I had an unpleasant time this morning when the bus aide almost didn't let my kid on the bus because of his "disrespect". The aide made Eric walk back home this morning from the bus and demanded that I come to the bus stop and speak with her or Eric was not allowed on the bus. This is the FIRST issue we have ever had in two years on the same bus (however this is a new aide)! Not to mention I had three other children in the house, so running down the block to the bus stop with no notice was not ok. The aide was rude and disrespectful to me and I was still fuming about it 5 hours later so I can only imagine how her tone and body language escalated whatever issue happened yesterday morning. Basically she said he is jumping around and hanging on seats an when told to sit down is very disrespectful. She told me while waving her finger in my face that she is "NOT going to have some punk disrespectful KID talk to her that way!" I politely responded that I understood and asked her if she had let the bus know when she dropped him off at school yesterday. She told me that she had not, she wanted to speak to me first. I asked her to please let them know. She said to me, in a very aggressive demeanor, "Aren't you going to say anything to him?!". I told her I would address it at home later and she flipped out telling me that that's the reason he is disrespectful. Needless to say I think a big part of his bus issue is the bus aides demeanor and tone, but regardless my kid need to learn how to respond appropriately. I wish schools would have bus drivers, cafeteria workers, etc take training a on trauma or behavior/discipline! I felt the need to write them a little note telling them about my kids issues, the effect of trauma and what works for him. I'd like to offer some suggestions for them to try and make the bus ride go smoother?
I did end up calling the supervisor to ask what the protocol is for bus discipline, as I suspected what was done was not appropriate. I nicely informed the supervisor directly that I would be happy to do a training with all the bus drivers if he would ever allow it I plan on having Eric write an apology note and pay me back for some Starbucks gift cards I bought for the driver and aide and enclose a copy of my letter for them tomorrow morning. Hopefully it will make a difference, if not Ive tried!
Here's the letter I wrote:
Dear Bus Driver/Aide,
Thank-you for informing me of Matthew’s recent behavior on the morning bus ride to school. I know that you have a tough job, especially on a bus filled with children who have special needs! Please know that we will deal with Matthew’s behavior appropriately at home, he has written an apology note that I have enclosed as well as purchased a small gift with his own money to thank-you for your hard work. I am hoping that by sharing a little about Matthew with you, you will better understand his behavior and be able to utilize some of his strengths to make for a smoother ride to school. I am more than happy to speak with you anytime by phone/email or to set up a time to meet in person if you have any questions or concerns.
I adopted Matthew out of the foster care system three years ago along with his two younger brothers. Matthew’s first six years of life were filled with severe abuse and neglect. As a result of the trauma and toxic stress that Matthew endured for those years he was left with special needs that he struggles to overcome daily. He is very bright and has made an incredible amount of progress in the last three years, but still has difficulty in some areas. Matthew has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), ADHD, and Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) as well as other mental health issues. Due to his history and diagnosis Matthew’s ability to trust adults to keep him safe or meet his needs is severely compromised. He does not have the ability to read social cues including tone of voice or body language and often perceives things in an aggressive, accusatory manner. He is highly impulsive with a lack of cause and effect thinking, causing him to be unable to think through his words or actions and determine consequences. He lacks skills in empathy and has difficulty understanding how his actions/words may cause another person to feel.
It is a lot of issues for someone so young to have to handle on a daily basis, having adults who are consistent and keep his environment structured and routine make a huge difference. Here are some ideas that may help his behavior on the bus:
- Visual Reminders: Matthew does better with lists or visual reminders rather than direct verbal confrontation. If you would jot down any specific bus rules and hand them to Matthew to put in his book bag I would be happy to create a small laminated card with the bus rules/routine on them that could be handed to him in the mornings when he gets on the bus.
- Immediate Consequences: Matthew needs immediate consequences for his behavior in order for him to make the cause and effect connection. Please let the school know of any issues as soon as he is dropped off, so his teacher can address it with him immediately. Feel free to write a note on any behavior issues in his planner as well, both the teacher and myself would then be able to see it and address the issue.
- Close Proximity: If Matthew believes he has gotten away with something he will escalate his behavior quickly, by keeping him close to you on the bus this will help eliminate the opportunity for him to cause problems.
- Verbal Prompts: If verbal prompts need to be given it is best to keep them short and avoid excessive talking or back and forth arguing. For example, a simple “Sit Here” works well, do not engage in explanations or respond to his arguing. It is best to keep your tone and body language calm, positive, and even tempered.
- Keep him Occupied: Matthew responds really well when given a “job” or “responsibility” to do, even something as simple as asking him to look for a specific street name may help keep him focused. I’d be happy to provide Matthew with some “Books on Tape” that he can listen to while on the bus ride if that would be allowed.
Thank-you again for all of your hard work keeping the children safe while transporting them to school each day. I hope that some of these ideas may be helpful with Matthew. I will continue to impress upon him the importance of following the rules and routine on the bus. If there is anything specific you would like me to do please let me know and I will be happy to help. You can reach me by phone at _________or email ________________