Preparing Your Non-Verbal Child with Autism for the First School Bus Ride

This post was inspired by my friend Di-Adina from the wonder ful and supportive community at who is concerned about putting her son onto the school bus for the first time. This is a follow up post to my earlier back to school advice.

Di-Adina writes: "Another parent and i were wondering how to prepare our nonverbal kids for that first busride. Mine are already on their third yr w/buses and i was just lucky to get great bus drivers/matrons. My son being non verbal always needed a special toy to carry on the bus or DS game, IPOD or book. Anything you can think of would be appreciated.

I would like to offer 5 pieces of practical advice:

1.  Educate your support team: Don't be shy about sharing your best advice and tips with the administration and the bus driver, but be open. Behavior is often contextual, and your child may react differently than you expect when put into a new situation.

2. Practice: If you can, arrange to visit the lot where your town keeps the buses and practice getting onto it. Being familiar with sensory stimuli like the whoosh of the bus door opening, or the smell of the seats could make a difference. If your child will have an assigned seat, practice walking to it. If not, be mindful that your child does not get one seat set in his head, or it may throw him off if someone is already in it come school day.

3. Visual Supports: If you are familiar with the work of Michele Garcia Winners  social stories, you love them.  The idea is to create a cogent visual timeline of a sequence of actions and then review it. i.e. I walk to the bus stop with my mom (picture of bus stop), I wait for the bus (photo of your child at the bus stop), the bus arrives (photo of bus), I get on the bus and smile at the driver (smiley face), I choose a seat and sit down, I take out my toy and play (photo of toy).

4. Be the Inner Voice: Feel confident that your child is strong and resilient enough to do this. Then repeat that belief often to your child. If you believe it you will instill the confidence he or she needs to be successful. 

5. Take Care of Yourself: I know this is stressful. Probably even more for you than for your child. Keep a strong, confident attitude until your child gets ont he bus and goes, and then do something nice for yourself. Take a walk, journal, drink coffee, whatever is your renewal activity.