Hardly anyone enjoys riding on the school bus, but this task is even more of an obstacle for a child on the autism spectrum. Knowing how to help a child with autism take the school bus can give them the confidence to hop on without concerns and provide parents peace of mind while they are gone.
Develop a Routine
Following the same pattern regularly is one of the greatest strategies to assist a child with autism. To accomplish this, it helps to wake them up at a specific time and avoid any deviations from their normal day. Ideally, the driver will take the same route, reducing any confusion the child may have from seeing an unfamiliar landscape. Anyone would feel uneasy if they didn’t know where they were going, but this can be especially frightening for children with autism.
Having them sit near the driver is the best strategy to calm their nerves, so it’s wise to make that arrangement with the driver from the get-go. If it’s not feasible to be near the driver, sitting them in a spot where they could feel the soothing vibrations of the bus as it travels could also help.
Every child has different triggers that can affect them. Thus, it’s critical to identify any of these triggers that can make their bus ride uncomfortable. For those with noise sensitivities, noise-canceling headphones do wonders to block out surrounding sounds. However, ensure that your child can still be alert and hear if an emergency occurs. Several brands offer devices that allow children to hear people speak while drowning out background noise, so it’s worth looking into those options.
You can arrange a special time to inspect the bus to see if anything could be a hindrance, preventing disruptions in the driver’s schedule and other classmates from being distracted.
Provide a Helpful Aide
It’s always a high-risk proposition for a child with autism to ride on the school bus. The loudness, crowded and cramped location, and other circumstances might cause these children to react negatively. Thankfully, with a little forethought, bus drivers can make these youngsters feel more at ease. Allowing an aide to accompany the child on the bus also opens the possibility for more employment opportunities, thus benefitting the community.
Interacting with nonverbal kids necessitates the use of the proper tools. Some children react to particular words or hand signs, which instructors and parents may teach school bus drivers. Others react to visual cues or story cards, which teach children how to react in various scenarios, from protecting one’s ears when it becomes too loud to knowing what to do in a crisis.
Create an Individualized Transportation Plan
Lastly, to have the assurance of making a school bus ride easier for a child with autism, create an Individualized Transportation Plan (ITP). An ITP should describe what the child is going through and how you can avoid triggering them. Plus, it lets you know how to calm them down if they become upset. Providing that information makes it easier for someone to know when and how to reach you.