AN OLTON mum, whose severely autistic young son struggles with day-to-day life, is calling for a re-think of the criteria for being given a ‘Blue Badge’ after her son had his application for one turned down.
Andrew Cooper’s severe autism means he is ‘non-verbal’, has to be supervised at all times and kept safe through locked doors, restricted access and the use of monitors.
He also has sensory processing disorder and is oversensitive to many things such as sounds and situations.
All of these issues lead to great struggles when Andrew is out-and-about in the world – issues such as him running off in car parks when he is upset by noise.
Mum Tracy, desperate to ease her son’s suffering, applied to Solihull Council for a Blue Badge to give them access to disability parking spaces – hoping that parking him nearer to shops would prove a massive benefit in terms of suffering and safety.
But Solihull Council has been forced to turn down the application as Andrew does not meet the strict eligibility criteria set out by the Department for Transport.
The key problem to his application being that the five-year-old was able to pass a walking test – proving he was able to walk longer distances than those the Blue Badge Scheme is set up to help.
Speaking to The Observer this week a heartbroken Tracy said: “The walk did not highlight any of the difficulties that a child like Andrew faces daily.
“In a normal parking bay, I have to carry him around to the back of the car and then try to restrain him into the buggy, often when he is fraught with his sensory sensitivities.
“Here we are positioned right next to moving traffic.
“Our GP agrees Andrew needs minimal distance and time in non-secured areas.”
She added that Andrew is growing and she is starting to take him to fewer public places by herself.
She also raised the issue that the Council’s assessment took place in the safety and quiet of the library, which did not allow assessors to see the impact the outside world and traffic has on him
“I am unable to carry him far. I’m starting to feel quite isolated,” she said.
“Autism is a wide-spectrum disorder and I totally agree that not all children or adults on the spectrum would need a Blue Badge.
“But I firmly believe Andrew’s case is a very valid one and I would like to see a change in the criteria.
“I am going to appeal the decision.”
A Solihull Council spokesperson said: “While we can’t comment on individual cases, the Council has a duty to ensure disabled parking badges are only issued to people who have a permanent and substantial physical disability which significantly affects their mobility.
“To do this, the Council assesses whether the person meets the eligibility criteria set by the Department for Transport, and this may include an individual mobility assessment with an occupational therapist.”