Autism Training Essential for School Bus Drivers

Earlier this month, we wrote about an upsetting incident involving the arrest of a girl with special needs on a school bus.  The officer in the incident,
Deputy Mark Perrin, was fired as a result of his actions:

One of the pressing questions that has yet to be asked in that case is, "Where was the bus driver in this
incident and why didn’t
he/she immediately let the officer know about the child’s
condition when he stepped onto the bus?" 

This poses the larger issue of the need for proper training and awareness for
EVERYONE who will potentially come into contact with special needs kids on a day-to-day or
week-to-week basis, particularly school bus drivers.  

Recently, after a lengthy conversation with the state head of
School Transportation, Special Education, I was asked to write a paper that
would be used in semi-annual training for drivers and monitors. 
My training information has since been implemented and is being used as a positive
training and educational tool.  This all stemmed from my son’s monitor and driver, who
both refused to greet or speak with him on his forty-five minute bus
trip each day.

After the training was implemented,  they began to greet and speak with him
on a daily basis.  

Here are some excerpts of the paper that was implemented in the

  • AUTISM is at epidemic levels and still increasing.
  • Of the children who are screened, less than 1 in 52 boys are predisposed to
    autism spectrum disorders.
  • Less than 1 in 200 girls are also affected.
  • These numbers are based solely on the children screened. Estimates of the population that are not screened are over 50%.
  • This is up over 400% from 10 years ago.
  • There are many other and overlapping spectrum disorders that are on the rise
    such as ADD, ADHD, Tourette’s Syndrome, and OCD.

Perhaps if we think of autism as delays, it will no longer sound so overwhelming. Whether it is batting a ball or potty training, we are all delayed in some areas. Autism, however, affects
social behaviors. Kids may not be expressing needs, likes or wants, but they
have them just like
everyone else.

They also may be over-expressing them with temper tantrums, meltdowns and
other behaviors that involve "acting out." Of course it’s much more complicated than
that, but this will help you understand and not be as confused or overwhelmed
when dealing with an autistic child.

Autistic kids appear to be typical kids.

What can we ALL do to help?

Children with autism have interrupted senses. There is ongoing research and detailed information about their skin, pain centers, taste, smells, hearing, sight,
and light sensitivity.  If the area is affected, it will either be too sensitive, not
enough, or not working at all.

Children with autism kids also take everything literally. If you say it’s raining cats and
dogs, they will look out the window and think of puppies and kittens are falling from the
sky. Say exactly what you mean and try to avoid such clichés.

Children with autism think in pictures and visual stimulation is what they crave. Think of
Jim Carey,
Barney, Chris Rock or whoever you think of as highly animated. Now think of watching the
news and imagine Jim Carey or someone else similar as the news anchor! Yes, it would be worth watching and you couldn’t help it. It would also be fun. It’s not WHAT you say, it’s HOW you say it. 

Children with autism remember each and every part of their lives like a photograph. Your
face and your expressions will burn into their memories like a scrapbook. Everyone likes to be remembered as smiling and

Please be animated. Use gestures. Vary your voice and expressions. Don’t be fooled into thinking the kids don’t understand everything you say
or don’t say.

Though they have many similarities, no two autistic children are the same, just
like snowflakes. Neither are typical kids. Neither are we.

To date, autism is not deemed "curable." It will exist for a lifetime. There is NO degree of severe or mild upon diagnosis,
that judgment is made depending upon the amount of therapy it will take for the
kids to "catch up." No one knows until the evaluations are done and accommodating therapy begins.

Adults with autism are generally "quirky." Quirky people are fun to be around and uniqueness is what makes us all interesting and remarkable.

These kids CAN grow up and lead functional lives and each person in their life can
help (or hinder) that possibility. 

Since they need to feel safe, as we all do, please make eye contact, know their
names and do not underestimate what they might be thinking. 

Children with autism need to be welcomed by the world they are born into, kind of like
being a new kid at school. Something as simple as being greeted and invited to sit at a lunch table instead of eating alone in silence can
literally change a life. 

Drivers and especially monitors, imagine that YOU can be the one to change that life. 

Now, don’t imagine anymore — go out and make a difference!