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!

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