Friday, November 22, 2013

School Bus Blues

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?


Tara said...

Ugh. Gives me a headache. Sigh.

jisun said...

Yeah, you're right. What a shit show. I'm confused though, how does taking off one's jacket and looking over the seat translate into causing the driver to miss a turn? Am I just not understanding it? I mean, the bus riding that I remember was full of peering over seats. The driver would yell at us, we'd sit down, then we'd do it again in a few minutes. The jacket thing reminds me of your shoe thing with Kimani. Anyways. I hope the fight is as painless as possible.

krlr said...

I've decided learning what other schools/families end up with is no longer instructive, and it drives me completely effing insane, but why no aid? If she have one in the class it *should* carry over. I realize our school has been above average (apart from their insistence on the IQ test) but we were given the option of reg bus/reg bus with aid/SpEd bus - they ended up switching buses to consolidate aides so my girl's with some older kids but it's an exceptionally short ride so nbd. I gather she doesn't use an iPad at school? If she doesn't have one already, that might be a steep &risky purchase for just the bus, but maybe a (cheaper) Leapster?

Michelle said...

Oh man. Just ugh. How does she even have a seat belt on the regular bus? I didn't think they had any. And yeah, if the other kids on the bus aren't wearing one why does she have to? I've found one of the issues w/sped buses is what you've mentioned - length of time and pick up/drop off times are longer than what they would be on the reg bus.
When we first moved here Kayla was sent to a school that was not her neighborhood school we are zoned for. School starts at 720 yet her bus pick up time was 5:45! She would have had to get up at a first grader! I ended up taking her to school, but let her ride the bus home because she's always enjoyed riding the bus. In my research to look at length of time to be on a bus etc I came across something that said it was illegal to have our kids dismissed from school earlier just to take that sped bus.
She's started at her neighborhood school this year and I told them she could ride the reg bus w/the rest of the kids on our street; we didn't have any issues switching her from sped bus to reg bus.
I'm sorry this is becoming such an issue and they won't provide an aide. I'm not sure what suggestions to make as it seems you've tried a lot of different things. It does seem like she's bored on the ride w/no one to sit with. Are there not enough kids on the bus to have 2 to a seat? Is there someone her age on the bus you could help forge a friendship with?

TUC said...

Michelle, thank you for mentioning that it might be illegal for her to miss class to be on that spec bus. That could be helpful. Last year she was taken out early from a school spirit show with all the kids in the gym, and she was so upset. I felt awful for her. There are some really nice kids on the bus but I hesitate to ask for a buddy because I am afraid they will think I am trying to put some responsibility on someone else's kid, which it would not be... really she just needs a friend to keep busy with. We are in a huge district, so it is only K-5th on the bus, and we don't socialize with any of the families whose kids ride with ours. Not for any particular reason; it just has worked out that way. Guess we need to start throwing more parties!

krir, Masha does have an iPad but we send it in on Mondays and they send it home on Fridays... less chance of there being an issue with it. But, a Leapster or something like it is a great idea and I am going to try that. Thanks :-)

Unknown said...

Ugh - this is such a mess. Are there older kids on the bus? What does Masha's IEP say in terms of working on social skills - isn't this something that should be part of the bus time too? Is there anything about peer groups in the IEP. Couldn't this be something that is incorporated in the bus experience? Wouldn't it be great if it was a privilege to sit next to Masha on the bus? I bet there are other kids who also sit alone on the bus...can you find those kids and match make? So sorry - but we need to let the schools and the other kids no this is NOT alright now! Keep it up! Gary

TUC said...

"Wouldn't it be great if it was a privilege to sit next to Masha on the bus?" That made my heart skip a beat just to imagine that :-) Thanks for the ideas. I will talk to them about working social skill building into the bus ride.

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