It Happened On The Bus

school_bus“There was a spitting incident on the bus”

*Yesterday*

I cringed and my heart sunk as I thought we have gone so long without any incidents on any of the bus routes. Actually we haven’t had anything happen this school year at all and its March now and Johnny is on at least three different buses each day.

Before Johnny comes home, his afternoon teacher from the Social Skills / Communication group calls me back to let me know what happened. What I love about her is in both of her voicemail messages to me and speaking on the phone to her the first thing she wanted me to know is he is safe and happy and doing wonderful in their class and group. She told me how proud she is of him and the progress he is making and that even though something happened on the bus it did not effect his time with them at all. Okay…

I could tell that his teacher was ill at ease about what happened so I encouraged her to speak freely to me and that we had some belt unbuckling incidents last year during Johnny’s JK year that lead to the school board asking for a safety vest be placed on Johnny on the challenging route for “his” safety.

She told me that she got on the school bus like she does every time and the bus driver never says anything to her as usual and Johnny is sitting quietly waiting for her and she unbuckles him, gets his things and takes him off the bus. Today while she is unbuckling Johnny, the driver gets out of his seat which he has never done before and comes over looming over Johnny and says angrily.

“You don’t spit on the bus. No spitting on the bus.”

The teacher said she was stunned and then looked and did see a little puddle of spit and still the driver didn’t say anything to her but looked angry. Her first thought was to get Johnny off the bus as fast as possible and away from the tension and angry person. She took Johnny inside and talked to him about why we don’t spit but also that he needs to use his words with all people. She also told Johnny that the driver should not have yelled at him and that she would call Mommy.

I was so shocked when I heard this. When Johnny was 2-3-1/2 he used to spit into the air for 15 minutes to 25 minutes at a time just to watch the spray hit the air or watch what happens to his milk spray over the kitchen floor. He also used to make little puddles on the table with his drink as well so spitting is not what shocked me. The part that shocked me was that a grown man who drives children around would yell at a young five year old child. Yes Johnny has Autism and speech delay but that is not an excuse it only makes the offence even worse to me. The professional thing would be for him to quietly tell the teacher what is happening so that she can offer advise and have the bus company call me and alert me.

The teacher explained to me that she is not used to dealing with school bus drivers and usually only deals with small children transportation taxi services where drivers are dealing with more challenging children and how will stop and talk to her nicely about a child and ask for help. She was left feeling very unsettled and worried for Alexander and wanted to know if I could call the bus company and ask if the driver needed any strategies or visuals and to let them know that being angry at a child is wrong and even more upsetting because its a child with special needs.

I told her I would definitely be following up on this.

I have not met this driver on this route because he picks Johnny up at his regular school and then drops him off at a social skills private school two afternoons a week. The other three drivers that pick up or drop off Johnny are amazing men who are all very considerate and incredibly patient with the variety of children they transport. One driver who did not know that Johnny has Autism and just thought he was incredibly shy saw that Johnny was really anxious when he pulled up to his school because of a fire drill. He quickly suggested to the Education Assistant to play a little game called “Let’s do a fire drill on the school bus.” This peaked Johnny’s curiosity and the driver asked him if he had ever been shown the emergency exit door on the bus which he said “no.’ The driver and the Education Assistant then showed him how to exit out of the back door if he ever had to and only with the bus drivers assistance.

When Johnny was dropped off today I tried to look at his face closely and he was avoiding eye contact and keeping his face from me. I know that this means that he is anxious about something so I just try to joke about his afternoon and he quickly looks at me and smiles and says “I had fun.” When we reach our front door he sees the cordless phone outside on the ledge because I had just been talking to his teacher and he tells me “Mommy take this inside.” I tell him that Mommy was talking to his teacher about what a good boy he is and how well his is doing and how how happy we are about him. He liked that and smiled. I then took the plunge and said that his teacher told me about the spitting. He looked away and smirked a little and I reminded him of what the expectations are when he rides the bus.

“Your teacher also told me that the bus driver yelled at you.”

Johnny quickly locked his eyes with mine and I saw sadness in them and he said with a sad tone “yyyeess.”

He then points to the inside of his mouth and says, “dirt in there. I trying to get it out.”

“Even though its not nice to spit on buses, the bus driver should not have yelled at you and make you feel bad. That is not a good choice by him and Mommy will talk to him.”

I got a big hug after that.

One of the things I battle with parenting a child with Autism is that when he “does something”, a behaviour if you will, that some people make the assumption that he is doing something bad or worse “he is a bad boy.” I get so tired trying to explain “why” and I am sure some friends and family might think I am making excuses for his behaviour. The fact is Johnny has Autism and is not a typical child. He reacts differently to our environment and reads it very differently as well. All I ask is that everyone who deals with him tries to remember that the Autism is a part of him and when he does something to first see him as a child and then stop and ask themselves why he did that instead of jumping to conclusions.

Previous Posts re: school bus

https://sunflowercyn.wordpress.com/2012/05/01/little-houdini-and-the-school-bus-adventure/

https://sunflowercyn.wordpress.com/2012/06/12/introducing-the-vest/ ‎

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8 Comments Add yours

  1. Malaika says:

    My daughter also required a vest/harness while riding the school bus when she was 5. I remember those days vividly. I remember being sad about the news that she would have to be “strapped down” in her seat. It crushed me even though I knew it was for the best. She is now a 22 year old woman and up until this past December, rode in a taxi for almost 1 1/2 hours to and from school for almost 5 years. She ofcourse enjoyed that instead of a school bus and so did I. Our autistic childrens behaviors are the best indicators of how they are being treated while they are away from us as they have no filter and do not know how to hide their feelings. Bad behavior could be indicative of bad treatment from others just like non autistic children except the autistic child more than likely cannot be intimidated into silence. I love that about these children.

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    1. Cyn says:

      I wanted to let you know that we have written a letter of concern to the school district about what happened on the bus and I have shared an excerpt on my blog and thanked you for your support.

      I really like your insightful comments on how our children’s autistic behaviours are windows of how they are being treated when they are away from us. I have always suspected this and especially after some of the stuff that was happening in his JK year last year. “Intimidated into silence”, my husband has always remarked at how our son always seems to be blazing his own trail and when someone pushes him into doing something he doesn’t want to he doesn’t cower but looks them in the eye and says “no.” The hard part is trying to teach him to understand that sometimes we have to do what we don’t want to do because we are suppose to and when its okay to say no.

      Your daughter sounds amazing and its wonderful to hear from a mom that is sharing the journey.

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  2. solodialogue says:

    This makes me quite worried. Perhaps overly so but I don’t like that bus driver’s attitude at all. This should never have happened. Whatever action you take, please put it in writing to make a record that he raised his voice to your special needs child. You need to make a record to protect, not only your son, but all the children. I’m glad you put it here, but make sure they know as well. Our children are different and special and, at times fragile. Understanding and kindness is the only way to be with them.

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    1. Cyn says:

      Thank you so much for encouraging us to put “pen to paper” and to write a letter. We did just that last Friday and we have received a response. Sadly it is filled with a defense of the districts policies, what is in place with NO apology but a promise to follow up with driver to make sure he understands that he should only address his concerns to teachers, Principal and bus company. The part that bothered me is that the manager brought up in the letter that because of the incidents last year they had informed the bus companies that our son should have a safety cap on his seat belt cover. We are going to write another letter now making sure everyone is clear that in the 6 months of this school year, there has been no incidents on the 3 school routes he travels on and he has been a wonderful rider. Our children our fragile and kindness and understanding is everything but it seems like we have to convince…..one person at a time. *hugs*

      PS my latest post is about the letter of concern and I thanked you in it 🙂

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      1. solodialogue says:

        So sorry that the district was defensive – but that alone is telling, isn’t it? I want to let you know that I’m just saying to make a written record as a fellow mom and certainly not as a lawyer. I don’t know where you live or what the laws are where you are so I certainly do not want you to be under the impression I was trying to bestow any type of legal advice to you – I am not and have not done so. It is important for us – as parents- to assure that we understand the school (and all its adjuncts such as bus companies) positions and reasoning. Once you believe that a law has been violated or that a right has been trodden on, it is important for you to seek legal advice from a professional in your area. I am thinking of you as you work through this and wish you all the best in your efforts.

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      2. Cyn says:

        No worries….you were giving me “Mom to Mom advice” which is the best kind especially when we both have children on the spectrum;) The “human rights” angle and Autism are now in focus quite a bit in Canada right now and specifically where we live as the media is focusing on this quite a bit. Institutions that help parents on the ASD journey are teaching parents how to know the system(s) in place and how to advocate effectively but in a positive collaborate fashion. I think that schools and everyone associated with them are not used to dealing with more informed parents who are taking this approach and haven’t adapted “their” way of handling things yet. We are definitely going to stay on top of thing so that our son can have a happy and safe experience throughout his day and hopefully misplace misunderstandings to kindness and acceptance. Thank you for your thoughts and wishes 🙂

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