My seat on the bus

“It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: It would be a jolly site harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.” Change according to CS Lewis.

Stephen Hawking also believes in change. He said “I have noticed even people who claim everything is pre-destined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road”.

And David Mamet, through the script of “Wag the Dog”, thinks change requires co-operation. “For progress to occur, it is necessary for two generations to agree”.

In my view, change is easy. It’s awareness, and willingness to change, that require effort.

Seven-year-old Duncan’s parents are worried. He’s about to be suspended from school.

Duncan and his family live just outside a regional town in Victoria, Australia. He catches the bus to school each day – the first stop on the route is right outside his house, so he gets the seat right behind the driver. He returns on the bus at the end of the school day. He’s doing all right at school, and getting on with friends.

But the school says he has been violent towards other children on the bus in the afternoons. Duncan (not his real name) has autism.

The school Principal is supportive of Duncan’s attendance, but the school has a strong anti-violence policy with which she must comply. She can only conclude that the school day is too tiring for Duncan.

Mum and Dad both work, so can’t pick him up, and Grandma – who minds him in the afternoons – doesn’t drive. Parents and teachers have talked to Duncan about the problem, but the reports of hitting and pinching keep coming. Suspension seems the only option.

Duncan’s mum has read about the Convention on the Rights of People with Disability, the Victorian Charter of Human Rights, and State and Federal disability discrimination legislation. She knows how much Duncan loves school, and wants to do everything she can. As a last resort, she talks to a Disability Rights Advocate.

The Advocate contacts the Principal, and details Duncan’s rights to education, and the need for the school to provide reasonable adjustment for Duncan. The Principal agrees that the Advocate can observe Duncan for a day at school before she imposes the suspension.

The Advocate sees that Duncan is happy on the way to school, and during school. The problem only occurs on the way home, when all of the kids rush onto the bus, and Duncan can’t sit in the front seat. So, with a small change to routine to let Duncan get on the bus first, and sit in the front seat, his education continues.

Have you seen situations where a small change can make a big difference? Comment below!

This story was obtained from the Victorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, and has been used by Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes in a number of his speeches.

Graeme Innes thirsts for change, and is passionate in his belief that a successful sustainable society is a society which includes everyone.

3 thoughts on “My seat on the bus

  1. Very personal story for me as I have a child with autism – and certainly notice that “tweaking” or making small changes can have a profound impact on a child with autism, or an teenager/adult with an anxiety disorder (Duncan in your article would undoubtedly have started displaying those behaviours because the bus routine was making him anxious!)
    For my son, it was allowing him time to “zone out” from the relative chaos of the classroom – a classical music cd and headphones – a small change that didn’t impact the other children.

  2. We have a similar situation where our daughter often gets barred from the special needs bus that takes her to her school. It is apparent to us that the bus is an obvious trigger for her behavourial problems as it is a sensoury nightmare. We have desperately tried to lobby for an additional carer on the bus but are always shot down (eg funding, occ health & safety concerns etc). Its laughable really as our daughter cannot control her behaviours without assistance yet we are forced into a 60 klm round trip more often than not yet the overiding trigger is never addressed. As a consequence we are stuck in a vicious and highly sressed circle that shows no sign of easing. The unfortunate person in all this is our daughter who is not getting the help or education that we all crave.

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