Max has been limping when he's gotten off the bus at his school in the morning. His teacher mentioned it a couple of weeks ago.
I thought that maybe we weren't putting his braces on correctly, which has happened a couple of times—his heel hasn't been all the way in. So we've made sure they're on right but still, he was limping on occasion. We have a visit to the orthopedist scheduled for next week, and I was going to discuss it with him.
Max's teacher emailed me again yesterday to say he limped after he got off the bus. She suggested that his physical therapist at school take a look at his bus seating. Usually, I just help him up the stairs of the bus, and the aide walks him back and seats him.
The PT called me this morning. "Max's legs are squished like a frog's on the bus," were her exact words. Somehow, he was sitting with his legs on either side of the booster seat (which was too small for him), knees raised, feet on the actual bus seat. What his PT said next was even more upsetting: Max wasn't seated safely. There was a five-point harness that wasn't clicked on its lower half, because it was too tight. The aide had also placed two different seat belts over him, in an "X." If there were ever an accident and Max was thrown forward on impact, his PT said, his throat and chest area might have hit the place where the straps met and gotten hurt.
I was distraught. Both because Max had been in discomfort all these weeks, and because I'd never thought to see exactly how he was strapped in. Max is not a kid who would speak up and say, "This is not comfortable." He just tolerated it.
We have generally been lucky, and happy, with this bus company. The driver is competent, unlike some of the creepy ones I wrote about over the summer who did stuff like leave kids on boiling-hot buses. But this situation was unacceptable. Max? In discomfort? And unsafe on the road? Whoa.
I called our school district coordinator, the transportation coordinator, and the bus company. They were all duly horrified. Max will be getting a bigger booster seat; he needs some support because if he were to just have a seatbelt strapped over him, he would slump to one side. I expressed concern about the judgment of the aide on the bus. She is totally sweet, but clearly not totally with it. The bus company supervisor is at fault, too, for not being more on top of training aides about safe seating procedures or doing occasional checks, which I don't think is too much to ask for.
This is a lesson to anyone who puts a child on a bus: Check to make sure they are properly strapped in. Although I don't think I would have known that the double seat-belting was unsafe if the PT hadn't mentioned it.
OK, the situation has been dealt with. Max is fine, and the only thing bugging him is that he'd much prefer to ride an "ih us" [big bus] instead of the mini one he's on. But right now, I feel so helpless. Of course, I do my best to watch over Max, and I know it. I'm generally adept at heading off problems and quickly handling ones that crop up. Yet clearly there are things that can escape my attention, and tonight I am feeling the weight of those unknowns.
UPDATE: Ok, now I am LIVID: The bus company DID NOT CHANGE HIS SEAT. When I called over there, a woman said "Why are you upset?" Um, lady? My son was seated in a way that was both unsafe and uncomfortable for weeks, without my knowing. Perhaps you too would be A LITTLE UPSET? Our district coordinator is on it.
UPDATE 2: New booster seat installed for his ride home and inspected by head of PT department at his school. Max is comfortable and secure. Phew. On to the next drama!