No matter how often your child rides the school bus—whether it’s every day or only during field trips—it’s a very different environment from school. The driver may play music. Kids may be singing, playing games and even shouting.
A fun ride with pals can quickly turn into a stressful situation. Bus drivers aren’t teachers, and the rules for passengers aren’t always clear or strictly enforced. Kids with learning and attention issues may get bullied on the bus or respond to other kids’ misbehavior by acting out.
Here are some common situations your child may encounter on the bus. These situations can be especially challenging for kids with learning and attention issues.
Eating and drinking: Even though it’s forbidden, the girl sitting next to your child might open a can of soda and accidentally spill it on your child’s knees when the bus hits a bump. For kids who have sensory processing issues or who have trouble with social skills, figuring out how to handle this situation can be stressful.
Moving around: A group of kids may decide to play a game of getting up and switching seats, but they bump into other kids in the process. This could lead to harsh words or possibly a brawl.
Staying seated can be tough, especially when kids get rowdy. Children who have trouble with impulse control may have difficulty following this rule to begin with. They may get up if something catches their interest or if other kids are moving from seat to seat.
“Bus drivers aren’t teachers, and the rules for passengers aren’t always clear or strictly enforced.”
Background noise: With so many kids talking all at once, your child might not notice that the boy sitting behind her is speaking to her. This could lead him to yell, “Hey, pay attention! I asked you something!”
Kids who have difficulty filtering out background noise or who are slower to process language may miss some social opportunities on the school bus. They may also feel embarrassed and defensive when other kids call them out in front of everybody.
Gossiping: Your child’s seatmate says, “Did you hear about Caitlyn? Everyone is saying she has rabies. Can you believe it?” Kids whose learning and attention issues affect their self-esteem may feel like they have to join in to be accepted. For example, your child may fear that she’ll become the next target if she doesn’t laugh out loud or share hurtful comments about other kids.
Gossipy conversations can be particularly challenging for kids who don’t read body language and tone of voice well. They may misinterpret sarcasm and other key details that could get them into hot water.
Bullying: A group of kids might shove or taunt a child when the driver isn’t looking. Kids with learning and attention issues may have trouble figuring out how to stand up for themselves—or for other kids.
What You Can Do
If your child complains about the bus, try first to understand how serious the problem is. If the issues seem relatively minor, such as messiness or loud noises, help your child develop strategies like wearing headphones to deal with noise. Bringing a really interesting book or magazine could help her avoid getting caught up in what the other kids are doing.
But if your child feels stressed every day on the bus, talk to the school and the driver. And if you suspect your child is being bullied, don’t wait. Report the incident to your child’s school right away. Find out other steps to take if you suspect your child is being bullied.