Riding the school bus can be an exciting experience for children. It's a time to meet friends, share stories, and embark on new adventures. However, for some children with autism, especially those who are new to the school bus routine, it can also be a bit intimidating. In this guide, we'll provide you with valuable tips to help your child have a safe and enjoyable journey on the school bus.
Practice taking the school bus with your child beforehand to help them get familiar with the routine and environment. Visit the bus stop and introduce your child to the bus before their first ride or you can also take pictures or videos of the bus stop, bus, and the route to help them understand what to expect. You may also want to teach them basic bus safety rules like staying seated, not distracting the driver, and keeping aisles clear.
Establish a routine
Develop a consistent morning routine to ensure your child is ready for the bus on time. Practice the routine beforehand to build familiarity and confidence.
Use Visual Supports
Visual supports can be a helpful tool for children with autism. Consider creating a visual schedule or checklist to help your child understand what they need to do to prepare for the school bus ride. You can also use social stories to help your child understand the expectations and rules for taking the school bus. Visual supports can also be helpful with establishing a routine. Finding a bus buddy can transform your daily commute from mundane to enjoyable, providing shared experiences, enhanced safety, and a sense of community while breaking social barriers, making your journey more rewarding and memorable. So tell your child to keep an eye out for potential companions on your bus rides and embark on a delightful adventure filled with companionship and shared experiences.
Communicate with the Driver and Bus Aides
Communicate with the bus driver and bus aides before your child gets on the school bus to let them know your child has autism and any specific needs they may have. The bus driver and aides may be able to accommodate your child by letting them sit in a specific seat or providing additional support. Establish an open line of communication to address any concerns or share important information.
Use Noise-Canceling Headphones
Noise-canceling headphones can be helpful for children with autism who are sensitive to loud noises. You can use headphones to block out the noise of the school bus and create a more comfortable environment for your child.
Pack a Comfort Kit
Pack a comfort kit for your child to take on the school bus, including items that are comforting to them. This may include a favorite toy, a comfort object, or a snack. Having familiar items on the bus can help your child feel more at ease.
Be Mindful of Sensory Sensitivities
Be mindful of your child's sensory needs, such as noise and crowds, and plan accordingly. Consider sitting your child in a seat where they are most comfortable and avoid sitting next to the engine or other sources of noise and vibration.
Teach your child about bus safety procedures, such as waiting for the bus to come to a complete stop before approaching it. Remind them to look both ways before crossing the road, even if they're getting off on the same side as their house. Encourage them to use handrails while boarding or exiting the bus to prevent slips and falls. Explain the importance of finding a seat quickly and sitting facing forward.
Plan for Emergencies
Plan for emergencies by teaching your child what to do if they become separated from the group or if there is an emergency on the school bus. Teach them to recognize landmarks and how to get back home from the bus stop.