School reopening daunting for students on autism spectrum: Rock Island mother has mask mandate concerns

Local News

Passion runs high when it comes to the mask debate.

It’s not always cut and dry.

Vanessa Spidle is from Rock Island. She is a mother to 4-year-old Leo Osborn.

He’s severely autistic

Leo starts school in three days, and his bus service has new pandemic protocols, including requiring all students to wear masks.

“He has a texture issue. I don’t know if it’s the mask on his face, or he just don’t want to do it. He hasn’t left to go anywhere besides his dad house or outside to play because he just won’t wear a mask,” says Spidle.

With school starting in a few days, that’s where the problem comes in. Spidle says Johannes Bus Service went over new pandemic protocol with her. She says she understands why the masks are being worn, but she realizes the challenges that will come with it.

“They have a three time rule. I guess they don’t wear it a third time they are taken off the bus,” says Spidle.

She says she has tried a handful of approaches to get Leo comfortable with wearing the mask, including buying matching masks for one of his toys. Unfortunately that didn’t work.

Spidle says, “I was told by Johannes if he doesn’t want to wear the mask on the bus he will have to do remote learning from home, and I’m not a teacher it’s hard. He also has a younger brother I still have to take care of, and I work too. Other than that he’ll have to go to a therapy center, but he needs the stimulation before he regresses.”

Spidle says she’s hoping there can be some compromise.

“There are people out there even adults with autism that can’t wear a mask or have breathing issues. It’s just really not accommodating,” says Spidle.

Local Four also reached out to Johanne’s Bus Service several times over the last few days, however they have yet to get back to us.

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