Family calls for change after son with autism struck by vehicle outside Lexington Two school
WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - One local family is calling for changes to Lexington School District Two’s safety protocols after their seven-year-old son with autism was hit by a vehicle after recess this week outside Congaree Elementary School in West Columbia.
Emily Roberts’ son Judah is out of the hospital tonight and recovering, but she said nobody wants to get the call she received on Monday, especially after she’d been pushing the district for additional safety measures, specifically for special needs children, for over a year.
She said she’s still trying to process the events of this difficult week and admires the strength of her son.
“Judah’s been a little trooper,” Roberts said. “I can’t imagine the pain he’s in. You know we always say like you get hit with a ton of bricks or that kind of thing, and I mean he’s literally been hit by a truck and you can see it all over his body and it’s just heartbreaking.”
Judah was discharged from the hospital Tuesday with a concussion, swelling, bruising, and abrasions. The entire left side of his face is swollen, and he’s just started to open his left eye.
But Roberts fears the accident could have been much worse.
A recent study in Pediatrics shows that nearly half of parents reported that a child with autism had attempted to wander at least once after age four. Because of this, more needs to be done to ensure their safety at school.
Roberts has voiced these concerns with L2.
“We’ve tried to advocate for Judah in that way over the last probably two years as we noticed he was more and more likely to not necessarily stay where he’s supposed to, just because he doesn’t necessarily know better and if he sees something, he’s going to go for it.”
Judah slipped outside the playground and onto the one-lane parking lot where he was struck.
Roberts wants more signage, fencing, and speed bumps to secure the area.
“In creating the dialogue, people need to understand that we are the experts as parents when we say this is a risk factor,” she said.
District officials declined to be interviewed but offered this statement: “We have installed new fencing this week, and we’re adding delayed entry doors and a security card gate. We’ll continue discussions and evaluations of the area for other possible measures as well.”
Roberts commends L2 Superintendent Dr. Nicolas Wade on his assistance in responding so quickly with the new fencing. She wishes there was better communication from Congaree in the immediate aftermath of the incident, but said Wade was at the school within the hour to assess exactly what happened and ways to prevent something like this from happening in the future.
“A lot of the stuff that they’ve recently come out with today has really kind of gone beyond our expectations of what I spoke to Dr. Wade about on Monday,” Roberts said.
She specifically points to delayed entry doors as an important step because they would give faculty and staff more time to prevent students from wandering.
Her family has been part of the L2 community for a long time, but it’s going to take time to heal.
“We need to address the trust issues that we now have and how we can overcome those because it’s going to be a long road to get back to any type of normal with Judah in school,” Roberts said. “You can love something and still have issues with it.”
She hopes that a district task force is formed to go school to school and address safety concerns so that students across L2 can feel more secure.
A GoFundMe has been organized in Judah’s honor. The family said they will donate that money to Congaree to improve safety features for students with special needs.
“Hopefully whatever comes of this experience that we’ve had as a family it will benefit other parents and families and students with special needs as they get into school and not have to worry about things like this,” Roberts said.
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