Ask any parent of a child with Smith-Magenis syndrome and they will say that transitions are difficult, like getting a rich man into heaven difficult. There is something about going from the front door to the school bus, school bus into the classroom and school bus back home again that sets my son, Garrett, on edge.
As Garrett has grown older, he can articulate his fears more clearly than those early days of grade school. “Who is going to be there? How long will I be there? Will there be birthday cake?” I think the questions are deeper than they appear.
Who is going to be there: What if my favorite bus driver in the whole wide world is absent today? Who will take her place? Will they talk to me? Is someone I don’t know going to get on the bus? What if my favorite bus aide in the whole wide world talks to this new kid instead of me?
How long will I be there: Are we going a different way today? Is the radio going to be on? Can I still sit in the front seat, like I have every-single-day since the beginning of time?
Will there be birthday cake: Is something fun going to happen today? Is something fun not going to happen today?
My highest anxiety comes from starting a new job. In some ways, Garrett starts a new job every day. But if he has role to play, a job to do, then his anxiety lessens.
I stumbled across the “getting on the bus job” by accident. And unlike “getting off the bus job”, it has lasted all the way through grade school, middle school and we are still using it in high school.
One day Garrett was watching Caillou, or as my husband calls it, “Crybaby Caillou.” There is nothing worse than using the television as a babysitter for your kid and discovering the TV character is a whiner. In this particular episode, Caillou had the waterworks under control and was going to the city with his grandmother. When Caillou reached the top of the city bus steps, the bus driver looked at him and said, “Ticket, please.” Garrett clapped his hands, jumped up and down, and was very excited.
Call it dumb luck, but my husband and I had just recently held a fundraiser for PRISMS (Parents and Researchers Interested inSmith-Magenis Syndrome) and I had purchased a roll of raffle tickets. I called Garrett’s school bus driver (every bus driver has always given me their home phone number) and told her my plan. We decided to let Garrett walk to the bus alone because he seemed to have difficulty telling me goodbye. Honestly, he did not like me talking to his bus driver, but I prefer the other reason.
The next morning, I waited at the front door and gave Garrett a raffle ticket. Since Garrett watches every episode of Caillou at least a hundred times, he knew exactly what to do. He had no difficulty leaving me at the front door. If anything, the biggest issue was him running too fast down the driveway.
Ten years later, Garrett still gives the bus driver a ticket. It is the only SMS Trick that has lasted that long. In fact, the “How I Got My Son with SMS Off the School Bus” will be divided into three episodes. Stay tuned.
Do you have difficulties getting your child on the school bus? Share your tricks in the comment section.