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A touching story

by Fiona McKenzie

I’ve just hung up the phone from a courtesy call the guy probably really really regrets making. 

He was calling from the company which has won the contract to transport our daughter Claudia, who has special needs, to and from school.

Yes, there was a terrible day at the beginning of this year when we heard the our transport provider had lost the contract from Term 2 this year – and that meant we lose Trevor! 

Our wonderful Trevor, who picks up and delivers Claudia with such good humour and friendliness. Who listens to Bowie and The Beatles and rocks it out with the guys en route.

Trevor, who with his enormous heart came to our place in the holidays and drove Claudia to her holiday programme each day because I had a fractured ankle and couldn’t do it. 

And who refused even a bottle of wine as thanks, because he’s just a good person. A really, really good person, ranking up there with Nigel in Claudia’s estimation. And mine. 

So next term we won’t have Trevor. 

Because of an unexplained Ministry of Education decision we’ll have a different van with a different logo and and a different driver. I’m sure the driver will be super-nice and well qualified and that we’ll all get used to the change. 

But hidden in page 3 of the extensive letter explaining the change was a little list of “what our drivers won’t do”. And that includes “touch the students”.

No touching. That means No Touching. At All. 

As a parent I say “What The Hell Sort Of Stupid Rule Is That You Wankers!?”

Because here’s the thing. 

Claudia will do anything for Trevor. She won’t for me.

Claudia has learnt to get in and out of the van – because Trevor has taught her. 

She does it for him because it’s his van. His van and his rules and his experience and knowledge that allows him to trust that she is quite capable of putting her foot here. 

And then there. And of holding this handle like this. And hoisting herself up like that. And then putting her other foot here. And her bag here. Like this. And then he puts her seatbelt on for her. 

That’s important. It’s not me doing things for her. It’s another person helping her and her letting them. And her learning skills from people who have skills I don’t have.

And it all increases her independence because she leaves me at the door and takes herself and her stuff  to Trevor and his van and his support and his care. 

Look, I understand there was a terrible case of driver abuse of a disabled student that rocked every parent who has to trust other people to transport our vulnerable children. 

I get that there has to be some resulting change or remedy to prevent any possibility of that happening again. 

But this blanket ban is an ill-conceived knee jerk reaction from Ministry officials who I frankly doubt have ever seen one of these vans and jumped in for the ride. 

Because these are not just nameless faceless taxi drivers who transport people to and fro. 

This is an extremely important part of Claudia's day, not just something that happens between other things. Driving with Trevor is a twice daily is an important thing in itself

The journey is a part of her routine and if you don’t think her time spent with Trevor is just as critical to her life and her opportunity for interaction and learning – yes learning – then think again Ministry! 

And if you think you can stop someone like Claudia rushing to welcome Trevor, or leaning on him adoringly to say goodbye twice a day after their regular journey together then think again, Ministry!

And what do you propose those drivers now have to do to protect themselves from her perfectly normal human interaction? Flinch? Is someone going to move away from Claudia if she gets too close? Because that will only make her chase them more. 

And what of me? Do I now have to schlep out onto the street to coax Claudia into the van to the amusement of the neighbours?

Will she get into the van willingly for me? No She Will Not. 

She will keep grabbing me and asking questions of me about what might happen later in the day or who’s coming or what time – things she never EVER hassles Trevor about – because why would she? 

And do I now have to hoist myself right into the van to put on her safety belt? 

And how could I have done any of this when I was on crutches? If I end up in plaster again (PLEASE NO!) will she just not be able to go to school? Or would I have to pay someone to come around to our house for the sole purpose of putting her in the van while the driver stands by? 

This affects thousands of students every day.

It’s a nonsense, an affront to common sense and an insult to the role these drivers have in our lives.

Twice a day, five days a week Claudia gets to ride in a van with Trevor. 

She loves driving. She loves routine. She loves Trevor. 

Just ask Claudia who her favourite people are. 

If the statement that drivers are not allowed to touch the students was intended to reassure parents that drivers would not abuse our children it hasn’t. 

It’s added more stress. 

We should have assurances about driver credentials and checks, about the new cameras in vans, and that should be enough. 

No-one asked our family about any of it. No-one asked how we would like to be better protected from potential abuse. No-one asked if any of these proposed new regulations would affect us. 

I’m sick of having things done to us in the name of our own good. 

And the bus company who shrugs and says it’s Ministry policy should be back at the Ministry advocating for us when we don’t get access to the Ministry like they do.

And all of these people should remember who they are supposed to be serving and how their job only actually exists because of people like Claudia and is what they’re doing really best for her? Really? 


Hey Ministry of Education! Do you even know people like Claudia? 

Fiona McKenzie blogs at My Perils of Wisdom.

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