During the most recent IEP meeting I attended for my daughter, the superintendent of Student Support Services informed me that the school district sees no reason why Caitlin needs an aid on the bus, if I should ever allow the transportation company they contracted to take her to school again. Well...we have very good reason to ask for an aid, and it was driven home to us in a big way yesterday.
Caitlin forgot a Ziploc storage bag full of little toys at school and realized it when we were five minutes away. I told her they would be there tomorrow. She had a meltdown. People with kids who have autism know the difference between a meltdown and a tantrum, and this was a meltdown. She threw her backpack into the front seat, threw toys, tried to pinch Jeanie (my significant other), and tried to grab and hit me. She started crying and screaming. Then came the big scare: she unlocked her door, unbuckled her seat belt, and opened the door while we were moving. I immediately slowed down and pulled over. We got out of the car. Caitlin wanted to walk back to her school. I wouldn't let her. While I calmed her down, Jeanie set the child safety locks so Caitlin couldn't open the door from the inside again.
If I didn't have Jeanie there, I wouldn't have known she unbuckled her seat belt--which already had me slowing down to pull over. If I didn't have her there, I might not have slowed down in time to make the opening of the door less dangerous. If she wasn't there, I might have lost my child to a meltdown. And here's another thing: I found out this morning that Caitlin knows how to switch the child safety locks. Even if she hadn't seen someone do it, she can read, and the instructions are pretty clear on the door. She tried to switch it before I could catch her this morning.
So...no aid on the bus? No bus. I suppose I should tell the story of what happened with the bus in the first place. Caitlin was taking a van to school at first, but they switched her to another van after they added another child to the route. It's understandable; they didn't want the other children to be in the van for an hour and twenty minutes one way (we are forty minutes away). However, they put her in a van with a driver who apparently doesn't care whether kids get to school. He didn't show up at the end of my driveway on September 12th, and he claimed to have stopped. I can't trust someone who will blatantly lie to me and his supervisor to transport her to school. I asked for alternative transportation, but the school will not provide it. They said she can take the van she was on, or I have to take her to school.
They had a nurse on that van. She was rude and combative with me from day one. She seemed to be nice enough to my daughter, but I had two major problems with her. First, she didn't even try to listen to Caitlin. She mistranslated her constantly. Secondly, she got Caitlin to repeat, "God bless you." No. "Bless you" is a cultural expression that has lost its religious meaning, but when someone throws "God" in there, it invokes religion where none is needed. For fuck's sake, the expression comes from a belief that you're more vulnerable to demon possession when you sneeze. Virtually no one who says, "Bless you," believes that nonsense anymore, but when you put "God" back in, you hearken back to medieval belief systems that have no place in this age of information. I don't want my kid mentioning a deity she can't understand, either. She is in a house full of atheists; "God bless you" has no place here. It's not cute or funny to introduce religion to an autistic child with a language delay that prevents her from discussing and comprehending abstract concepts.
The school assured me that the nurse wouldn't make any religious references again, but I have trust issues with religious people since I was harassed at work years ago, and I will not trust the driver, no matter what. He didn't get reprimanded, and the director of transportation even had the gall to tell me that he was "doing a fine job." Really? He not only neglected to show up at the end of my driveway on September 12, but he also lied about it and is okay with making me out to be a liar. Would I spend an two hours and forty minutes of my day driving my kid to and from school if I thought there was any chance I was mistaken about the time I was at the end of my driveway? Caitlin was watching the time. We were there at 7:15. She said at that time: "Van number of minutes?" I said, "The van should be here in five minutes, kiddo." Five minutes went by, and I heard, "Van number of minutes?" I replied, "Any minute now." Every couple of minutes until 7:35, I heard "Van number of minutes?" I finally decided he wasn't showing up, so I went back into the house and called. They said he called twice, the last time at 7:21, and said that I wasn't at the end of the driveway. What I wonder is: where was he when he called? It wasn't anywhere on my street.