A horrified mother told today how a complete stranger on a bus told her five-year-old autistic son he “belonged in a zoo”.
Little Makonnen Hirose was ridiculed by an elderly man sat in front of him on a quiet bus after the youngster starting making high-pitched animal noises.
Single mother Mika Hirose, 41, says she was taking her son to a therapy session in Cold Ashton, Bristol, when a man in his 60s made the comment.
The youngster was in a good mood and was “singing and humming” to himself when an elderly couple got on the bus and sat down in front of them.
A “nice” lady began talking to schoolboy Makonnen, who attends May Park Primary School in Eastville, but it was explained to her that the youngster has limited speech.
Makonnen suffers from sensory processing disorder which means he makes unexpected loud noises, flaps his hands and hits his head or body against walls.
Mika, who is originally from Japan, says the man started imitating her son like he was making fun of him but then out of nowhere suddenly said he “should be in a zoo”.
She claims to have been too taken aback by what she heard to respond, but could tell that the comment was made at her son’s expense.
“She said: “He is quite obsessed with animals – cows, dogs, cats, goats – sounds you don’t expect to hear much as a social norm on the bus.
“I noticed that the man was copying the noises my son was making like he was making fun of him.
“Then he suddenly said ‘he should be in a zoo’.
“If I could go back now, I’d ask him why he said that to Makonnen. I felt my son was discriminated.
“What was worse was that he made fun of him even though he had just heard me explain that he is autistic.”
Despite feeling shocked at the treatment, Mika says she is telling her story out of love rather than a desire to ‘point the finger’.
She wants to raise awareness of the difficulties autistic people and their families face, in the hope that others will show more understanding.
“No-one should be made to feel like an outsider,” she said.
“We are all of the same spirit. It doesn’t matter that he is autistic and can’t speak – people need to care and support one another.”