About Me

A couple of years ago, I found my autistic child locked in a small cold cement cell at his school. The cell had no windows, no furniture, and was slate gray with low lighting. The cell was also sound proofed so parents and teachers outside wouldn’t hear him crying. I am writing this blog as a campaign to change the way these children are perceived and treated in our society.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

10 Ways to Help your Autistic Child Ride the Bus

1)      Try to follow the same pattern every day. If you normally get on the bus and escort your child to his seat, continue to do that. If you normally stand and wave good bye, continue to do that. Any changes that you need to make, let the child know ahead of time. “I will no longer be able to get on the bus with you, so today you will have to carry your backpack to your seat.”
2)      Many autistic children are sensitive to noises in their environment.   One of the best, albeit expensive, purchases that I made for my son was a noise reduction headphone.  One of the nice ones, one that cover the ears.
3)      Ensure that your child has a seat to themselves.  If the bus drives says that they don’t have it available, then request an IEP meeting and have it included as part of their plan.
4)      Purchase a hand held computer game, or a hand held DVD player, or find several books from the library that they really like so that they have entertainment on the bus ride.
5)      Transitions can be difficult for an autistic child.  To help them cope with this, play to their strength by getting them focused on something that they enjoy, like a movie or a show.  For a few days in a row, my son was having a particularly hard time getting onto the bus, so I started a show that he liked on a hand held DVD player five minutes before the bus arrived.  With the show going and his headphones on, he marched right onto the bus, completely focused on the hand held device.  Please make certain that the show is short enough so that it will end before the bus ride is over, otherwise they will have a hard time getting off of the bus.
6)      Ensure that they are not doing anything before the bus is coming that they will have to stop.  Do not have them watching a program on the TV (that they cannot bring with them on the bus) or have them playing with a toy, or a pet that they will have to leave behind.
7)      Be certain that they have plenty of time to board the bus when it comes.  As I said before, transitions can be difficult for an autistic child, so you want to ensure that you do not do anything to elevate them right before the bus arrives.  I have a few memories of trying to rush my son to be ready for the bus, only to have him freeze up.  Try to include enough time in your mornings so that rushing him is not necessary.
8)      Have the cell phone number of the school bus handy in case the bus is running late and your child is starting to become distracted, you can call to find out how much longer they will be.  This is also good if for some reason your child becomes upset right before the bus arrives.  This will give you a chance to explain to them that you need a few minutes for your child to calm down.  Although the bus drivers have a schedule to keep, sometimes they can pick up another child first and come back to get yours.  They may not be able to do this all the time, but if you have a few minutes for your child to calm down before you try to transition them, it will make for a much better day. 
9)      Have a discussion with the bus driver and the assistant about your child's needs.  If your child doesn’t like having his backpack touched by anyone, mention that to them so that they don’t try to grab it.  Make certain that they have your cell phone number.
10)   If the child is having a hard time and your schedule permits, drive him or her to school.

For other tips on dealing with autistic children, visit 101 Ways a Teacher Could Help a Child with Autism

1 comment:

  1. When I was younger, I preferred to sit in the back on the school bus, because I couldn't stand the noise from the engine at the front. I have heard that buses that have the engine at the back aren't as noisy inside as buses that have the engine at the front. I also liked the g-force feeling, which I found was felt more strongly in the back.

    It might also help to see if there is a certain area on the bus that best suits your child's sensory needs, and make sure your child gets to sit there as often as possible (maybe you can even talk with the bus driver about making that seat your child's assigned seat). Also, make sure your child has some way to compensate for his/her sensory needs, just in case s/he doesn't get to sit in the preferred part of the bus. I always found that listening to music on my iPod on the bus helped block out the noise, as did playing video games on a handheld device. It also helped to pass the time.

    It might also help to make sure your child's bus driver (and bus monitor if your child has one on his/her bus) and probably the other kids who ride the bus with your child know about his/her disability, and tell them that there are certain things that your child can't control, and that should not be stopped (like stimming). Also let them know that as long as the behavior your child is showing doesn't look like it might hurt anyone (even your child) or anything (like even name calling should not be let go), it should be let go. This is especially a good idea if your child likes to sit in the back because s/he knows s/he can stim or act autistic and not get in trouble with the bus driver. Or if your child prefers to sit in the front because s/he knows s/he can stim or act autistic and not get tormented about it.