Riding the bus is as much a part of the culture of the mentally challenged community, as struggling to read.  In our Central Florida county, parents sometimes complain about the long bus trips that our population must take each day to get to and from work.  Often, parents will opt to transport their children to doctor’s appointments and Rec Department events, rather than teaching them the intricate maneuvering required to learn the route schedules.  The professional community has never caught the vision of teaching people who are mentally challenged how to figure out the schedules.  Transporting them in private vehicles seems easier. 

Yet, I seldom hear the same complaint from Special Gathering members and my other friends.  When Diana developed the skills needed to ride the bus to work and to her appointments after her mother died, she gained a new sense of independence.  She and her close friend, Mimi, often ride the bus together to go to lunch and to the shopping center.

Because of the complexity of the geography of the county, bus routes can be complicated and hard to understand.  Therefore, there are not as many bus people who live in our county, except a few scattered homeless individuals.  Bus people are folks who ride the bus everyday for fun and entertainment.  

A good friend of mine has a daughter who is in her mid-thirties.  She is mentally challenged and bipolar.  She lives in South Florida where there are many bus routes.

This young woman boards the bus early everyday and rides all day long.  She gave up employment years ago because she doesn’t like the tedium of the day programs.  The erratic behavior caused by her bipolar symptoms, makes it hard for her to understand the logic required to be able to submit to authority.  For that reason, she hasn’t succeeded in working in the community.  Therefore, she finds that riding the bus everyday, fills her time in a meaningful way.

Perhaps one of the best things the professional community could do within our cloistered, sub-culture is bus training.  Teaching individuals who are developmentally disabled to ride the bus to doctor’s appointments and to the shopping mall should be an intricate part of the skill sets needed for survival. 

Part of my desire is to get a grant that can be used to teach people how to ride the bus in our county.  It will mean educating parents and professionals first but it would be worth the effort.   As the cost of gas continues to climb, riding the bus may become a necessary skill set that we cannot afford to be without.  

Does anyone know of a grant that teaches people to access public transportation? 

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