When an autistic passenger became upset, school bus driver April Grubbs (left) and aide Susan Smith urged him to count stop lights until they reached an area that was recognizable to him.
Teamwork keeps autistic student safe
April Grubbs and Susan Smith
Marysville Exempted Village Schools
When Marysville Exempted Village Schools provided special-needs training to its school bus drivers and aides in August, administrators never imagined how great an impact it would make.
The training — which specifically addressed the needs of autistic students — helped an aide and driver control a potentially dangerous situation while they were transporting three special-needs students in September.
Driver April Grubbs and aide Susan Smith had picked up three students from a special-needs school and were taking them home when numerous accidents on the freeway and the resulting traffic congestion prevented them from getting off at the correct exit. The heavy traffic and break in routine caused an autistic student in the van to become agitated.
The student launched himself towards Grubbs’ seat while she was trying to maneuver off the freeway. He then kicked a van window, breaking it. Smith quickly intervened as the student attempted to lean out the window and touch the vehicles on the freeway.
“The driver and the aide just did a really excellent job of keeping everyone safe,” said Amy Morgan, director of transportation for Marysville Exempted Village Schools. “Had [the student] been able to get out of the van, he would have surely been killed.”
Smith was able to restrain the student. She and Grubbs quickly devised a game to calm him — they urged him to count stop lights until they reached an area that was recognizable to the student. Grubbs and Smith then pointed out familiar landmarks to help the student recognize his surroundings on the way back to his house.
“It was wonderful that they were able to get so creative,” Morgan said. “They just went above and beyond.”
“I’m so proud of them,” she continued. “All the training we’ve given them paid off because they knew how to utilize it. It couldn’t be more positive of a story. It had a wonderful outcome when it could have had a tragic one.”
In addition to autism-specific training, the district also provided several other special-needs courses for drivers and aides over the past school year. These sessions were led by a special-needs teacher.
“I’m so grateful that we did all that training with them,” said Morgan. “It just paid off in leaps and bounds.”
— BRITTANY-MARIE SWANSON