Thief steals Ben's ability to speak
Ben Marshall lost his single line of communication when his backpack was stolen from a bus in Christchurch last week.
The 16-year-old, who has Down Syndrome, was participating in a bus challenge with UPP club, a social group for people with the condition, last Friday where he was learning how to use public transport.
He was carrying a backpack filled with clothes and his iPad, which he uses to interact with people, as he is unable to talk or communicate freely.
Club coordinator Lisa Sinclair said in the excitement of completing the challenge, Ben left his bag on the bus as he rushed to disembark.
Upon realisation when they had entered Riccarton Mall ''in about a 20 minute time frame'', the bag had been taken.
One of the club helpers called the Orbitor depot, and although each bus driver on the route was notified and ''pulled over to the side of the road and looked through their buses'', there was no sign of it.
Sinclair said it was their first session, and she was worried it would hamper future efforts to teach the club members independence.
''I'm just really upset because the person who took it was probably watching them on the bus, so they would've known they were taking it from someone with a disability. It's really sad,'' she said.
''It's really really important they learn to use public transport, and when stuff like this happens it puts the parents off wanting them to be independent.''