Back to school time means seeing these cool, big, yellow buses everywhere. Riding the bus can be a rite of passage for school-age children. Most children look forward to hopping on a school bus and enjoying the ride with friends! It can also be overwhelming for students with special needs and their parents. With that, advance preparation and planning can ensure a smooth and happy bus ride along with an easier transition into the school. The following tips can help make your kiddo’s first day a successful one!
- Read a social story (can be found below) about riding the bus that talks about the rules and expectations like sitting in the seat, keeping hands and feet to themselves, and listening to the driver.
- Use a visual schedule outlining the bus information and times or a First/Then board (first bus, then school or first bus then home).
- Practice walking to and from the bus stop if it is not directly in front of the house.
- Use a visual timer while waiting for the bus.
- Practice where at school the bus will drop off and how to get into the classroom (or who will meet the child at the school).
- Provide an “all about me” page or packet to the bus driver and/or aide on the bus explaining the child’s likes and dislikes and potential triggers.
- Plan for potential sensory triggers with noise canceling headphones, harness/safety belts, or fidget toys (make sure they are allowed on the bus).
It is beneficial for both the parents and child to discuss bus safety, what to expect while the child is on the bus, and being aware of stops being made. Showing your kiddo a visual step-by-step on how to ride the bus and when to exit the bus when it arrives at school could help immensely for a student with special needs. Providing your child’s personal preferences and possible triggers to the bus driver and aide can limit maladaptive behaviors as well. Be sure, if allowed, to pack any items that can reduce sensory triggers. Remember to be safe, have fun and happy back to school season!