When Bridget entered the public school system at age 3 we knew her experience would be different from her sisters. Her sister went to a private daycare and then private kindergarten. Bridget needed more. Her sister transitioned to the public school in first grade and eagerly ran onto the school bus. So quickly did she run onto the bus, that we do have a first day on the bus picture.
We knew that Bridget would never take the bus.
Until this year’s IEP meeting when, for reasons I still cannot explain, the “bus” became very important to me. Bridget has been attending extended daycare at the school and transitioning to the traditional first grade. Her teacher understands inclusion and Bridget is thriving under her care. Bridget has made friends who understand that she is different but it does not matter.
Bridget loves the bus. When her sister gets on the bus she runs after it. She wants to go on the bus. I want her to go on the bus and be that typical first grader who gets on the bus and her parents do not grill the teacher on the details of her day. I understand Bridget has an intellectual disability, bu I want this for her. I want as much normalcy as I can get. Her SPED teacher cautioned me that I was forgetting to expose Bridget to “typical” experiences. This was one experience that both Bridget and I wanted.
Then reality set in.
At her IEP meeting the Physical Therapist expressed her reservations. Bridget was physically unable to navigate the bus. She was too small to get onto the seat by herself. With her backpack it would unbalance her when she got on / got off the bus. She gave me a host of reasons why Bridget taking the big yellow bus was a bad idea.
Her SPED teacher tried to balance my (and her own) want for as many typical experiences as possible.
We compromised on using the “short bus”. (Not derogatory, read this and get back to me if you are offended. But buy it on Amazon Smiles so your purchase goes to charity). I requested that Bridget would ride with at least one other student, otherwise what was the difference between the van and the back of our car. I wanted her to be safe but I wanted her to experience getting on the “bus” with the hope that she could live her dream of going on the “big” bus.
David panicked when I told him. Since Bridget cannot tell us about her day, he depends on that daily interaction. I showed his the “communication” paper which basically tells us our child had lunch and therapy. I reminded him that all he is told at pick up is she “had a good day”. The communication of preschool is gone. We are told virtually nothing unless we ask direct questions. I tried to explain that this was no different than putting our oldest on the bus, not knowing who her friends would be or what her teacher thought of her humor.
I tried to explain to him that this one thing, this “bus, was something Bridget wanted and we could give her.
The IEP was agreed upon and the bus route was designed. A begin date was scheduled.
I should have known with Bridget’s luck it wouldn’t be easy. The very first, freaking very first day, she took the bus home….snow storm. But she rocked it.
It was worth it. The worry and the fear and the wanting to give Bridget an experience that her classmates are able to access. My girl rode the short bus and loved it.
Next goal? The big yellow bus. I have faith in my girl and her team.