My 8-year-old autistic son stands at our living room window watching for his shiny yellow school bus to come up our driveway at 7:30 each weekday morning. If I don’t catch him in time to put on his coat and backpack, he runs out ahead of me. I follow to find him jumping and squealing with delight as he faces the enormous rig on the other side of our 6-foot, chain-link gate.
What is it that turns a boring, 45-minute bus ride to and from school each day into an exciting adventure for him? It’s a few simple things that any bus driver and attendant can do:
1. Every day, driver Irene and attendant Stacie greet Zack with enthusiasm equal to his own. “Hello, buddy!” Tracie says as she steps out of the bus to guide Zack inside.
2. Once inside the bus, they immediately take off Zack’s coat. Physical comfort is a must for autistic children, and because my son likes to wear as little as possible, the coat goes on the floor behind the driver’s seat along with his backpack.
3. They have books and small toys for Zack to look at during the ride. Early in the year, they asked me to provide these, which I was happy to do.
4. They sing songs, with hand motions, that Zack gets to choose as they ride along. By communicating with his teacher, they found out what songs he knows and are able to understand his garbled versions of them.
5. Best of all, every now and then they put on a special light show exclusively for Zack! The stop sign comes out, complete with flashing red and yellow lights all around. They leave it on long enough for him to circle the bus and enjoy every bit of flashy excitement.
— ELIZABETH GRIFFIN