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Autistic Preschooler Left Alone in Hot Schoolbus

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Kate Tuttle: This is one of those stories that makes you go "Whew!" -- and then get angry.

Three-year-old Justin Styer, who has autism, fell asleep on the way home from preschool earlier this week. His parents waited for the bus that brings him home, but it never showed up. After a call to the school and an hour's wait, they got word: Justin was asleep in a locked school bus, the windows closed, on a hot summer day.

After a quick trip to the ER, Justin is doing fine -- though doctors have told his parents to keep him inside and well-hydrated for a few days, just to be safe. But his parents are understandably upset that this happened in the first place. The school says they'll investigate and keep in close contact with the parents.

I can't imagine their relief, and at the same time can only begin to guess how much fury is mixed in. Every summer, public service announcements remind us not to leave our kids in cars, citing the deadly danger they face there. And yet, every year we hear stories like this one, in which schools and bus companies slip up and put kids in harm's way. A child in Michigan had to jump out of a school bus window earlier this month after being left behind. According to the National Association of Pupil Transportation, up to 75 kids each year are left behind on school buses nationwide. 

When it happens to children with autism or other special needs, we have to ask ourselves: Who's looking out for our kids?


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