Week three of school. Martin and I were walking to the bus stop when he asked, “Why do some kids say, ‘You can’t sit here!’?”
“Do some kids say that to you?”
“Yes. Then the bus driver says, ‘You can sit in the first two seats’.”
“Which kids say that to you?”
“Big kids in the bus.”
“Does any of the kids from this bus stop say that to you?”
“Do the big kids say that to other kids from this bus stop, or just to you?”
“I don’t know.”
“Do you think that is something kind to say, or unkind?”
“Unkind. Then I have to find a seat with one kid or no kids.”
“If someone says, ‘You can’t sit here!’, maybe you can say, ‘I’d rather find a better seat anyway’?”
The conversation freaked me out. As soon as Martin boarded the bus, I texted his behaviorist, who sees him both at home and in school. With her approval, I also emailed the school principal.
The principal responded quickly: “I will look further into this situation today. Is it possible that Martin is going to the back of the bus to sit? The long-standing tradition at our school is that the fifth graders sit in the back of the bus. The fifth graders will sometimes get overly sensitive about their ‘earned right’ to have the back of the bus. I’m hoping that this is just a misunderstanding and an easy fix. I will be very disappointed if there is more to it than that. I will be in touch.”
Later the same day, the principal sent a follow-up message, saying she had spoken with the bus driver, who would ensure that a seat behind him was always open for Martin, just in case.
I explained to Martin that fifth-graders sit in the back. He asked, “Then why do the twins get to sit in the back?” He meant our neighbors, who are in first grade. I had no answer.
The next morning, I consulted a fifth-grader I know, who also boards at our bus stop. She confirmed that fifth-graders sit in the back.
First bullying incident—might have been nothing, might have been something.
Subsequent bullying incidents—I’m worried. I’m always worried.
I’m glad that he said something to you and that you contacted the school. As a teacher I see it ALL of the time and ALWAYS report it and confront the student. This is one of the reasons why my son is in a self contained class (for the most part). The thought of it keeps me up at night.
I can see how you would want to tell Martin to say ‘I’d rather find a better seat anyway’? But you will soon (or in a year’s time) realize that it might be the wrong way to go about it (with negativity I mean).
Speaking from our experience of moving to general ed, I saw that unfortunately not everyone will be understanding of our kids. I’ve cried many a times for the things I’ve seen. Kids not being understanding, sometimes being rude or giving the weird look( most common). But things have changed with time. Either the kids have become more used to my kid or my tolerance level has gone up. One thing that might’ve helped is that the Inclusion Specialist goes into the classroom at the beginning of the year and gives a general talk about how everyone is different and have different abilities and about what’s the right thing to do, etc. and she does it in an interactive way with the kids. Every year in the IEP, we say yes to her. It’s up to us if we want our kid in the classroom when she visits and also whether she can mention the A word or not. Not sure if our kid is in the room, but we’ve not yet given the school permission to use the A word as we ourselves have not used it with our kid. This is our third year in general ed (3rd grade now).
Get ready to have your feathers ruffled everyday and to get hurt by the ‘normal’ people (kids & parents). But I assure you that things will get better. Until then try not to get too worried. Look at it this way: we can’t change the world for our kids; neither can we fight every battle for them. If they are to become independent, they need to be able to navigate the good and the bad and see the world for what it is.
The whole of our first year in general ed we were up in gloves, ready to fight for our kid. Lots of turmoil and hurt. Then we found this lady who teaches exercises to our kid (sort of like brain gym, except she’s more like a life coach for our whole family too) and she said to look at only positive and to not consider any negativity even for a second. Of course, we still had our trustworthy advocate too, who made sure the school did its job and that our rights were protected.
The last couple of years things have improved. There are kids who understand our kid and go out of their way to help and be friendly. Why, we’ve heard they even let our kid have the particular swing (OCD issues). We see more and more kids being helpful and understanding and this in turn has helped our kid feel more included. We still have to work hard everyday just to
catch up to the others, but hard work’s nothing when we can see that we’re harnessing our kid’s potential to the max. The younger they are, the more we can mold them.
After an year or so, you’ll notice that Martin will have more of a support system as the whole school (kids and school staff) will have become acclimatized to him and his needs. I’m only telling all this in case any of it turns out to be helpful to you. I know that you’re fully capable of handling everything that comes your way:) Go Martin!!