In a conversation with a neurologist when my young-adult daughter with disabilities was a toddler, I asked what I might expect for Noni in the future. First words out of his mouth, “Well, I don’t think she’ll be riding a yellow school bus with the other kids, if that’s what you’re asking me.”
My heart slumped. I felt shaky, then clammy. I couldn’t hear another word he said.
I wanted to scream at him, “Noooo! Don’t dash my hopes just yet! Can't you see how much I love her? Your words are killing me!"
I don’t know if I was in a state of denial or perpetual hope, but the baloney-macaroni-don’t-take-no-for-an-answer rumbling inside me would not let go of this prayer: Maybe, perhaps, possibly, someday, she just might ride the school bus and take part in all that it symbolizes. Please.
Two weeks ago marked the start of kindergarten for my friend’s daughter, Alana, a big day for her and all first-timers boarding the yellow school bus. Thanks to the progress of 25 years of inclusion of children with special needs in public schools, there was never any question that despite Alana’s disabilities, she would ride the school bus.
At the bus stop to take part in the occasion with her that morning were her neighborhood friends, and moms with cameras.
Though it was the first day of school for all the kids, all the buzz was about Alana. Who would get to sit next to her on her first ride to school? Everyone wanted that seat!
Moms helped them decide by suggesting they start with the oldest and rotate each day according to age. Good solution. And Alana’s bus aide would be relegated to the seat behind her. Perfect spot.
All aboard, and the bus rolled on.
The yellow school bus is an icon that stirs strong emotions in parents of children with disabilities.
As a parent of three typical kids, I understand how easy it is to take for granted the ritual of riding the bus, going to school, and meeting new friends -- experiences central to childhood.
For most of us, it’s an expectation. For parents and their kids with disabilities, it’s an elation.
Like Alana, Noni did indeed ride the yellow school bus along with her siblings and neighborhood friends. I’ve got years of first-day-of-school pictures to prove it.
And a new neurologist.