What Makes One Child’s Safety More Important Than Another?
This was a question that I had after dealing with an issue this last week. The story is the extended school year started. For Lil Man’s first day, I brought him to school so I could meet his aid and get a few additional questions answered. All went well until it was time for him to come home.
The Bus Stop
My neighbor in our townhouse also has a special needs child who is attending ESY, and we were waiting together for the bus to drop our boys off. The bus pulls up the main road as it always did during the normal school year and stops in front of our house. Now our house is on a corner. The front is a very busy road with lots of traffic. There is also another child with Autism who lives across the street from us on the main road. So for the bus to stop as it did would have been normal for let the other child off as his drive is right there and wouldn’t need to cross the road.
Thinking how the route worked before I’m standing in my driveway which is on the side of our house. The small side street with no traffic side. I expect the bus to turn down our street and stop as it always has. So imagine my surprise when I see not the child across the street getting off the bus but my son! I’m now trying to rush over to the front of the house as an aide is trying to cross this very busy road with cars and trucks coming from both directions.
This in itself would be stressful with any kid as people speed down our street (two cars behind the bus did slam their brakes) but add Autism into the mix and you have a child who sees all these different cars coming from different directions and lots of noise between the bus, the aide telling him what to do, not his normal routine, seeing all the trucks and cars on the road; and you get the fight or flight mode!
Lil Man almost ran from me when I went to take his hand from the aide and I had to just hug him hard till the traffic had passed before I could even try to get him to focus on me and getting into the house. And while trying to keep him calm I’m trying to ask the bus driver if this is where his stop is going to be for I expected the side street. She said the other bus goes does our side street but Lil Man was assigned to this one.
One Child Over Another
Wait, what? There are two buses? So why was my son assigned to this one if there is another one? Once I got Lil Man in the house I called the bus company to explain my concerns and ask questions as I was both confused and concerned. The answers I got made me angry and had me in tears. They confirmed that there is another bus that will be picking up and dropping off my neighbor’s son on the side street as it did all year and that they did try to put Lil Man on the same bus but it’s full. So my son was assigned to this other bus which is a half-bus (larger than normal special needs but half the size of a regular school bus) as he doesn’t have the mobility issues and the route has her picking other kids further down the road so she can’t come down our side street as it’s out of the way.
I honestly didn’t know what to say at the time so I just thanked her for her time and hung up. I was in shock honestly. My brain was trying to process everything that just happened. First thought was why does one kid get the normal bus but not mine? How do you pick one child over another? Yes Lil Man is my child and I will always put him first but can I expect others to do the same? What makes my child more important? Or for that matter, what makes another child more important than mine? The answer is you don’t. There has to be a way to look at the whole picture and if it means longer routes, maybe even having to do a circle, then you do it. Every child deserves to be safe.
What We Did
Once I processed all these feelings and tried looking at the whole picture I came to an answer for us. My child’s safety is my top concern and ultimately my job. So the current bus stop was NOT an option. With our family only having one car, we don’t have the option to transport him ourselves. So since ESY is not required, I decided I would keep him home. Hey, I pulled my kid from school before because he wasn’t safe so I have no problem doing it again.
I messaged Lil Man’s teacher and explained the story to her. I told her that I understand the buses are limited but that I felt it was unsafe for my son and I would keep him home if nothing could be done. His teacher completely understood and agreed that with Lil Man only being 10 and being a flight risk, the current arrangement is not safe for him. She too called the bus company and about an hour later she called me with some good news.
They had pulled the routes for both buses and looked at each student. Some were no longer attending ESY and a few others were now going to be driven by their parents and not needing the bus. So this allowed so reconfiguring and opened a spot for Lil Man to be picked up on our side street with our neighbor. I was afraid that I made some other child lose their seat and she assured me that no one lost their seat. It was strictly the number of kids and a few who no longer needed the bus.
So little man is enjoying going to ESY and riding the bus. He has been happy and calm every day since and I get my hug and kisses as I normally do vs that one day where he was just so upset and not himself. I am very grateful that everything worked out as it did but I still wonder, what about another time? What if the numbers didn’t change? Again, how do you choose?