All It Takes is One Dumb Bus Driver

The BusThis past Friday, The Boy was left behind by his bus.

Our outside light was on, and our front window blinds (all three of them) were open. The driver rolled up to our house early, honked once, waited less than 10 seconds, and then turned around in the cul de sac and left.

Recently, when our regular bus driver began to arrive earlier and earlier, we worked out an arrangement with her. She now waits for him, and does not expect him to exit the house until around 6:30am, which has been his expectation and his routine for the entire school year.

When the bus left on Friday, I ran out to the porch, waving my arms, to no avail. The Boy began to get upset, wondering how he was going to get to school. We were in a panic. I called the transportation office who informed me there was a substitute bus driver, and assured me that they would instruct her to come back to pick The Boy up. In the meantime, he had returned to bed, unwilling to go to school if he was going to be late.

At this point, The Man offered to take The Boy to school himself (along with a bribe of a donut) so that he could arrive on time. I gave The Boy the choice of waiting for his bus to return, or going with The Man, and he chose to go with The Man.

When the bus arrived, I went out to speak with the driver. She interrupted me before I could get my first sentence out, was extremely defensive and rude, making faces at me, and interrupting me many, many times. She even challenged the truth of what I was saying, and pulled another child up from his seat to “bear witness” that The Boy was not visible when she was there. I told her the arrangement we had with our regular bus driver, but she seemed much more concerned about whether or not I was accusing her of being late, which I obviously wasn’t.  I was shaking by the time I was finished and stalked back into the house.

Incidents like these can not only have immediate and damaging effects (like a meltdown, or refusal to go to school), but they can also have lasting effects on children like The Boy. It will be a long, long time before he can trust that his bus will not leave him behind. Drivers need to have patience with all students, but especially with those with special needs. Would this driver have waited ten seconds after honking and driven off if The Boy was in a wheelchair? Probably not, but she appeared to not have any regard for The Boy’s specific needs.

Everyone employed by the school district that comes into contact with our kiddos should have training about what autism is, the core deficits children with autism have, and how each employee can help students with special needs find success throughout their school day. Anything less is not acceptable.

This is a large excerpt from the letter I am sending to the Director of Transportation, courtesy copied to the Director of Special Education and the Superintendent.  I ain’t playin’ and it’s not over if you’re going to be rude to me.

The Man for The Boy

This morning, The Boy’s transport van was ten minutes early.  If you know nothing about autism, you probably still know that routines are king, and if you mess with a routine… Well, watch out.

I heard the first honk at 6:38am.  The Boy had just decided he didn’t want to wear the pants we had chosen, but wanted to wear the blue ones.  I frantically searched for the blue ones, found them, gave them to him and he said, “Their inside out!”  I quickly turned them right side out, handed them to him and asked him to put them on, while I found a pair of socks to put on his feet myself.  That done, I headed to the front door, opened it, and stuck out a finger (no, not that one, although I was tempted), to let her know we had heard her and were coming as quick as we could.

I returned to The Boy’s room, and told him to go put his shoes on.  I grabbed his poptarts in a baggie, and his bookbag, and tried to hurry him out the door.  “Where are my glasses?” he wailed.  I set everything down, and went into his room to get his glasses.

She honked again.

Really?  Did you think I didn’t know you were there?  I already came outside in my robe to let you know we were coming, but you needed to honk again?

I gave him his glasses, gathered all of his things, and shooed him toward the door.  “I need you to tie my pants!  You’re not going to tie my pants?”  I got him on the porch, gave him his things and tied the drawstring on his pants.  I gave him a kiss and sent him on his way.

When I came in, The Man said, “Really?  Why was she so early, and why did she have to honk twice?”  Exactly.  “You need to call them and tell them they can’t do that to him.  He needs his routine, and they definitely don’t need to be honking like that.”

The Man advocating for The Boy.

Not just supporting me, because he knew I was a bit frantic and anxious from the situation the driver created (which he did, as well, asking more than once if I was OK), but actually defending and advocating for The Boy.

Exactly.

On the dunes