It’s rumbling around the corner and a big ol’ stop sign flops out at the driver’s window…kids in their school best clammor on board. It’s the big yellow school bus and it’s just around the corner…so to speak!
You all may have already loaded your kiddos up on the bus for the school year, or in year’s past–if so–you proably already know this. Otherwise, keep reading. You may learn something new.
The idea of your child riding a bus may frighten you or make you jump for joy. Likely, you’re somewhere in the middle. On one hand, it’s nice not to have to do the drop-up and pick-up everyday, especially so if you have younger kids at home to care for. On the other, you could quickly morph into a high-maintenance worry-wart following behind the bus to ensure its safe arrival at your child’s educational institution.
Here’s the deal: bus drivers are required by law to follow a standardized set of safety rules and guidelines. They hold a commercial driver’s license (CDL), and must have demonstrated their skills to drive a school bus and have passed a knowledge test. In addition, bus drivers will need to pass a physical exam every 2 years. They must be able to read and speak English well enough to prepare daily or weekly reports. Generally, bus drivers are at least 21 years of age, but many employers prefer them to be 24 years old or older.
Your child will be placed in a car seat, designed especially for buses. Your school transportation department will likely call you ahead of time to get your child’s height and weight measurements to ensure they are placed in the proper safety restraint. They will tell you about the route, the bus number, who your child’s driver will be, and if there is an aide (there often is—this person greets the children at the door and helps with their belongings and gets them buckled in properly). Our aide even sang songs with the kids!
Get a copy of your school district’s school bus safety policy and consider adding a few transportation and safety goals to your child’s IEP (if she has one). There are a lot of friendly and familiar school faces ready to greet your child when she gets off the bus. Teachers, classroom aides, SLPs and even the principal are involved in ushering kids to their classrooms.
Riding the bus helps your child prepare for her school day (giving her a buffer between the transition of home and school), provides some down-time on the way home, and even encourages the socialization that’s so important to incorporate into her day.
If your child has CAS, and along with that–limited verbal communication, you worry. Of course you do. Teach her to say a few things like, “Wait!” “I’m Here!” or something of that nature. Make sure she has proper identification on or in her backpack. You may even consider having her wear a medi-alert bracelet or necklace incase she is unable to communicate information about her name and residence (most kids, regardless of CAS can’t do this until they reach Kindergarten anyway).