Autistic Children's Bus Fine Rebuttal

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Eagle House Group, independent providers of autism education for children with autistic spectrum disorders, joins our parents and staff in condemning the recent action of Transport for London tickets inspectors.

In Sutton, Surrey on July 1st 2009, a class group of 5 young people from our Sutton school were issued with penalty notices by Transport for London (TfL) ticket inspectors during a school trip.

Eagle House Group, independent providers of autism education for children with autistic spectrum disorders, joins our parents and staff in condemning the recent action of Transport for London tickets inspectors.The children were returning from a picnic outing to Cheam Park to their autism school when three TFL staff (1 inspector/2 transport police) entered the bus and asked to check tickets. Our staff showed their own tickets and explained that the students, due to their profound disability, were naturally exempt from paying a fare and unable to produce their freedom passes being unable to carry and maintain them themselves. Despite the obviousness of the situation and clear explanation of our staff, 5 penalty notices were issued - one to each child.

Whilst TFL, after looking at our appeal, have since removed the penalty notices, we feel that the distress caused to our children, their parents and our staff warrants both an apology and a reassurance that this will not happen again.

Children with autism find any change to routine distressing and anxiety inducing. The Tfl staff pursued our staff continuing to ask questions once the children had reached their stop and had disembarked. The children then faced a 15 minute delay by the side of the road whilst full details were taken. On one of the hottest days of the year so far (32 degrees centigrade), this was an extreme procedure that could have been avoided with some compassion and a little common sense.

Our children have obvious special needs; many are non verbal and have severe learning difficulties. We hope that TFL will accept that this action was unwarranted and upsetting to all concerned.

Eagle House Group would like to offer TFL free training in Autism to raise awareness and in doing so prevent this sort of incident happening in the future.

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Julia Pithouse
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