Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Short Bus

with 4 comments

My baby rides the short bus to school, and I’m okay with it.  If you didn’t grow up here, you aren’t familiar with the network of yellow buses belonging to the school district that round up school-age children and ferry them from a convenient stop near their home to their schools.  It reduces traffic congestion, is kinder on the environment, and is safe and reliable.  It is free of charge.  It clearly signals a beginning and end to the school day for the many kids who need help with transitions.  If your child has special educational needs, it gets even better.  They pick-up steps away from your home (door-to-door service!) and usually carry an aide who makes sure your child is feeling safe and comfortable.

When Pudding first entered the school system, the members of the IEP meeting checked that we wanted these services.  Of course!  Who wouldn’t?  Well, bullying is a sad reality for many children, especially those who are different.  Many parents have grown up hearing the pejorative phrase “rides the short bus” to describe people with disabilities, especially mental retardation.  They don’t want that stigma for their child.

Coming from a place where we don’t have school buses, long or short, I just don’t have the same perception.  The stigma is an entirely cultural construct.  Maybe all stigmas are.  Pudding and Cubby are Third Culture Kids.  They will grow up taking aspects of their parents’ cultures, and those of the countries they will live in, and fuse them into their own unique understanding of the world.  Even in their country of birth, or their parents’ home countries, they are outsiders to the culture.  They need never know that there is a stigma attached to something as simple as transportation to their place of learning.

That isn’t good enough though.  We need to teach our children the value and beauty of difference.  We stop the stigma.  Spectrummy Daddy was in a conversation a couple of weeks ago with somebody who referenced a third party as “riding the short bus.”  I’m proud to say he stopped her, and let her know that his daughter rides the short bus every day.  If you don’t mean our kid, you mean one of her friends.  It isn’t okay.  I don’t think that person will use that phrase again without thinking of the hurt they unwittingly cause.

Is one person at a time good enough?  Sometimes it has to be.  Sometimes it is all we can do.  Sometimes though, ideas can take hold and make sweeping changes.  When I was growing up in England, the words “spaz” and “spastic” were commonly used as insults.  The politically correct era of the 90s saw that those words were revealed as damaging and harmful.  Altering our conception of those we were talking about.  I’m sure that somewhere you will still find people using those terms as insults, but by and large they have disappeared from the lexicon.  Change can happen.  In the US media, these terms, along with “retard” are still used.  Even in shows which purport to value diversity, main characters still use these words as insults.  So we start one at a time saying it is not okay, and one day it will stop.

At their tender age Pudding and her friends know nothing of such stigma, and ride their bus to school blissfully unaware of future insults.  Even without the stigma, I didn’t always find it so easy to put her on the school bus.  Her first day of school, she was so excited to ride the bus.  She was wearing her ‘school dress‘ and had her backpack on.  She was ready.  But I wasn’t.  That was the first time she had ever left me.  As she blew me a kiss, she placed her hand on the window out towards me.  That hand in all her three years had never looked so tiny.

So yeah, my baby rides the short bus and I’m okay with it…most of the time.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

July 21, 2010 at 10:07 am

4 Responses

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  1. You’re absolutely right, that people should be called out on these terms like “retarded” and such. I used that word frequently until a friend of mine told me it bothered her because of a specific situation with her child. I didn’t know any better, and had she not voiced her hurt over the matter I would have continued using it and continued hurting people unwittingly.


    July 22, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    • Thanks Faiqa. I think we’ve all done it before- not thought about the consequences of words we use. Thanks for stopping by my blog!


      July 22, 2010 at 6:18 pm

  2. […] of the silence of shame and stigma.  I’m talking about my children, and this wonderful community we all belong to.  I just […]

  3. […] time of year, to look back and reflect.  Some big things have happened this year, like my girl starting school a few years before we’d anticipated, in a classroom we’d never have planned.  Like […]

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