in the future.
“It takes Seb a long time to build up to something. He likes his trains and his buses and he would spend all his time on them if he could,” said the mum-of-five.
“I know he’ll probably be a little bit worried and scared the next time we get on a bus.”
Penelope’s partner, Darrall Elliot-Yorke added: “Luckily [Sebastien] is quite good with buses but regardless, that doesn’t matter. [The bus driver] shouldn’t have driven off.
“We can’t really explain to [Sebastien] what’s happened and it could mentally affect him.
“It’s ridiculous. I can’t believe it.”
Helen Lee, head of bus operations at Transport for London said: “I am deeply sorry for the traumatic experience that Miss Kelly and her son suffered and I appreciate this clearly would have been an upsetting situation for them both.
“We expect the highest standards from London bus drivers.
“We are talking to the bus operator Stagecoach to find out more details and to ensure that our high standards are upheld and that any appropriate action is taken.”
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