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The Angel on the Bus

Joined: 1/22/2011
Posts: 9
Autism is one of those things that require a lot of mental and emotional strength from the caregivers. You need a tough skin. You learn not to ask your child, “Do you love so-and-so?” because they may very well say “no” since they are not feeling loving at the moment. You learn to put on a game face and pretend there are not other people in public with you when your child is having a meltdown. You also learn not to take comments personally. Or you try to.

Yesterday was one of those days for me. I do not really know why it struck my heart yesterday, but it did. When I went to get my son from the bus yesterday, I could tell he was having a rough time because he was not at the door waiting for the bus driver to open it. That usually means he’s not cooperating with the aide or harassing another child.
I probably sighed inside my heart and made my way to the bus. “Is he having a rough day?” I asked.

“Yes. He’s been unbuckling himself lately and not staying in his seat. He’s also bothering the other children.”

My son walked down the aisle toward me, and I caught his hand. “It is very dangerous for you to get out of your seat. Everyone could get hurt really bad, and your bus driver could get in a lot of trouble. You need to stay in your seat.” As I was talking to him, he kept trying to get out of my grasp.

“You have your hands full, Mom,” said the driver. And that was it, the comment that hurt my heart.

I know it seems silly. Some days I would give anything to hear someone say that to me, to acknowledge that the handsome boy who can memorize anything is a whole bunch of work and drains me. Yesterday, it felt like a stigma placed on him, I guess. I cannot quite explain it. Perhaps I felt badly that someone else may not have been so happy to be around my son at the moment.

I reprimanded him one more time so she would know I was taking it seriously, and led him off the bus. He started talking about something or other, hyped up as usual after the long bus ride home. I was discouraged. What do you do when your child will not stay in his seat on a bus and he is already in a car seat? Do I ask to sign a paper allowing a harness and add to his stress level? I now had more things to think about.

Later that evening, after good times and bad, my phone rang. The caller ID said it was last year’s bus driver. I was surprised. “Hello?” I answered.

“Hi. I just saw your husband at work, and he said I should give you a call to say hi, so I’m calling on my way to the next store.” Wow.

Let me go back in time and explain.

This was my son’s first bus driver. She had amazing rapport with the kids. My son adored her and her regular aide. They were fun and extended my child’s education on the bus ride, teaching gargantuan words and how to interact with others. Since each child is individually picked up and dropped off, that makes the ride longer. This driver wisely stowed a box of mishmash toys on the bus to occupy the students on their ride home.

Additionally, these ladies were a social outlet for me. Many days I was home without a car. Mornings could be rough, and by the time they came to pick up my son, I was ready for another adult to say hi to me and give me a smile, which they always did.

Press the fast forward button and stop at last night’s call. I thought his former driver had moved, so I was delighted to hear her voice and to share the phone with my son so she could talk to him. He told her that he missed her, and she returned the sentiment. How kind! We chatted for a few minutes, catching up on the past months. I knew I could not keep her on the phone forever, so I acknowledged that she was probably at her store and I should let her go. She said, “I’ll try to call him on his bus driver’s radio tomorrow.” Her kindness blessed my soul.

Today, I armed my son with a used-and-abused Doodle Pro for his bus ride. He now loves drawing and will spend a long time on that toy. I explained to him that he can use it only on the bus and only if he remains in his seat. I am hoping it will give his current driver a better ride.

As we got to the end of the sidewalk, my son’s bus pulled to a stop. A second bus came driving down the parking lot. It was last year’s driver. She stopped the bus, opened her window, and waved to my son. She told him to be good on the bus. He couldn’t hear her since she was across the parking lot, but he could see her. He knows that she cares for him and stopped by to say hi. His steel-trap mind will remember.

His mom will remember, too. There is a kids’ song that often drives parents close to the edge of insanity. “The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round.” I have a new version. “The angel on the bus cares for my son, for my son, for my son. The angel on the bus cares for my son, all through the town.”
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