My regular readers may recall that last year, I had to petition the school district to make a new school bus stop nearer to my home. This is because my children and I all have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, and I was afraid that the walk to the old bus stop, which involved walking on a street without a sidewalk and crossing two streets, might be dangerous in icy weather. If you have EDS and you slip on ice, there is a very good chance you will dislocate at least one joint (and not be able to get off the ground unassisted).
Last week, around Wednesday or Thursday, I realized that I had not received the little yellow cards that tells me the bus route details. I was pretty sure Grace's would be the same as last year, but Joe starts middle school this year and the times/routes are definitely different.
So I called the district to find out the routes. "Your daughter is being picked up at 8:56 am at the New Stop (i.e. right by the house). Your son will be picked up at 7:38am at the Old Stop (i.e. up the street, in Potential Dislocation Land)"
"Um... why are the stops different for both kids when I provided medical documentation last year for them both, stating that they needed to be picked up closer to home?"
"No. the documentation you provided was only for your daughter."
"No. I'm, pretty sure it was for both (but could I find my copy of the letter right then? No.)"
"Well, you'll need a doctor's letter for your son. ...you need one every year anyway because medical conditions change" -This made no sense because they had accepted last year's letter for Grace, but I kept my mouth shut on that point. Instead I said.
"This is genetic. It won't change. He was born with it; he'll die with it. But OK. I'll get a doctor's letter."
I hung up.
"I will die with what, Mom?" (Oops! I hadn't realized that Joe was right behind me!)
The phone rang a few minutes later. It was the district. They had found the original doctor's letter, and I was right: both children were mentioned by name therein. They would change Joe's stop to pick up at the same location as Grace's. I have to say, of all the offices I deal with in the District, Transportation are probably the nicest.
Unfortunately, the bus company is a whole 'nother story.
So day one of Middle school: Joe and I were out at 7:30. I wasn't sure if the new stop would pick up before or after the 7:38 stop down the street, so we went out early in case it was before (Joe, bless his little heart, had been all prepared: packed, washed, brushed and shined since about 7:10).
We saw the bus arrive at middle of the street and then turn down our street, away from our house, stop for a microsecond at the 7:38 pickup point and then take off in the wrong direction, away from us. OK maybe that was a different route. We waited just in case.
It wasn't a different route.
At 7:45am, with Joe wigging out about being late on his first day of middle school, which would -in his mind- start some kind of chain reaction to Armageddon; I loaded both kids in the car (poor Grace had been hauled out of bed early and asked to get dressed -just in case) and dropped Joe off on time.
That afternoon, I waited for Joe's bus, which is about an hour ahead of Grace's. No bus went by my house. I called the bus company.
"My son isn't home yet. School finished a hour ago and I'm worried"
The lady was breezily unconcerned. "Oh the second wave of buses is just leaving his school now. He is probably on the second wave."
She clearly doesn't know anyone with Asperger's Syndrome. NO WAY was Joe on the second wave! I tried to explain this to her, but she blew me off as an overanxious mom.
Fuck YEAH I was overanxious! My kid was MISSING!
I started going through the elementary school phone book, trying to think of other people who would be on the same route and would have Middle school-age kids to see if these people had received their kids home OK. But the only person I found wasn't picking up. I was about to call the district when the door opened and Joe walked in, out of breath and sweating.
I turns out, he had been on the first wave bus (of course) and when the bus had breezed by our stop, he had stayed on, thinking maybe it would go around the block or something. It hadn't, and as he got farther and farther from our house, he realized they bus wasn't going to stop for him. So not knowing what to do (although I have pounded "tell an adult" into his brain -apparently pointlessly -since he could vocalize), he got off several blocks from our home and he ran back to our house, afraid that he was somehow in trouble for the bus's failure to stop.
*sigh*. That kids takes too much responsibility on himself. Apparently this is common with Autistic Spectrum kids.
So I called the district, thinking maybe they hadn't sent the paperwork to the bus company. They had. The lady said. "I even put 'medical' next to it in big letters, so they would know". I believe her.
So I figure the afternoon bus driver can't or won't read.
You know, I just wish these drivers and administrators really understood the impact this sort of nonsense has on special needs kids. It may be a line on a list or a simple clerical error to them, but to the kid, the perception is (rightly or wrongly) that it is HUGE and potentially life changing.
And somehow all their own fault.
Or their mother's fault.
Joe spent quite some time stressing about the bus situation last night. I reassured him as best I could and told him that I would work with the district and the bus company to fix things, but like last year, it might take a few days to get it right (and don't get me started on substitute drivers, but I didn't go there). Joe got it -probably better than most kids would. "you shouldn't have to do that, Mom"
"Yes I should. It's my job. And if I have to stay on the phone all day to fix this, I will."
I really hoped today would be better than yesterday. As I made his lunch at 7am this morning, I wished and hoped that it would be.
We went out again at 7:30; waited, and again, we watched the bus come to the middle of the street, then turn away from our house. This time I was ready with my trusty phone in hand. I called the bus company, while frantically motioning for Joe to NOT run down the street, to chase a rapidly diminishing bus. The bus company put me on hold for several minutes. Then they told me "a bus will be there in a couple of minutes to pick him up." Not YOUR bus: A bus. So they had screwed up. Again.
Well, but this time it was past Joe's 7:45 cutoff for having a meltdown. I hung up and he was pacing and flapping, all the time talking about fish:
"...so you had the fish and you just didn't reel it in. And in the meantime, I am starving and Grace is starving and you just won't reel that fish in..."
"What do you mean, Joe"
"it's an expression."
"I get that, but I don't understand the expression. What's the fish? Is the bus the fish?"
"Yes. ...No. I don't know.... Look, it's just an EXPRESSION!"
Joe understands about expressions and figures of speech. For years I have been telling him to 'keep his hair on", to "hold his horses" and that he is "on thin ice". He understands this stuff a lot better than many Auties/Aspies his age. But this making up of expressions is new to me and this particular autistic expression of speech is completely opaque to me; -to both of us, apparently. Maybe
he knows what he means somewhere in his brain. But I think he just got several metaphors mixed and I somehow ended up being the bad guy with a fishing rod and starving children.
And he managed to make it sound like that had been my sole ambition in life.
Eventually, an empty school bus arrived and stopped on the main road at the side of our house. I asked the driver: "Is this the spot where you will normally stop? Because the elementary school bus usually pulls around the corner out of the traffic?" The driver shrugged.
I don't know. I'm just filling in for the regular guy, who missed this stop." (Oh well, at least he was honest).
I walked back into the house at 8am, mentally exhausted.
I am now wondering what will happen this afternoon? Where will Joe end up?
And I am also seriously considering the statement he made last night. "If I had a cellphone, I could have called you when the bus didn't stop. Maybe I need a cellphone, Mom"
Maybe he does.
I wonder if I could charge the cost to the useless bus company?