Transitions are difficult for my son, Garrett, who was born with Smith-Magenis Syndrome. I found a solution for getting on the school bus by luck (see this blog post here), but getting him home again has not been so easy (see Part I here).
The box with a prize worked very well for a couple of school years. But when it started to go bad, Garrett’s behavior went downhill quickly. It got to the point where he would just refuse to cross the road. I would have to half drag, half carry him. The bigger he grew, the less control I had of him. It wasn’t just embarrassing. I was afraid that he was going to get hit by car.
When things escalate to that level, it is best to completely change the routine. Fortunately for me, we live across the street from our local high school. And luckily, Garrett’s bus driver was sympathetic as was her supervisor. So she started to turn around at the high school and pull in front of driveway.
I still had to man-handle Garrett into the house, but I was able to
threaten him whisper sweet, loving words of encouragement without the threat of getting run over. Once we got over the threshold,
he turned the SMS off. I just need to
get him IN THE DOOR!
In those days, Garrett was still receiving physical and occupational therapy at Children’s Hospital. At the end of these appointments, he was allowed to pick a sticker from a basket. It was a huge motivator for him and I decided to try it with the bus transition.
We started with just a sheet of cheap stickers, like these that come free in the mail.
And hallelujah, it worked!
Jenny, the bus driver, started buying the stickers. The fancy Hallmark store, holiday theme kind. And Disney. And Curious George. And probably whatever else Garrett told her he “needed.”
He was really excited for those! Jenny would hand him a sticker, or sometimes he would want it on his shirt, and he would run up to our house to show me. I didn’t even have to meet him on the bus steps. He started “saving” them on his bed, dresser, closet wall and bedroom door.
These Disney Easter ones are still stuck on the door
almost six years later because
stickers on beds, dressers and doors last forever.
I would say this SMS Trick was good for about a year, maybe two.
Then Garrett started having a problem deciding on which sticker:
“I want the Dora kite. No. The Map. No. Boots! Give me Boots!” OR
“I want that one. Two. Can I have two? Three. I need three!!”
It was time to mix it up again. I went and bought envelopes and boring stickers. I cut the stickers apart and put one sticker in each envelope. When Garrett got off the bus, Heather or Mandy (the new bus driver and aide) would give him an envelope that he had to open inside the house. He could not wait to get in the house and open it.
And, like Jenny, they had to go get fancy –smancy stickers.
Then Mandy started addressing the envelopes with Garrett’s name…eventually adding artwork…
soon to be on the front AND back.
(Seriously, where do the transportation angels come from?! I have visions of 30 year old Garrett hanging out in the bus garage soaking up undivided attention from the entire staff.)
The stickers were wonderful.
Until they were not.
Which leads us to “Getting off the Bus, Part III”, coming soon.