When Masha started General Education Kindergarten last year, she was transported to and from school on the regular ole bus with her big brothers. It wasn’t long before the problems started. She wouldn’t keep her seat belt on and it got worse from there.
(Do any of the other kids on the regular bus wear their seat belts? Uh, no.)
But she started moving around too much, leaning over the seats, bothering other students... and spitting. Apparently someone on the bus modeled that for her and she picked it up lickety-split. I fielded phone call after phone call about how bad she was, and I tried idea after idea trying to get her to behave. I even begged, bribed, and forced her brothers to take turns sitting with her to try to keep her behaving in a positive way. That only made things worse, and in retrospect it probably wasn’t my best idea ever.
The bus ride is so boring for her. Other kids sit together and chat, or they whip out their handheld electronic games and play. Kids socialize on the bus, at least that is how I remember the long daily rides when I was a kid. Masha sits alone and she has no games to play. The special books I sent for her to only have on the bus turned into projectiles. Eventually she started kicking the windows, causing the driver to have to pull over to deal with her. The school refused to provide an aide, so I suggested a 5-point harness seat belt.
Instead they kept pushing for her to ride on the special bus, and I had no ideas left, no fight left... so I agreed to try it. I figured they would work with her, teach her the proper way to ride the bus and that before too long she would be back on the regular bus.
Oooh, lesson learned. If it goes on the IEP, it is LAW and it is a nightmare to get back off the IEP. The little bus came with an aide and a harness that I had to strap on her everyday over her clothes/coat. Once on the bus, they literally clipped her to the seat by the shoulders and lower back using the metal loops on the harness. The aide also coddled her. She waited outside the bus and took Masha’s backpack for her and then helped her up the steps and into her seat, allowing her zero independence. Since this bus is used for multiple children with special needs across multiple schools in our district, Masha’s bus ride became much longer, and she was forced to leave class 15 minutes early everyday to get loaded onto the bus so that it could depart prior to the regular bus loading frenzy. A couple weeks lasted months.
One day, while waiting with Autumn and Masha for both their buses, a very bad thing happened. I forgot the harness. When Masha’s bus came (before Autumn’s this time) they refused to take her on the bus without it. I was stunned. The kid can’t ride on the stinkin’ bus one freakin’ day without being strapped in like a convict? I asked them to wait for me to drive up our (sorta long) driveway to get it, and they said they did not have time for that. At that moment, I forgot that I am a nice lady and became Psycho Bitch. Seriously, the rope snapped, kwim? Masha was standing on the bottom step of the bus while the aide was trying to talk me into taking her back home, and I said “No. No fucking way!” (Yeah, I took a lot of heat for that one. Sorry parents of those kids on the bus that may or may not have heard me.) I turned around and stuffed Autumn (who I was holding the whole time) back in the van, jumped in and drove up my driveway with Masha still standing on the bus step.
Yup, they waited for me to return with that harness. But I decided right then that Masha was done riding that bus. I insisted that they begin teaching her what is expected of her. I demanded that she be back on the regular bus within a week or so of practicing without that contraption on her.
And it all worked out just fine. Then over the summer, she attended camp for 6 weeks. She rode the full-sized camp bus every day with no problems, and I was one proud mama.
This Fall, she started off on the regular bus again and everything was going just fine; until I got the phone call today. Masha is taking her coat off and opening her backpack and throwing her stuff on the bus floor. And although she is staying in her seat belt, she is getting up on her knees and looking over the seats. She is causing her driver so much stress that he “missed a turn down a street one day last week.” I felt like pointing out that this dude backs over the mailboxes at the end of our road once a week, what’s his excuse for that? But instead it went kinda like this:
Me: I fail to see the problem with Masha removing her coat. In fact, if Masha can now unbutton her coat, that is an OT goal completed and I am impressed.
Principal: It’s cold out now.
Me: Yeah, Masha will figure that out.
Principal: blah blah blah blah
Me: No, no special bus. How about an aide?
Principal: blah blah blah blah, probably not.
I am tired people. I am sad. I am feeling defeated. (But mama, SHE KEEPS HER SEATBELT ON!!!!!) Yeah, there’s that. That’s big. So I suggested we try more detailed social stories, and I have a few more ideas up my sleeve but really the problem is not going to be solved anytime soon.
Because the real problem is that she is bored and lonely on the bus. No kid sits still and alone, day after day, with nothing to do but stare out the window for forty minutes. Am I right?
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