Just over two years ago, I wrote one of my most popular Blog posts. I was raising awareness about the new legislation that autistic people could apply for a blue parking badge. In theory, it all sounded very positive. However, two years on, how successful has the scheme been? In this second post on the topic, I reflect on my own personal experience applying for a blue badge for my child.
The Application Process
The initial application process was relatively easy. Everything is online and the form allows you to create save points so that you can take a break and return without having to complete the whole thing in one go.
The hardest part about filling in the online application is submitting the relevant documentation. As I mentioned in the previous blogpost, not all autistic people will qualify for a blue badge. However, if autism causes a child considerable distress when travelling or they could pose a danger to others, then it’s definitely worth applying for a blue badge. To this end, the documentation supplied with the application must reflect the criteria. It’s important to keep hold of any doctor’s letters, psychological reports and other evidence to upload to the application. These MUST relate to the criteria in some way. It’s no use just sending a copy of a letter with an autism diagnosis on it. The letter must specifically state how the child has difficulty that would require special provision to be made when travelling. For example, if your child has a history of running away or a poor sense of danger, this would be excellent evidence to submit with your form.
Our Personal Experience Applying for a Blue Badge
I spent a while filling the form in and uploaded as much evidence as I could, including parts of the EHCP, paediatrician letters and CAMHS reports. I thought it was enough. However, the next stage made me realise that any application for a blue badge on the grounds of autism would require a certain amount of hoop-jumping.
A few weeks after filling in the online form, I received a paper form in the post saying that they needed more specific evidence. Ah, the catch. I had provided excellent evidence, but they wanted more, and they were going to make it as difficult for me as possible.
A professional would need to fill in the form. It was geared towards health professionals but school staff can fill it in too if they know the child. The form goes into more detail about how the child’s condition affects them and focuses on the criteria such as intense psychological distress when travelling and danger to others. The person filling in the form needs to provide proof that the child fits the criteria.
Finding Someone to Complete the Blue Badge Form
Unfortunately, our application coincided with the outbreak of COVID. Schools shut down and all medical appointments were online or telephone only. There was no opportunity to physically give the form to anyone to fill in. In addition, those I did ask were unable to help. For example, our CAMHS psychologist was my first port of call. She claimed to be happy to fill in the form and would have been the perfect person to help. However, her supervisor advised her that she would be unable to fill it in as she only worked with my son in blocks rather than long term. She handed the form back and apologised.
The paedeatrics department was equally unhelpful. Our paediatrician was on maternity leave and was replaced with a locum. She didn’t know my son well enough to fill in the form. I put the form on the notice board at home and waited.
Months passed and school opened again. Thankfully, my son’s teacher was willing to fill the form in. He wrote a detailed description of my son’s anxiety issues and related everything to the relevant criteria. It was a masterpiece! However, all of the delays meant that I sent the completed form back almost a year after they had initially sent it.
I had concerns about sending the form in so late, but there was no deadline given in the letter. I thought it would be best to call them up just in case. Tentatively, I called the blue badge department and was put on hold. After half an hour I gave up. I decided to send the form anyway and hope for the best.
Unsurprisingly, my claim was refused. They told me I should have returned the form within 6 months and that now I’d have to start a new application. At this point I actually considered giving up. A blue badge seemed so far out of reach. Somehow, that seemed a huge waste. I gathered my mental strength, opened up the online form and proceeded to go through the whole process again, painstakingly uploading all of the evidence from before and adding the new form that the teacher had filled in.
I have to admit, I wasn’t hopeful. So imagine my shock when the application was approved! We now have a blue badge. It seems to be a victory, not just for us, but for other families with autistic children too.
We are careful to use the badge in a considerate way. We don’t abuse it. In fact, most of the time we don’t need to use it at all and would prefer to keep disabled spaces clear for people with greater need. However, there are times when the badge is going to be incredibly useful, especially when visiting places with big car parks, like the NEC, or theme parks. The walk from these car parks to the attraction itself can be 15-20 minutes, or via shuttle bus, which can cause huge distress to my son, who has no sense of danger and has bolted on large car parks with no regard for his own safety or that of others. Hopefully, that will become less frequent now we have our blue badge.
To conclude, I’d definitely recommend applying for a blue badge if your child struggles with anxiety or meltdowns related to car travel. The process is not easy, but the results can be well worth it. My advice is to find lots of corroborating evidence and to get a supportive professional on board that will help you. It seems ironic that the things that are supposed to make out lives easier, are so hard to obtain. If you are currently going through the blue badge process, I wish you every success. Together, we can be the catalyst for policy change.