Bus Ride Solutions

I wrote this lament on an old geometry text Monday afternoon.

As I waited for Liev to come home, I felt frustrated over the latest bus and home happenings.

Many people villainize a difficult child. When our life spins into outbursts and misbehavior, I need to look hard for the underlying reasons and not succumb to popular thinking.

I decided:

1. School is stressful for Liev.
2. Sensory overload is prevalent during stress/illness.
3. Acting out comes from sensory overload.
4. Visual methods work best to identify and solve overload issues.

Monday morning I thought everything was under control. We discussed the bus and not being mean to peers. He had complained about a girl and shouted insults at her last week.

We wrote down a plan and I told social stories.

Yet, T melted down the moment the bus arrived. He went berserk. Picking up handfuls of pine needles he threw them, laughing hysterically.

I managed to get him on the bus only for him to throw a fistful of pine needles at the girl.

I was beyond shocked. A small melee erupted.  I put Liev in an “escort hold” and marched him to his seat. He screamed and laughed the whole way.

As I left, I stopped to apologize to the poor child.  Tears were on her cheeks. Liev howled at top volume behind us as I apologized. I told her that T would write her a nice note and that sometimes he has a hard time going to school.

The situation confused me. Initially, T had been quite affectionate with her. A week after their old bus was switched to a wheelchair-lift bus, T became surly.

I spent the rest of the day Doing Something About It. I called his SPED teacher. I called (and called!) my mom and husband. I walked in circles, worried and felt sorry for myself. Then I wrote my note.

The bus was late coming home from school. I climbed on to hear Liev shrieking. It was as if his day was one long drawn-out irrepressible scream.

The driver announced, “We’re late because he had a hard time getting on the bus. He gave his para a real hard time.”

His paraeducator had strapped him in his seat Hannibal Lector style. For one dumb moment, I stared down at him.

 “Eee-eeuuuughhh! Uuuuuuuuh! Heheheeeee! I want out!!! EEEEEEEEeeeee! Hahahahahaha!”

It was almost comical. Then it became comical. I couldn’t figure out how to unstrap him so we wrestled and became ensnared in the seatbelt. I bonked my head and he stepped on my nose.

 “EEEEEEEEEEEEeee! UUUUUhhhhhhh! Hahahahahahahahahhhahha!”

I fully expected him to bite me.

The rest of the afternoon went as expected.

Fretting over the whole situation, I didn’t sleep well that night.

Tuesday morning, We went through the same ritual as before. But this time, when I wrote:

“If you don’t like someone, do not be mean to them.”

I added:

“Do this instead:
1. Ignore them.
2. Act nice.
3. Be nice.”

I explained that the three numbers are levels you climb like stairs: Number one means to do no harm, Two is to act friendly, and three is to understand and have empathy for the person. As you get older you master each one, I explained. He soberly attended my lecture.

I told him that he can avoid being silly by using a similar method. We can use levels and numbers. I outlined a bus plan:

1. Walk to bus.
2. When you get on the bus, look at the floor.
3. Count the steps to your seat.
4. Count the seconds as I buckle you in.
5. All done, say goodbye.

As I made the bus list, I ignored the girl and focused on my sensory perceptions of the bus.

When I step onto the new bus, I feel crowded by the close aisles. The well-meaning bus driver usually greets us loudly. I never understand what she says. Students crowd the first row and chatter at us. The aisles seem to lean inward, their strangely tall seats adding a claustrophobic effect. At the back of the bus, a large empty space produces jarring echos.

If I feel this, how does T feel? Similar. How do I cope with a raucous environment? I look at the floor and occupy my mind with something else.

Voila. Our list worked.

And I got help. I burn so much energy fretting about these situations that it is a good idea to recruit support. I am looking forward to solving some more problems.

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