“Dad if the bus was like a Swiss Train then I might be happier about getting it everyday”
My son if it was like a Swiss Train and served the same chocolate I would live on the bus. To someone who has been brought up on the infamous UK train network the concept of clean, comfortable and sometimes opulent carriages is rather alien. That’s before we even think about precision punctuality and a nice food service.
I remember waiting for a train in Switzerland one morning when the station announcer informed us that an avalanche had blocked the track (the announcement was in 4 different languages). In the U.K. that would mean the track would be shut for about 9 months. Or if our Prime Minister is sorting it out maybe never. A few minutes later the station master started speaking to all the people waiting on the platform. In perfect English he informed me that the specialist team was on site and he genuinely seemed horrified that the train would be late. After a couple of minutes it was announced that the avalanche had been cleared and they were deeply sorry that the train would be 10 minutes late. Ten Minutes……
Son survived today’s bus trip but it wasn’t a bundle of laughs. Although he did appreciate Dads attempt at a slushy drink when he came home. The dog enjoyed chasing the ice around the kitchen when someone forgot to put a lid on the blender. Silly dad.
When budgets are tight it is difficult for councils to run a school bus service. We actually should be thankful that we have one. But the school bus run is often so difficult for many kids, especially those spectrum kids. I’m not sure I like that phrase for some reason, may not use that again.
So many factors contribute to the difficult school journey:
- Different drivers everyday. Our son would really appreciate just one familiar face and it spooks him when a new driver appears,
- Frequently dirty bus interiors. Let’s be polite and say they tend to be not that clean. Again to someone who hates touching potentially dirty surfaces this is not conducive to a relaxing trip,
- Poor behaviour. I think the term bear pit comes to mind. To someone who finds social settings challenging this type of behaviour is really distressing,
- Different sized buses used daily. Because of his Aspergers he likes routine. Not knowing what type of bus will turn up can and does disorientate him. It is a big issue if the bus randomly changes from minibus, to medium size bus, to large super coach,
- Because the bus size changes and the large number of kids using the bus, seating position is random. On an ideal day he can have a window seat by himself just behind the driver. However when smaller buses turn up, seating is restricted so he is often forced to sit next to someone who he probably does not know. This is an absolute nightmare for an Aspergers kid.
- The buses have such a tight timetable. On arriving at school the kids only have a few minutes to get to the first class. If you are late you get an automatic negative. After the final lesson the kids only have 10 minutes to get on the bus before it leaves. Added to this it is a big school site and also due to its age it’s a bit of a maze. That’s a lot to cope with especially for someone who can go into meltdown when he needs to rush and who struggles with the concept of time. He also takes a lot longer to pack his bags and put things like coats on. It’s a recipe for anxiety and stress.
I haven’t got an answer. I have contacted the school and council. Our Health Service has repeatedly raised similar concerns in connection with many of its patients. Nothing changes. My last offer was that I would be more than happy to volunteer to work with the authorities in designing the next tender process for school services. I suspect I know the two word answer to that, something like **** off. In an ideal world we could get the Swiss Public Transport experts to run the school bus. That would be problem solved and wow the chocolate…..