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Please Be Patient as My Son With a Disability Gets in His School Bus


Thank you for your patience.

Thank you for your compassionate smile as my son loads onto the bus on a lift that takes his wheelchair up. He smiles down at me as we wait for the driver to get on and then roll him in. You see us smiling and it’s contagious.

Thank you for your wave as you acknowledge it’s OK for you to wait while the bus driver secures my son into his spot in the front, right behind the driver’s seat. It takes a few minutes while she attaches hooks and belts to make sure his wheelchair won’t budge.

Thank you for staying put and waiting until the doors are shut, the flashing light is turned off and the bus drives slowly down our one-way street.

Thank you for being the person to calm my anxieties as I send my son on an hour long bus ride to school.

We live directly across the street from our neighborhood school, but our son rides a bus to a congregated school that accommodates children with varying disabilities and medical needs. This is his third year riding the bus and his longest commute yet, despite living only 20 minutes from the school.

 

I’m sure you can imagine that as a parent, it is difficult for me to send my son on the bus every morning and wait well after the final school bell rings across the street for him to arrive home. Even more so, this year with his sister now school age, being able to walk across the street to have lunch together at home. I railed against the commute for a long time. For a year, I visited schools to find one that could accommodate both of my kids. Not only do I strongly believe in inclusion, but I also want my kids to go to the same school.

It’s not possible. Instead I wake my son up earlier than he needs to get up and we go through our routine while his sister is still sleeping. We put him on his bus, sometimes before I’ve even had time to eat breakfast. The bus comes during early morning drop-off when parents who are rushing to work drop their kids just outside our house, and rush off.

I imagine your frustration at being stopped behind a school bus, lights flashing, lift out, slowly loading my son onto the bus. I imagine your stress building as he has disappears onto the bus but you are still waiting, not knowing the driver secures my son’s wheelchair in place. I am thankful for a driver who is so meticulous and takes her time to make sure if there was a collision, my son will be secure and safe in his chair.

The drivers waiting behind her are not always patient.

My own anxiety — already high because of my son’s long commute, worrying about whether he will have a seizure on the way to school — rises higher while I watch hands raise in exasperation and sometimes land on the horn. My anxiety rises as drivers ignore the law and speed around the bus. Never mind the possibility of a $400-2,000 fine and demerits on your license. My anxiety rises as a parent rolls down his window to shout at me about having to wait. My anxiety rises as I step onto the street, behind the bus, to keep the cars from passing while my son is vulnerable on the lift, four feet up, straight out from the side of the bus.

My 5-year-old daughter understands the rules: don’t pass a bus that has its lights flashing. She holds her hands up in a stop motion to the drivers that start to creep by, too.

I know we are all trying to get our kids to school on time, to make it to work on time. I appreciate the parents who have some patience and remember that we are both just doing the best we can and sometimes we aren’t in control of time or circumstances, and we just have to wait. And for the parents who find it difficult to wait behind my son’s bus, I want them to realize there is a 9-year-old boy getting on that bus. A boy who has to leave home very early and get home late. A boy who doesn’t get to come home for lunch like his sister does. A boy who will start to feel the anxiety his mama feels too, with each horn, honk or shout. A boy who can also feel the patience with each smile.

Thank you for your patience. Even in those moments you don’t feel you have any left.

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Thinkstock image by jarenwicklund