Susan's Blog

Friday, June 1, 2012

Autism Mommy Swami #5: Get on the bus

Dear Autism Mommy Swami:

B suddenly doesn’t want to ride home on the bus (I already drive him in the AM because I didn’t like how the aide spoke to him). Oops, must go, more detail later. He is happy to go home in the car, just not on the bus.:(

— Bus-Ted

Dear Bus-Ted

I don’t know enough about B to venture any kind of guess, but of course that doesn’t stop Autism Mommy Swami from having an opinion, or at least a little anecdote to share.  First of all, I don’t like sudden changes. Why did things change? Every parent reading this is probably thinking, “Hmmm, what happens on that bus that makes it not work for B?”  Can you ask B in any way, shape, or form to tell you why? Nat has a lot of trouble answering why. If I ask him, “Nat, why are they celebrating?” He’ll answer, “Party.” But if I then ask, “Why are they having a party?” He’d say, “Celebrating.” And around and around.

I would start with the aide. You don’t like the way he/she talked to B. That is not good! You need to talk to her and let her know how you would like people to talk to B. It doesn’t have to be confrontational. When I recently came across a staff person who was too quiet and humorless around Nat, I told him, “I want you to put on your most excited, overly-caffeinated attitude when you’re with Nat! Use as much humor as you can with him!” And I kept it smiley. This guy went on to become one of the best we ever had.

I don’t know how your guy does with accuracy. Maybe you can find your way into the answer by going around the long way. In other words, what else could it be, if it’s not just the rude aide. Maybe chat up the driver. Get a feel for him/her. Is he friendly? Closed? Creepy? Angry? Fun? What feeling do you get when you see him and talk to him. Of course you can’t judge a book by its cover, but the instinctive response you have can inform you a little.

I would also ask the teachers for help on this one. Maybe they can do a social story that explains why we take a bus and why it’s a good thing — it means your a big boy, old enough not to have to ride in Mommy’s car, etc. Do other kids from the class take the bus? Are they nice to him? Is there a way of connecting with the other parents and finding out anything else about the bus experience?

And also, is it possible to get a monitor, for a short period, to check this aide out? Maybe if a trusted adult rides with B just once, he or she will have an idea of what goes on for B that makes him not want to ride.

Then again, it could just be that he wants him Mom the way he has her for the other direction. If you want to tough it out for a few weeks — as long as you feel okay about the aide, the driver and the other kids — maybe decide on a time period that you will make him do it. You’d then figure that if at the end of those two weeks he still doesn’t want to do it, you’ll drive him. You can also try incentives like treats for each day he rides.

I guess the thing for me is to be sure you feel confident about the aide, the driver, the other kids, and the ride before you take any other action.