Tag Archives: school bus

The Wheels On The Bus Go… WHERE?

14 Apr

The start of the next school year in September is going to be a big time for our family, as both boys make the leap to full-time school. In August, George is being discharged from the therapy centre where he currently spends his mornings, and James will be graduating from half-day Kindergarten and going into First Grade. It is a big adjustment for both boys, and although I expect some fallout, particularly from George, I am not too concerned. I have faith in both of the boys’ schools.

It’s the school buses I’m worried about.

For James, this isn’t an issue. We live too close to his school for buses to be in the picture for him (much to his disappointment; James would love to ride in a school bus like his big brother).

George, on the other hand, needs the bus, and four years’ worth of problems in the school bus system have taught us a very unfortunate fact: when it comes to scheduling school bus runs, special needs children are treated as an afterthought. The children who do not have any disabilities – in other words, the ones who as a rule are more adaptable and resilient – have their scheduling sorted out very early on in the school year. And the children who do have disabilities – the ones who are vulnerable, have higher levels of anxiety and more reliance on routines – easily spend six weeks or more being picked up at different times, by different drivers, and spending inordinately long periods of time on the bus, while their parents try to figure out what is going on.

Like most parents of young children, I want to know where my kids are at all times. I want to be able to know that at this time, George is on the bus, or at that time, James is eating lunch at the daycare. I do not want to be wondering whether or not George is still at the therapy centre and why the school is calling me to ask why he hasn’t shown up yet.

Last year, right after the Thanksgiving weekend, there was an incident with George’s bus that, while turning out OK, could have had terrible consequences. At that point, we had struggled with the bus company for almost two months getting George’s schedule worked out, and we thought that it had finally been resolved. George was being picked up at a consistent time from the therapy centre by a driver he knew from the previous year, and he was spending half an hour at most on the bus before being dropped off at school for the afternoon.

On the first day back after the Thanksgiving weekend, George was picked up at the usual time by the usual bus driver. He was driven to school.

The only problem was this: it was the wrong school.

Thank goodness George had on a seatbelt lock, which prevented him from getting up, walking off the bus, and getting lost or worse. Thanks to the seatbelt lock, someone had to actually get onto the bus to remove the seatbelt.

The teacher who took George off the bus didn’t know what was going on. She took the driver’s word that George was supposed to be there. It was only when the driver had left and George was standing in the principal’s office with a confused babble of grown-ups surrounding him that someone realized that a mistake had been made.

For a regular kid this would have been bad enough. For a child with autism who is afraid of people and places he doesn’t know, and who has severe communication impairments, it was downright traumatic.

Somehow the principal figured out who George was, and through a series of phonecalls, was able to figure out where he was supposed to be. A child’s booster seat was dug up from somewhere, and the principal bundled George into his car and drove him to the right school.

It only then, when George had arrived at his own school, that someone thought of calling me and Gerard to tell us what had happened. Up until that point, we had been completely oblivious to all of this.

While we were unbelievably grateful to have our child home safe and sound at the end of that day, we were haunted by thoughts of “what if”. The thoughts of “what if this happens again” prompted us to spend the next few weeks trying to figure out what the hell had happened.

We never did receive satisfactory answers. We do know that the bus driver was not at fault, that she was given the wrong information from higher up. We also know that in said higher-up’s attempt to avoid responsibility, the bus driver was relieved of her duties. There were no attempts made to figure out what had gone wrong so that steps could be taken to prevent it from happening again.

And in a few short months, we are going to have to fight a new battle for a new school year.

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/alextakesphotos/149198520)

Lost: the sequel

14 Oct

Two days ago, my vulnerable seven-year-old son who has autism was taken to the wrong school by the bus driver.  Through the miracle of technology, the principal of the wrong school (hereinafter referred to as School A) was able to determine that George was a student of the right school (hereinafter referred to as School B).  School A principal drove George to School B, where he was welcomed with open arms by his teacher.  School B administrator called Gerard to tell him what had happened.  Gerard called me.  Together, we spent a sleepless night thinking of how very badly this situation could have ended.  we had visions running through our minds of kidnapping, assault, and all other kinds of God-awful things.

The following day, we set out to find answers.  Clearly, we needed to know how and why a situation had arisen that could have had potential to severely compromise the safety of our child.

Gerard went to see the principal of School A. He pointed out that since George wears a special seatbelt lock to prevent unsupervised wanderings up and down the aisle, he could not have simply got up and got off the bus.  Who had taken George off the bus and why? The principal explained that although his school did have a new student, that student was not expected until later in the afternoon due to a medical appointment. When the bus had shown up, everyone had been surprised. A teacher had gone out to meet the bus, and the bus driver had told the teacher that George was transferring to School A.  The driver gestured at George and mentioned him by name.  The teacher had no reason to not believe the bus driver – she simply assumed that someone had not passed on some piece of information to someone else.  This is, after all, an administration.  These things happen.

Gerard’s next stop was the therapy centre.  He deliberately timed his arrival to coincide with that of the bus driver, with the intention of getting the bus driver’s side of the story. The bus driver claims that her supervisor had called her late on Friday to tell her that George was being transferred to School A effective from Tuesday (Monday being a stat holiday).  The bus driver, who knows George very well, was surprised enough to verbally confirm, in the same conversation, that George was the child being transferred. In accordance with these instructions, the bus driver drove George to School A on Tuesday, and only discovered the next day that this had been a mistake.

The supervisor is now claiming that she never named George as the child being transferred, that she had named some other child with a completely different-sounding name. The supervisor is removing the bus driver from George’s route, and is quite possibly going to attempt to fire her.

It sounds to me as if this is what happened: The supervisor gave the bus driver the wrong name.  Instead of saying Peter or Simon or whatever the other kid’s name was, she said George. The bus driver followed through on the instruction she was given, not knowing it was incorrect. Thereby unknowingly placing a child with autism in a very vulnerable situation. Now the supervisor is trying to cover up her mistake by blaming the bus driver, and the bus driver could end up without a job because of the supervisor’s mistake.

Is it just me, or is this story disturbing on many, many levels?