School bus drivers are among the most little recognized personnel on the school payroll. They are the first to see the kids in the morning and the last to see them in the evening. A regular school bus driver can haul in excess of 70 students in a single load. Many drivers run more than one load at a shift. They’ll pick up the earliest starters, drop them, and then pick up a later starting school. Then they’ll run the same route in the afternoon.
Most buses are not air-conditioned, which is a genuine hardship here in Georgia. The hottest place in the state is behind the wheel of a school bus. In the winter, drivers have to get up extra early in order to start and defrost their buses. Often, buses break down or there are traffic accidents that cause delays. The result is the bus drivers are frequent targets of abuse by parents, students and teachers. Other motorists don’t particularly respect the power and strength of a bus and often are trying to pass them by, cursing them for doing what they do, which is stop at railroad tracks and to pick up children.
School bus drivers are some of the best, most caring and compassionate folks you will ever want to meet. They really and truly care about the children they carry, and take their responsibility very seriously. They are the real unsung heroes of any school system.
Having said that, bus drivers are also not always the most educated especially in the behavioral sciences. These caring folks can often get caught up in behaviors and they often take personal offense when students say hurtful things to them. So they end up arguing with a kid bereft of any logic in the first place.
The folks driving the short buses are just as, if not more than, caring. In our county, special ed. buses have a driver and a monitor. This is because it is all but impossible for a single person to operate the lift and unload a wheelchair. Often, if a child is having problems, the bus drivers and monitors are our first point of contact. Since they talk directly with the parents, they usually know things we do not, not the least of which is where the kid lives. Some of these kids live in some very rough neighborhoods. Raising a special needs child is often expensive and it can be difficult holding down a full time job with all of the medical issues involved.
Today I was informed that They wanted to kick Charlie off the bus because he spits. Charlie isn’t trying to be mean; in fact he blows these over-sized raspberries when he is in a good mood. But the other students, the bus drivers and monitors don’t appreciate this about him. So they filed a complaint with the county office about his spitting. The folks at the bus shop don’t know who Charlie is, so they assume he is being mean and malicious. Charlie doesn’t care who is around when he spits. Put him in a corner and he will spit all day if he’s in the mood.
The intervention for Charlie’s spitting basically involves holding one of those dust/allergy masks over his mouth and nose. He usually stops spitting immediately. Whether this lasts or not, depends. If he’s happy, he’ll start again. If his hands are free he will pull the mask off. So I usually hold his hands which makes him less happy. So stopping Charlie’s spitting involves making him a bit less happy. I can also redirect him by clapping and getting him happier to where he is laughing. He can’t laugh and spit at the same time. Since the people on the bus are not happy about his spitting they generally opt for the unhappy intervention.
But the fact is, it is part of Charlie’s disability. Since he can’t talk to himself, he spits. Ever meet someone who enjoys listening to themselves talk? This is what spitting is for Charlie. Sometimes I ignore it and sometimes I intervene. When I do intervene, Charlie knows I’m not playing and he generally stops. It’s gotten to where all I have to do is show him the mask, and he’ll stop. But I’m going to have to talk to the bus people to get them to properly handle it. They bring up all sorts of safety concerns about bodily fluids and such but and they have a point. But a body has to work with them before kicking them out. This goes for teachers and bus drivers. Hopefully, I can train them a bit and we can arrive at an understanding.