Northern Ireland

Autistic boy, eight, left alone on bus for hours in Omagh

The boy was found alone in a bus in this depot in Omagh on Tuesday
Image caption The boy was found alone on a bus in this depot in Omagh on Tuesday

Education officials are investigating why a young boy with autism was left alone on a bus at a County Tyrone depot for about four hours.

It is understood the boy is about eight years old and cannot speak.

He was due to attend a summer scheme at Arvalee special school in Omagh on Tuesday.

The boy was found strapped into his seat four hours later by a depot worker who happened to be walking past the bus, the Ulster Herald reported.

The school said it was perplexed by the incident and the Education Authority (EA) confirmed its staff are investigating.

The newspaper said the boy's parents were reportedly "distraught and angry" when they learned what had happened.

Image caption It was reported a depot worker found the boy by chance

In a statement, the school principal said he was thankful no further harm came to the child, adding their focus is now on supporting the boy and his family.

He said school staff are putting their faith in the EA to ensure there is an in-depth investigation.

Shirelle Stewart, from the National Autistic Society, said it must have been a "really traumatic experience for him (the child) and his family".

"The child in question would have quite a lot of challenges - he's non-verbal, he has autism - and with that comes an awful lot of anxiety," she said.

"Obviously the ability to express how you feel or cry for help is really minimised."

The EA said the safety of pupils is its primary concern and the outcome of the investigation will determine what additional measures may be required to ensure it does not happen again.

However, similar incidents have happened in Northern Ireland before.

In County Fermanagh in 2015, a disabled teenager who also cannot speak was left alone on a school bus in a depot in Enniskillen for almost three hours.

At the time, the EA issued a public apology to her family.

Related Topics

More on this story