Monday morning Richard and I awaited Emma’s school bus. I had prepped Em the night before. “Okay, so Em. The bus is going to come and it’ll pick you up and take you to your new school, okay?”
Em nodded her head.
“When the bus gets to your new school, it’s going to let you off in the front and there will be someone to meet you. They’ll take you into the auditorium where your teacher will be waiting for you.”
“Go see Katie!”
“Yeah and Katie will take you upstairs to your classroom.”
“Go with Mommy!”
“No, Em. I can’t go on the bus with you. They won’t let me. But I’ll wait for it with you, okay?”
Emma bounded back and forth on the sidewalk in front of us as we waited. When the bus pulled up Em ran up the steps, we spoke with the driver, who reassured us we had the correct contact info for her and as the bus pulled away I waved, remarking to Richard how nice it was to have such a friendly driver.
Forty five minutes later the bus driver called, saying Emma was very upset and refused to get off the bus. “What?” I heard Richard say. “Well that’s because you’ve taken her to the wrong school!” There was a pause. “Uh-huh. Yeah, well it’s good she didn’t get off because that’s not her school.” Meanwhile I began talking to Richard as though the driver could hear me. “They have to bring her home and they need to tell her what they’re doing. She’s probably really upset and confused. They need to tell her…” Richard thrust the phone at me.
To the apologetic driver I said, “I’m sure Emma is upset. May I speak to her?”
I could hear the driver, who was clearly upset herself say to someone, “hand my phone to her. No it’s okay. Give her the phone, it’s her Mom.” And in the background I could hear Emma’s anxiety laced voice repeating, “No I don’t want to get off the bus. Emma goes to new school!”
“Your mommy’s on the phone, honey. Here…”
Then I could hear breathing and Em’s voice very quietly said, “Mommy?”
“Emmy, Emmy! The driver made a mistake. They’re going to take you back home now. I’m waiting for you. Okay?”
“They go wrong way. Emma said, no! NO! I don’t want to go to old school. I want to go to new school! I don’t want to get off the bus!”
“That’s right Em. You did the right thing. You told them they were going the wrong way. They’re going to take you home now.”
“Go home, see Mommy! I’m going to be right back!”
“Yes, Em. I’ll see you in a few minutes. I’m waiting for you.”
When I got off the phone I looked at Richard and said, “Wow.” We looked at each other. “She advocated for herself. She totally advocated for herself. Wow!”
When the bus arrived, returning Emma to me, I gathered her in my arms and said, “Em! I am so proud of you!”
“No not this way!” Emma pointed east toward her old school. “You go wrong way. You have to go this way!” Emma said, pointing west, toward her new school.
“You are so awesome, Em. If they had listened to you, you could have directed them to your school! You advocated for yourself! You told them they were going the wrong way.”
“You did the right thing! You refused to get off the bus. I’m so proud of you!”
By the time we got upstairs Emma was smiling and laughing. Richard congratulated her on standing up for herself and for trying to make them understand. With each compliment Emma’s smile grew wider.
By the time Richard had gathered his things to take her to her new school, Emma was happy, repeating the things she’d said to the bus driver. It wasn’t until she came to say good-bye that I saw the teeth marks on her hand.
“Hey Emmy, I said, holding her close. “Did you bite yourself?”
Emma nodded her head. “Emma screamed. Emma was frustrated!”
“I bet you were. You were trying to tell them they were going to the wrong school and they didn’t listen.” I stroked her head.
“Emma goes to new school now!”
“Yeah, Em. You’re awesome. I am so, so proud of you!”
As she and Richard left, I thought about all our children who are trying so hard to communicate and yet aren’t being heard. I imagined Emma sitting on that bus trying to make them understand that they were going the wrong way. Using the right words, but not being understood. And finally, because no one was listening, no one was considering that she actually knew what she was talking about, she began to scream and bite herself.
My dream for Emma is that she be able to advocate for herself.
Now she is and I could not be prouder.
Em and the School Bus
Thought of you the WHOLE time! Seriously. You wrote that post last week – Sometimes I remember I am trying to raise a self advocate – and I couldn’t get it out of my head. This is what we’re doing and our kids are so awesome!
Love this post
Win Charles, CEO of Aspen Rose arts sent via iPad
I am so happy for you! Bravo, Emma! What a gift it is to watch this exciting journey unfold, while you and your beautiful family finds its way! I have said it before, and I know it it true…Emma will be alright. She will be happy. You are a wonderful, wonderful mom.
Never regret how hard you have tried, or the things you tried, in helping Emma. I tried so many things on myself, and would have understood and loved anyone who tried to help, but you are on a vastly greater path! Your focus now, on acceptance, advocating, and understanding will make your new self-advocate daughter BLOOM. Not cure, not change, but become what she is uniquely capable of becoming. I believe in Emma. I have walked that hard path.
Beaming!! She is on her way! Thank you for cheering her AND me on!! 💜💜
Well Done Emma! 🙂
🙂 It’s a wonderful feeling when you experience it starting to come together!
And she’s just beginning, look out world!
That I have no doubt!!!! 🙂
A smiling ‘Yote! 🐹. Oops, I mean🐺! Glad to see the encouragement. Hope the rest of the day went well!
Oh I ❤ picture stories! 😊 Wishing you a ☀ and 🍀 day filled with 🌷🌺🍁 and 🐦🐍🐴 but hope you don’t run into any 🐻🐻 because they can out run a 🐺 !
Way to go Emma!!!
I thought of H. Lauri!
What an amazing story, it almost made me cry! Way to go, Emma!
Yay Em! Thanks Angie
Forgot to mention also, this would be a GREAT post to submit to HuffPost. It really would!
Wahooo! So happy for Emma, and for you (her parents) too! Fantabulous!! 🙂
And it did make me cry! I’m still so overcome with emotion, and happiness, that what I’m writing is all blurry, but that’s love and happiness all together and blurry!
you mean this 😭 or more like this 😂 ? 👍 or 👎 You can blame ‘yote for all the graphics! 💙💜💗💚💓
Go Emma! Though it is strange that the bus didn’t know where to take her….. hopefully tomorrow’s (today’s) bus ride will be less eventful! Maybe you can work with Emma to script something like “Excuse me, I go to . It is the other way”. That sort of thing could go a long way, and it would possibly even generalize. 🙂 Good luck!
The system hadn’t been updated to show Emma’s new school and the bus is not legally able to take Emma to any school other than the one they had in the system, despite my phone calls verifying they had the right information it fell through the cracks. For now she doesn’t have a bus at all, so we will be taking her to school for the foreseeable future. Your script idea is a great one.
hi emma this is emma . i believe you are the first gir kwith my name i ever wrote to.emma yes i have autism like you but you can talk with you mouth mentionably better than me. i love you for your brave day.i emma hav just learned how important bravery is because i hate change and i really yes yes try hard. you made a change is brave. i think you great emma i love you emma you teach me today i live better now.
Emma!!! I love that you wrote to Em. I will show this to her when she gets home tonight. I know she will be thrilled. Thank you so much. I cannot wait to show her this note from you!! A million of these ⇒💜 !
hi emmamommydadynickey (Emma wrote this just now. It’s the first time she’s written to anyone. Nickey is her older brother.)
emma this is emma. ihave a big bro named nick too. and i love him . laugh we were under and unbrella in the rain very young chilren . i obsess over umbrellas now. i need to have all tags off. me big bro goes on perhaps yes to forget i understand. i forget nothing because he see not perhaps like i see. you perfect. emma you a yes girl of perfect. today a yes always.
I had to laugh reading this – the exact same thing happened to my son on his first day of high school. When he didn’t arrive by school bus at his new school . . . well you can imagine the feeling. Turned out they took him to the wrong public high school and he refused to get off the bus and told them “this isn’t my new high school”. Eventually they got him to school but he was an hour late on his first day, not fun for either one of us but Andrew was surprisingly calm and I was so proud of him for advocating for himself.
Andrew sounds terrific and very patient with the fumblings of others.
This made me cry but for her frustration (needless). So proud of her. I hope she is joyful to go tomorrow. And I am thinking she just might like her new school (finger crossed).
Thanks so much Barbara!
That is awesome!! I can feel yor pride that she was able to self advocate!! I have an autistic son who is turning 4 in October and will be headed to school next year. I hope he will be able to self advocate as well as Emma!
He will, he will… eventually he will.
You should be so proud of her! I never would have been able to do that at her age! What a smart, confident young lady you have.
I love that you say this because I think you are kind of over-the-top awesome now, which means Em is headed in the right direction! Thank you for beating a trail for her to follow.
I love this. The lens you see Emma through allowed you to make this challenge an island of competence for her, rather than an exercise in despair. And that is a beautiful, wondrous thing, Ariane.
And you’ve helped with that lens, Brenda.
I cried. Mixed tears. Joy for Emma. Tears for Emma. And frustration with how often this has been the situation for my son. If only people would listen with an open mind – there is an intelligent person inside these differences that others turn away from.
Little by little things are changing and will continue to…
Good for Emma! What a spirit and, I have to say, just about the coolest school bag I have ever seen.
Ha! Isn’t it great? Love that back pack
This sounds like my 8 yr old son who has classic autism. To *Emma’s mom: I share in your pride and the joy of how significant those moments are! Good for your daughter and good for you! I know how much work it takes, carefully and consistently sowing seeds of independence balanced with safety, teaching them how to think for and protect themselves…and you deserve a huge pat on the back! Know that other moms are celebrating with you in these victories 🙂
Blessings, Best Wishes, and Congrats!
‘A fellow fighting mom’ 🙂
Thank you so much!
Amazing story! That is so wonderful! This is my first time reading your blog and I’m just wondering about the string/ribbon your daughter is holding in the picture. My daughter uses string/ribbons and has since she was about 2. it’s her comfort/grounding/fidget/sensory thing. Just wondering if your daughter does the same, 🙂
That’s exactly what it is. We call it her string. It has changed over the years, this one is her latest favorite and the one she takes to school.
Even though our kid are all so different, I find it so comforting to know my daughter isn’t so alone in her love of her string. She actually isn’t allowed to take hers to school because it draws her inward into her own world allowing her to ignore everything else, including instruction time. She substitutes with favorite stuffed animals and other fidgets. Thank you for sharing!
You are an amazing young girl Emma and you should pat yourself on the back for a job well done!!! 🙂 Proud of you!!!!
Oh yay! Another comment for Emma. I’m going to show it to her tonight. Did you see the comment from Emma (of Emma’s Messiah Miracle of Music? So beautiful! Made me cry.
I did and yes, it was so precious! I can totally see them being friends in the future! She was so inspirational!!!! Tell Emma too that I enjoyed one of her favorite chocolate milks yesterday and was thinking of her hoping she was having a great day!!! :O)
Emma, I am so impressed by your refusal to accept what you knew to be wrong. You are a model that our government leaders in Washington would do well to imitate.
Emma for President! 😀
Ah Emma rock on keep it up! When I was your age I would not have caught the mistake because of being too out of it, and even if I did, I would not have said the right thing like you did anyway until recently! I want to meet you! Ariane you should also know I totally just finished doing a happy dance of jubilation in the middle of Au Bon Pain.
And why shouldn’t you it is, after all called Au BON Pain. It’s a happy place. For happy people. And happy dances! *Laughing*
Thank you, Emma!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
ROCK ON, EMMA!!!! Good job! I’m teary. I am SO PROUD of her!!! I’m hoping I give Max (my 12 yr old w/ Aspergers) the right tools and the right words to self advocate. It’s in his IEP. 😉
Great story, always good to hear about a special needs child making the right decisions. It’s too bad she had to go to a new school away from the normal kids, but hopefully she gets better assistance for her special needs.
You know when you read something and you go “F*** yes!” out load…
And you feel proud of someone you’ve never met and full of excitement and you want to go and tell your partner that Emma refused to get off the bus because it wasn’t the right stop and she totally owned taking care of herself how great is that!
Hannah – I read this on my phone as I was heading home from work and said, “Aww” out load and laughed. So yeah, it’s pretty great. Thanks for adding to the greatness! XX
yes yes yes
Wow. I have goosebumps reading this post. Wonderful.
FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC! LOVE THIS!
So proud of ♥ Emma and of you ♥! Not everyone would be in the place where they saw this as a huge success and a sign of growth. It really speaks to your sensitivity and ability to listen and respond to Emma, and too, the ol’ cup half empty vs. half full scenario. Perhaps some might have focused of what had gone wrong with the bus system organization and missed the opportunity to notice and celebrate such a huge success… This good lesson to carry with me on my own journey with H and perhaps the students and families with whom I work.
A wonderful day!! All round awesomeness!!! Yay!♥
PS. Sending little hearts ♥♥♥♥ …I know you like them
(But please edit out if they end up looking like some strange symbol – LOL!)
Thanks Leah, for all the hearts, like little black ants marching… (laughing!) and I won’t edit them out, I do love them and you!
Yahoo! This is so exciting. I hope my Olivia will be able to do the same someday. Did the bus driver not believe Emma when she said it was the wrong school??
Stop and Listen to these children, you might learn something!
Good for Emma!
Now let’s see Emma keep up the awesomeness! Because seriously, that is a great way to start self-advocacy.
These kids know much more than they are given credit for!
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awesome, Emma! Love, Linnea
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