Should your child wear a saftey harness on the bus?

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K wearing a safety harness/vest . K was put in a harness at my request when she started school

I have seen on facebook parents concerned over the fact that the school and or the bus company wants to place a child in a safety harness. 

These parents do not want their child in restraints – on one hand is understandable for the parents to feel that way. But normally, the schools and the bus company will not make that suggestion unless there is a very good reason for it – like safety!

So let me tell you K’s story about the safety harness:

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 K started school out of state. I started working as a school bus driver out of state. 

During my training as a driver, I took K to school one day with my trainer. K was the only child on the bus. She was sitting next to the window and the trainer was right across from her. K decided to undo her lap belt and run towards the back of the bus while I was driving down the road. I had to pull over and get her back into her seat and rebuckle the seat belt.

Luckly, we were not on a busy road, she was the only child on the bus, and she did not open the back door or come up to the front of the bus to press buttons.

In that instant, I saw the potential danger for my daughter who at the time was 5. I saw the potential danger for her bus driver and I saw the potential danger for the other kids on the bus.

As a school bus driver, we are in charge of your child’s safety on the bus. We have to ensure the child’s safety from the other kids on the bus, how that child may interact with the other kids and keep those kids safe, too. We have to maintain safety of all the childern while on the road and be aware of all potential hazards while driving. So as a school bus driver, our eyes, ears, reflexes are doing double duty – eyes on the road, eyes on the kids, ears hearing both sounds from the childern and the environment outside of the bus.

Knowing what I saw my daughter do that day, I spoke to her school and the bus company to request that K be put into a safety harness. So during, the time we lived out of state, K had the safety harness on while on the bus. I was rest assured my daughter was safe.

When we moved to our current state and K was registered in her new school, the safety harness was stated as being required in her IEP as well as being on a bus with an aide. I explained to the new school and the transportation director what my daughter needed as stated in her IEP.

The Transportation Director did not want to give my daughter the vest nor the bus with the aide. 

I was told “The childern need the opportunity to learn how to ride on the bus.”

My response – Ooookaaaay, trust me I warned you! If anything happens it is all on the school district!

Within 2 weeks of the school year, it was decided to move my daughter to a bus with an aide. Why? Well, K kept undoing her seat belt and bit a student on the bus.

I told you so …. you, Transportation Director, were warned!

K was put on a mini bus with an aide. A few days later, I am being told “Your child needs a safety harness!”

SMH! WTF?!?!? Are you (the transportation director and the school district) stupid? You were told by me – the parent, since the start of the school year and it was in her IEP from her old school. Idiots!

So at the request of the new driver and the transportation director, K was placed in the safety harness for “safety reasons”. This could have all been prevented if the new school listen to me from the start.

So please consider the request for the safety harness/vest not as demand to restrain your child, but to keep your child safe, as well as keeping all of the kids safe!

As a former bus driver, all it takes is one distraction for something horrible to happen!

The safety harnesses is meant to help keep the child in the bus seat. The harnesses are used for these reasons:

  • The child is violent
  • The child constantly undoes their seat belt 
  • The child moves around on the bus while the bus is in montion
  • The child shows they are a danger to themselves, the other students, and to the driver

Driving on the road can be hazardous for any driver. But a school bus driver is dealing with perious cargo and the hazards of the road. To ensure every child is safe on the bus – including yours – if the school requests a safety harness then just do it! It is meant to keep your child safe while on the bus!

Below is a link to a company that sells the saftey harnesses:

Easy Way Safety Harness

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This is an example of a child wearing the vest on a school bus seat

The safety harness has 4 loops – 2 on the top on either shoulder and 2 on the hip on either side. The child steps into the harness and puts their arms in through the arm holes. The harness zippers up in the back. On the bus already, there will be a strap that is attached to the back rest of the seat. On this strap there are 4 clips – 2 on the top and 2 on the bottom. When the child gets on the bus (already wearing the safety harness), the driver or aide will attach the 2 top clips to the 2 loops at the shoulder then attach the 2 bottom clips to the 2 loops at the hip. This is what will keep the child safely in their seat. The lap belt then will be buckled. If the child undoes the lap belt, they are still safe and secure because of the safety harness.

A child may out grow the need to wear a safety harness as they learn how to control and cope with their behaviors. As a school bus driver and aide, I have known childern who needed the the safety harness then no longer needed. I have also known childern who have always needed it for their entirety of their years at school. 

K still wears one to this day. There was a time when the school and I were trying to not have her wear the vest anymore. Her behavior was good on the bus to warrant her not to wear it. Then one day out of the blue, K had behaviors on the bus and tried to open the emergency door and actually did. So she went back into the safety harness for her own safety, the safety of the students, and for the safety of the driver and will always wear one from here on out.This happened during the 2014 – 2015 school year.

So I speak from experience as a mother of a child with special needs and behavioral issues, as well as a former school bus driver and aide – The safety harness is not an evil device to restain a child. The safety harness is meant to keep your child safe!

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Elopement and Wandering 

Elopement and wandering … running away, bolting, whatever you want to call it can at best be a worrisome and stressful event, at worst a parent’s nightmare come true. 

K had elopement issues at an early age. She would refuse to hold hands outside and try to run away to some place unknown to us adults. Inside she would open windows, doors, the sliding door and run out. In the apartment, we used the hotel sliding lock on the front door, special window locks, and another lock on the sliding door. She was catchable during those moments when she was 2 to 5 years old. Even she was fast!

The biggest scare, I had was back in 2011. K and I had moved back to our home state. K was 6 at the time, we had spent the night at a friend’s house like we have done many times before. In the middle of the night, K got up and got out the house. She undid all the locks on the door and got out! We all woke up shortly after and noticd K was gone from the condo!

Molly, Josh and I ran outside to start looking for her. Behind Molly’s condo is a steep hill going into the woods with a stream somewhere at the bottom. Around the condo there was a broken basement window. We started to yell out K’s name but go no respone.

Understand, that at 6 years old, K could only say a few words, not answer questions, would not say her name, repeat certian scripted lines from songs in her sing songy voice. She had no sense of danger and no understanding of what to do in a situation like this.

My heart about stopped and I was on the verge of calling the cops and freaking out…

Then I heard sirens! My heart fell into my stomach and I, on instinct, ran towards the sound. Probaly about 1/4 mile down the road, I saw K sitting on the hood of some lady’s car!!! 

Thank the heavens above and the angels watching over K that day! Some kind lady saw her walking down the road and stopped. This lady, who I never found out her name, called the cops. The cops were there. 

I explained to the officers that K has Autism. That we stayed over at a friend’s house and this happened. They took my information but nothing ever came of it. No one showed up at my door from any agency, charges were never pressed or anything of that nature. 

Now I did set in montion certian changes to prevent this from happening. Any house that K visited alot like Molly’s, her Grandfather’s, or where we lived door alarms were installed at all the houses. My house and my father’s there were window locks install, double key dead bolt locks, and the door alarms. I even want has far as to buy a harness from Custom made harnesses by Elaine. 

During the day, the harness was used when we went out to prevent K from bolting into any given direction. At night, I used the harness to prevent another night time escape. K would wear the harness and she would be tethered to my waist at a very short length. And this is how we slept – especially when we went to Molly’s or on the family vacation to the mountains where the area was surround by a lake. 

This kept K safe both during the day and at night. The above picture is of her at a charity walk that we did down by the shore wearing the hearness. 

I did look into the gps bracelet for her, however it turned out to be to costly. The county I lived in did have a program, but the cost per month and having to go there once a month to change the battery did not work with my work schedule. They were only open Monday – Friday and closed at 4pm. 

Now at age 11, the elopement factor is not done as often and K can go long periods without having an episode. But it is still there lingering in hind sight. She has done it over the years and has done it in school. She has run out of the classroom, tried to get out of a moving vehicle  (yay for child safety locks!), run back to a store, run away from a therapist or myself with that weird, giggly smile she gets when she wants to get into trouble on purpose – this she has done sporadically over the last few years. So all one can do is be mindful that IT can happen and not to get too relaxed about it.

Below are some links providing information about stories of kids eloping both with happy and fatal endings. There is also resouce information to help parents and links for Project Livesaver and Custom Harnesses by Elaine.

Autism: Wandering a hazard for more than 1/3 of Kids

Stories just in July 2016 with the children found alive:

Boy with Autism Found Wondering Around

Mom charged, Child with Autism Wanders Away

Boy with Autism wanders away from daycare

Stories with not so happy endings:

Two cases of young boys with Autism who wandered away and has fatally endings 

Avonte Oquendo – wandered from school, fatal ending

Missing boy with Autism drowns

Resources:

AWAARE

Autism Speaks: Wandering Resources for Parents and First Responders

Project Livesaver

The link for below picture is not attached. This is a PDF from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children which needs to be downloaded inorder to view. Google the “Missing  Childern with Special Needs by National Center for Missing and Exploited Children”to read the helpful information.

Article on GPS device to help bring wandering people home

Custom made harnesses by Elaine 

The Magic of Awareness 


The meaning of  awareness:

That magical moment when the light goes on and possibly there may be a life changing moment on the horizon!!! 

Especially when it happens to a child with like K!

I don’t know if it is a degree of maturity, the birth control pills, the right mix of her medications, the effect of her school, the influence of people at her group home, the almost nonexistenting and sporadic services of the current ABA company, or a little bit of the above.

Whatever it is …. I will take it and happy to take it! 

K (as previous post will show) has always had a history of violent aggressive behaviors and self injurious behaviors. 

But this past weekend gives me a small glimmer of hope with the new awareness that K seems to slowly be obtaining.

I was told this about K:

Instead of kicking the wall or doing any number of her aggressive behaviors, K has been asking this?

K: “Kick wall. What happens if K kicks wall?”

Then K will be told she will hurt her foot, loose x,y, and z, and that my fiance will be called.

K: “NOoooooOoooooOo!”

Then she can be redirected to something else to do.

Or other times this is self directed, for example:

K: “Kick wall. What happen when K kick wall?”

K: “K hurt foot. K loose ambulance. Call J.”

K: “Bad idea.”

Then she proceeds to do something else that is appropriate.

So to me this is HUGE! This new awareness K has regarding the negative behaviors! 

We can only wait and see where this postive insight will take her!!!

Hormones!!!! 

K has had her menses (her period) since July 2015 at the tender age of 10. She had it once, and then periodically has had it in the last few months.

She does not get it consistently becuase of age and being on Risperdal. Risperdal may surpress a female’s menses as a side effect of the medication – just FYI. 

K was recently place on birth control in May 2016 at my request. It is a low dosage of estrogen. 

She has had severe aggressive in the forms of self injurious behaviors, destroying property, and being violent to other people. Apart of this, I have to contribute to those lovely hormones that puberty causes to go all out of wack. We have figured the majority of the aggression is a week before she would get her cycle. It is much like sereve PMS but comes out in behaviors.

It took me a good year to find an gynecologist that would see my daughter at a young age. Her pediatrician would not prescribed the birth control, he said he would only renew the prescription.

Anyway, K has been on the birth control sine May. Her behavior has vastly improved since being on this medication. K still has her moments, but is able to be redirected. On occasion she may need to be restained but very rarely now. 

So, I am going to keep my fingers crossed and hope that this continues to work for her.

K was wonderful over 4th of July. Very calm and happy – she really had a good time!

K playing in the pool – practicing her water dance!
K learning how to play Bocce Ball with the family!

A few weekends ago, we went picking produce. K was not to into doing that. But she was fine – there were no dread meltdowns and she was able to wait to get ice cream!!!

So yes I will take any and all improvements! 

HOUR 11 – E.R Odyssey Contiunes PART 3

Outside is a beautiful day …
Blue skies with puffy white clouds. The kind of clouds that make you want to sit back in a field and stare at the sky. While trying to name the shapes of the varous clouds. A bit of a breeze blowing to take the edge off the heat. Today would be the perfect beach day … enjoy the waves with your childern, family and friends. A great day to be on the boardwalk playing games, riding rides or eating ice cream. A glorious day to go claming in the bay – then enjoy the days catch with a surf and turf bbq with loved ones.

But none of that is for Keri and I. I will get a 5 min glimance of the outside when I can get a chance to have a cigarette. Keri is stuck in room 34 in the E.R. We have gone over the 24 hours of being here. We will now be working on 48 hours!

Currently, she is resting peacefully from a drug induced sleep. Keri had another meltdown. John was barely unable to hold her down. I had to call the nurse in. The Doctor gave her a shot of Ativan to calm her. These hospital’s psychiatrist doctor prescribed over the phone an increase of her current meds. Keri will now receive 3 times a day .1 mg of clonidine, 2 times a day 200 mg of tegretol. The abilify will remain the same of 10mg 2 times a day.

Before this meltdown, I finally was able to speak with her primary psychiatrist Dr. L and the CMO Case Manager. Dr. L told me that because Keri’s meds have been changed so much that she needs to go into a psych unit in order to have any additional med changes monitored. That also it is too dangerous to just discharge her after the hospital doctor sees Keri. Dr. L also stated that this emergency room has an obligation to keep her until a bed has been found at a psych unit. Her CMO Case Manager said the same thing.

A different Mental Health Administrator came in to speak with me. She was very nice and explained the situation to me. Currently, Keri is scheduled to see the hospital psychiatrist Dr. Z. He is contacted with the hospital on an on call situation. Dr. Z will not be able to see Keri until 8 or 9 pm tonight. From there he will pressure what whatever place to find a bed for her. Ms.A (the mental health administrator) is in the process of calling places in this state and other states to find a bed. Yes, a bed out of state since no other hospital wants to take her or has an open bed.

You read that correct – a bed out of state in an out of state psych unit because there are hospitals in this state that are REFUSING to take her!!! From what Ms.A explained, a psych unit can deny acceptence for any reason like:

•Low IQ
•Non-verbal or limited communication skills
•Wears a diaper
•Certian diagnosises – like Autism, Bipolar, etc.
•The unit thinks the patient will not benefit from therapies offered at the facility.
•There is an over flow of a certian diagnosis ie: to many people with autism.
•Age despite a hospital’s website says the work with kids 5 and up.
•Insurance
•Or pretty much any damn reason the deem fit at any given moment.

So pretty much Keri and I are screwed at this moment. We will camp here at the hospital until a bed opens up.

But wouldn’t this be a form of medical discrimination? If a psych unit has an open bed and a patient is in need of it…
As long as the patient fits the basic criteria of the program – a child in a program for mental illness that is designed for childern regardless of the above. The same would go for an adult. Or maybe this state needs to open more inpatient facilities for people who autism or bipolor or whatever. It is not fair to have them sit in the emergency room for days at a time while in crisis until the parent who is too fusturated, stressed and tired and says to hell with it. Then have to take an unstable person home with no other resources to help them.

I will not be that person. I will not allow my daughter to slip through the cracks because no one want to help a child with autism/bipolar. I will not allow her to continue to hurt herself or me or other people. I will not allow either of us to become a tragic news story. I WILL CONTINUE TO ADVOCATE FOR HER AND GET HER HELP.

HOUR 11 – Emergency Room Visit Part 2

I left off that paper work had been filled out by me for Hospital M. I was waiting on transporting information.

Come to find out that Hospital M had additional questions about Keri.  Once the answers had been recieved by the Doctor at this hospital – they refused to admit her.

The mental health administrator at the ER said that said Hospital M felt that Keri was not a good fit. Also that Hospital T (a different hospital which Keri had stayed at with her first hospitalization) had no beds available. Hospital K and other programs refused to take her. Why? I will get to that in a moment. 

This administratior wants her to see their child psychiatrist, fo a med change and send her home. WTF!!!?!? SEND KERI HOME???

Not at this moment in time when she is a danger to herself and to others. I will camp out here all week until something can be found for her if I have too.

So some of the programs refused her based on age and medical conditions (autism, adhd, bipolar, and mild intellectual disability). So who do I hold accountable if when discharged Keri goes completely of the deep end and tries to kill herself, majorly hurts herself, or someone else… since I cannot get help for her? And with this you may wonder why some parents go off the deep end along with their kids and make the news – this might be the reason why!!!

But let me contiune from the point of refusal from last night … John and Maggie were here with me last night. Since, Keri and I had no other option, we stayed the night at the hospital. John and Maggie left since Keri was asleep and there was nothing to be done at that time.

I tried to fall asleep with 2 chairs pushed together and sitting up using a pillow against the wall for my head. I could not get comfortable not fall alseep. I also had a serious case of numb butt. A kind nurse brought a gurney in for me to sleep on. Not super comfy, but better then the chairs. I was able to get 4 hours of sleep.

I woke up at 7am. Keri was awake and ok for 5 mins. She then started to act up and climb the bed and get out of the bed. She started to smack on the computer in the room. I had to call the nurse’s station for help. Keri kept breaking away from my grip. In came 3 security guards to hold her down for at least 10 – 20 mins. Keri then got the “mega meds” to calm her –  a shot right to her arm.

It basically made her like a little drunk person. Keri had her morning meds minus the abilify. She slept for a little and woke up about 10:30am. She finally got her pill at 11 am about 4 hours after getting her first meds

Between 8 am and 10 am, I was on the phone calling her primary psychiatrist, her case manager for CMO. I was leaving messaves and trying to get
human or a supervisor that could help.

I will continue this in a new post … part 3. We have now been here for over 24 hours. And many more hours to go. Many days more perhaps…

Hour 11 – Emergency Room Visit

Keri had a complete and total meltdown earlier today. So here we are at the E.R working on hour 11. They have found her a bed or are working on finding her a bed at a pediatric psych unit.

Earlier today, Keri was agitated – for what reason is unknown. It started out with being upset and screaming and lost in her own little world. Her Granddad came over, Keri wanted nothing to do with him. All she did was grunt and scream in response to him.

About an hour or so after Keri’s Grandad left, she started to meltdown. Crying, screaming, trying to over turn the table in the kitchen. She knocked over a chair before flinging herself onto the couch. Once on the couch her rage did not stop. Keri continued with the self harm. She was pulling her hair. Keri was scratching herself – but left little to no marks since her nails had been recently cut. She was biting her arms. She then looked at her wrist and said “bite wrist” and proceeded to gnaw at her wrist.

I tried to talk her down, but she did not heed or hear my words. I tried to get in to restain her. But she was linging at me, trying to scratch me, bite me, hit and kick. Keri actually kicked me off the couch.  There was no way for me to get close to her. Keri also knocked items off the end table and threw the small drawer to the end table.

A while ago, Keri cracked the one of the windows by the couch and there are 2 other windows in the same area. I was afraid that she would further hurt herself or break a window or hurt me. There was no choice but to call 911.

The cops came, Keri stopped and was too busy staring at them. She was ok in the ambulance. In the hospital, she started to act up. They gave her a shot of something to calm her. Once Keri was calm, the nurse took blood samples and a urine sample.

While on this shot of whatever, Keri was still with her “not so great smile and laugh” and grunting. The agresstion was gone. Later on when this med wore off, Keri started to try to pinch, bite, and hit me. When she realized she could not get to me, Keri started to try to climb the bed. I could not get her down and had to call the nurse in. At this point neither the nurse nor I could get her settled down. The nurse had to call in another nurse and 2 security guards to help restain her. There were 2 nurses, 2 security guards, and me – 5 people having to restrain her!!! 5 people to hold down a preteen girl who weighs 108 lbs and is 4 ft 7 inches tall!!!

My sister Maggie and John walked in as this 5 people restaining scenario played on The doctor gave her Ativan instead of the other medication. This calmed her and got her to finally go to sleep.

Come to find out … there was one hospital that I will call Hosptial M had agreed to take Keri. I filled out the paper work to have Keri transported. 

I will write more tomorrow since it is 3 am. And a kind nurse just brought in a stretcher in for me to sleep on. Trying to sleep sitting up right in 2 chairs pushed together is uncomfortable to the highesr degree.