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How to Prepare Your Child to Ride the Bus

Updated: Apr 1, 2021

How to Prepare Your Child to Ride the Bus inland respite socal

Riding the bus to school is exciting for some children, but scary for many. After all, most of the time, kids are being transported by their parents. They know what to expect and how a car ride usually goes. A bus is bigger with children your child does not know, and they don't know what to expect. When you have a child with a developmental disability, riding the bus can be downright overwhelming for them.

Inland Respite offers in-home respite care for children and adults with developmental disabilities. Our companion caregivers undergo a rigorous screening and training process so that you can feel safe when you leave your loved one with us. Our mission is to offer you a break so that you can recharge and invest in self-care, such as getting a well-deserved massage. Below, we'll go over some tips on how to prepare your child to ride a bus. Contact us to get started today!


Acquaint Your Child With What to Expect

Many children, including those with developmental disabilities, simply are anxious about riding the bus because they don't know what to expect, especially if they've been riding in cars their entire lives. One great way to acquaint your child with a developmental disability with riding a bus is to actually ride one. Most medium-sized cities have a public bus system, as well as every large city. Arrange to take a bus ride with your child so they can experience the bigger space and some of the bus-riding protocol. While different from a school bus that is simply full of children, riding a bus will help give your child a great sense of what a bus is like. If this is not possible, you can verbally walk your child through the steps of riding a bus, explaining how to board a bus and get off, where to sit, the stops a bus makes, and other details.

Alleviate Their Fears

Many children are super scared of riding the bus. After all, it is big and scary in the eyes of a young child. You can help ensure your developmentally disabled child is set up for success when riding a bus by talking about any fears they may have so you can then allay them. For example, if your child is scared of the size of the bus, the noises it makes, or how many strangers are on the bus, you will be able to address these by talking about how a bus is just like a car but bigger, how the noises aren't that bad, and how with so many new faces, your child could make friends. By putting their fears in a new light with a new perspective, and by seeing the positive side of things, you can help your child immensely.

Establish a Routine

Developmentally disabled children usually thrive on routine. It makes at least one part of their day easy when they could face many other daily challenges. Thus, once school starts, if riding the bus is routine like waking up in the morning and getting ready, it will become an accepted part of their day. Hopefully, they will have the same bus driver every day and usually the same children ride the bus. This also helps to make the bus seem like a normal, everyday activity.

Teach Proper Bus Riding Etiquette

Many children with developmental disabilities struggle with social situations, social norms, and acceptable public behavior. Thus, they have to be taught all of these things, sometimes repeatedly. When riding a bus, some children may think it's okay to scream loudly, to walk around, or to be mean or intrusive to other children. Here is where feedback from the bus driver can be super helpful. They can report to you any misdeeds, and then you can work to fix them with your child.

Accommodate Any Special Needs They May Have

Many children with developmental disabilities have problems with being overstimulated by their environment. Too many noises or sights can instill real fear in them. If this is your child, our in-home care providers at Inland Respite recommends that you make sure your child has everything that they need to overcome these challenges, such as finding a soothing object to take with them to hold, wearing a hat if the light is too much, or have noise-cancelling headphones to wear on the bus to block out the noise. Being proactive here will be key to your child's success in riding the bus to school.

Consider Having a Companion or Friend Ride the Bus With Them

Sometimes distraction is the best cure for any fears, anxieties or social triggers that could happen while riding a school bus for your developmentally disabled child. It can be a good idea to have a care companion ride with your child to school on the bus for the first few weeks until they feel acclimated. Also, finding another child who rides the same bus who would be willing to be a bus buddy can be hugely beneficial. This can eliminate the decision of where to sit and who to sit by, as well as be a calming presence when your child senses a storm arising within. Children are surprisingly adept at helping children their same age overcome challenges because they see the world as your child does. Encouraging your child to make friends on the bus can help alleviate any pressure they may feel as well.


Riding the bus to and from school is a life-saver for many parents who simply don't have the time to drive their child to school every day. By investing time in ensuring your developmentally disabled child can ride the bus safely, effectively, and without causing problems for others, you will find that your child will most likely adapt very quickly and make friends, too.

Inland Respite offers in-home respite care for parents and other caregivers of developmentally disabled children in Southern California. We recognize that you have a huge responsibility in not only being a parent and raising your child, but you also have the added challenge of ensuring your child has the mental and social skills necessary so that they can be a productive member of society. We come alongside parents and caregivers to offer them the mental break they need so that they can recharge. Every day is different with your child with some being more draining than others. Reach out to our team with any questions you may have about respite care for children, and contact us today!

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