Saturday, October 3, 2009

Outrage of the month

Dealing with The System is never fun, but (shocker!) it's even more maddening when you have a kid with special needs. I just heard about a five-year-old with ADHD in Queens, New York, whose bus ride to school was taking two hours to and from—even though he only lives 10 minutes away. Special ed advocates have reportedly been hearing a lot of similar horror stories this year. We haven't had it so bad, although our bus has a lot more kids on it and it's never on time.

Granted, the school says their buses for kids with special ed have been cut down from three to one. We'll all be dealing with the realities of our new economy in some way or the other. But surely, there is a way to arrange things so that a child who's already got mental challenges is not forced to be captive on a bus for four hours a day. And there was; the mom complained to the Department of Education, and they figured out a better route for him.

In these times, it's no longer OK to be mere champions for our kids—we need to be superheroes. We are not just the squeaky wheel that gets oiled—we are the VERY LOUD wheel. We are not just pushy—we are steamrollers.

Photo by Nikki.Jane


  1. The school can't use that as an excuse. Get more specifics into Max's IEP about the bus.

    Luke's preschool bus trip was an hour each way. At that point it was good for him because there was lots of sensory input. He was also at school for 5 hours. I had to draw the line at the same bus route for a 2-hour ESY class.

  2. It does seem like things are a bit more complicated with a child with special needs. I'm starting to feel very comfortable as the loud, hounding mom to get things done in a TIMELY manner for my child. I have very little issues with getting my point across these days - a previously uncomfortable spot for me.

    Thanks for sharing all your stories. I love reading your blog and I'm so glad that it loads well on my Mac now - thanks for fixing it!

  3. This is why we drop off & pick up Teddy from school--the ride started out a few years ago as about 15 minutes, but has stretched out to 45 minutes one-way. When we told the head of special ed services that this was just too long (heck, a full school day is too long for the guy!) we were able to get compensated by the district for gas money. We keep track of it & send it in after a month & they send us a check.
    Thanks for the great posts, Ellen! They're always thought-provoking!

  4. Zach rides the bus to school for a little over an hour..which I find rediculous, but he likes riding, so I dont complain.

    what erks me in our district they do not provide aids on the special needs busses. I do not let Kennedy ride the bus anymore in fear she would have a seizure and no one would even notice with there only being a driver. I am supposed to get paid to transport her(althhough I never got it last year)

  5. Like Suelle, I drop off/pick up myself, too--though I don't get any money for it. It's just easier, the school is close by (close enough to walk on a nice day--long walk, but still...we've done it when the car decided not to start) and I have heard too many "bus driver horror stories" over the years (and in some of those cases, you have to wonder what was up with the parents, parent asking any questions when Sonny doesn't show up from school at his usual time, for example!? Waiting hours before they call the police, only to find the child asleep in the back of the bus, or something?). And of course, there's always the school bus bullying that crops up. Who needs that stuff...!

  6. I had to fight to get an aide for the bus. The school system thought nothing of putting a bunch of Deaf kids on a bus with a driver who had no way to communicate with the kids. I wasn't cool with that... I squeaked and I got an aide.

  7. Ah bus horror day (25 years ago) my brother (in the DHH program) was late to school. He had been riding the bus. He complained to my mom about hurting his knee & head. My mother came to find that the bus driver had been in a car accident and NO ONE either from the bus company, nor the school (district) called to notify her or any parents about the accident. I guess they figured a bunch of Deaf kids wouldn't tell on them. She was outraged!

    Guess what? She contacted a lawyer and sued them, she got a small settlement for my brother and his medical bills from that debacle.

  8. I just had to add that a few years ago one of my sons left his jacket on the little bus that they took to therapy at another school once a week. The man bus driver was so nice he drove back to our house in his little Volkswagon beetle on his own time with the jacket. I made sure his supervisor heard that too!

  9. That's just plain bad management for it to take that long. But yeah I hear a lot about some cutbacks coming in our county too. But that's pretty far ahead, at this point we don;t know really where Bennett will be developmentally in 2 years.

  10. Wow -- in our school district EVERY special education bus has a para-educator. It is NEVER questioned. Since I'm a single parent, I can't drop off and pick up. Luke also doesn't transition well from me to school, where as the transition from me to school bus is no issue.

  11. My CITY bus ride does not that that long, there is NO EXCUSE for a child's bus ride to school to take that long... No wonder our schools are clogged with cars on the merry-go-round from hell that circle the school every morning... All you need is a kid getting HIT for some one to wake up... More parents need to pay attention to that 15mph speed-limit sign too...

  12. That is ridiculous! There's no excuse for that. I know all school districts have flaws but that one needs fixed NOW! I can't imagine my son who has disabilities riding a bus for that long. He would go nuts! Why do they make it hard sometimes for us who have children that require a little extra?

  13. As someone who worked in public schools for five years, I have no plans to ever put Charlie on a bus if I can help it. He may have other ideas, and I'm open to that, but for now, no bus. I've heard too many horror stories from typical kids.

  14. My T-man is one of the lucky ones. He rides the bus for an hour, but the school is at least 35 minutes away. We live in New Jersey, probably one of the best states for support and aid for special needs kids (our taxes reflect this!). He has not one, but two aides on the bus who are wonderful. and the driver is incredible. They really pay attention to the kids and let us know how he did each day. I feel very fortunate after reading some of your posts and of course your post Ellen, to have such a wonderful school system. You can bet that we will never move from the county!

  15. 'We are not just pushy, we are steam rollers.' Amen!

  16. NO child should be spending four hours a day on the bus, special needs or otherwise! These kids are EXHAUSTED by the end of a school day. And the bus is THE MOST COMMON place for bullying and harassment to occur, since it is basically a time with absolutely NO adult supervision.

    Sorry for shouting in your comments, but this really gets me.

  17. We're in Toronto, Canada, but came up against a similar issue. We were told our school board had voted that it was acceptable for kids with special needs to spend 3 hours a day on the bus.

    Our son's new high school was a 30 minute drive on the highway but we were told because of the multiple stops he'd be on the bus a minimum of 1 hour and 15 or 20 minutes each way.

    I got a note from the pediatrician saying he couldn't spend that much time on the bus due to his overall low tone, weakness and chronic pain. The board held out until the day before school started -- not coming up with any other plan -- and keeping us on tender hooks.

    Then they caved and we got Ben cabbed to school each day. He's now in his second year at the school and he's still cabbed both ways. Last year he shared the cab with another boy going to a different school, but this year, he's cabbed on his own. He has the greatest cab driver -- an older gentleman called Moe.

    It's incredibly expensive, I'm sure, but necessary since the board couldn't provide an appropriate placement for Ben any closer.

    However, I think about all of the parents who don't have the resources to advocate for their kids, and whose kids -- with the most complex needs -- spend hours on buses everyday :(

  18. I have a hard time understanding why so many people bus their small children to school. I am a single mom and I walk my child who has a severe form of cerebral palsy 1.5 blocks to & from school, year-round, in Ohio. The school buses in our neighborhood coupled with a lack of sidewalks makes the experience treacherous on the best weather days.
    Just because transportation is a provided service doesn't mean that it has to be used. I get that some people live far away from resources and that legally they must be delivered, but this is the kind of thing that is bankrupting cities. Tax dollars go to the tiny town where one resides, but resources are being drained from the school district where one is educated.
    I'd like to see families sharing some of the responsibility -and the burdens- of IDEIA. In my opinion, school buses are bankrupting local school boards and divesting parents of agency at the schools. If the bus takes your kid to and fro, how do you really know what is happening?
    If more parents transported their kids to their local schools, I believe the "system" could be freed to spend money in better ways. Healthy lunches or updated equipment, anyone? The days would be more productive because teachers wouldn't have to always be waiting for when is the bus coming, the day could start later, and all would be closer to being right with the world.
    Thanks for your blog. I enjoy reading it.

  19. That is absolutely ridiculous!
    First of all, I'm certainly not going to knock anyone who uses the bus system, be it by choice or by necessity. I choose to drive Daniel, because I'm able to do so. It has nothing to do with his diagnosis, but rather because we enjoy driving together. However, some people don't have the choice, or would simply rather that their child take the bus. There's nothing wrong with that. But there IS something wrong when a child's bus ride, especially when the child has special needs, is nearly half as long as the school day. Surely there is a way for the school system to work something out.

  20. Hi -- just a response to anonymous who asked why parents don't drive their own kids to local schools vs. having them bussed elsewhere.

    Sign language is the only form of expression my son has. There is no local program where he could be educated in sign language or where others would understand him. It doesn't exist.

    It seems common sense to me that if a child's needs could be met locally, most parents would jump at the opportunity to have their child's school close, where they can take a more active part and keep an eye on things.

    Unfortunately, many of us don't have that luxury. Louise

  21. I've been meaning to jump in, too. Most parents I know use the bus system because they have to. Max's school is twenty minutes away; i couldn't drive him there (as much as I'd feel safer doing that) and also get to work at a decent hour.


Thanks for sharing!

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