Please quit using the short bus as an insult.

I could have titled this “How you may be hurting people and not even realizing it”.

After feeling hurt by something a friend said, and wondering if I was being too sensitive, I put my Google-Fu to use and found others who feel as I do. The general consensus is? Quit using “The Short Bus” as a derogatory insult.

It’s insensitive.

I’m not one of those people who takes insult and injury to every little thing, I promise. I’ve been on the internet longer than some of you have been alive, and have therefore developed elephant-thick skin, at least on my own behalf. I’m very cool-headed. Nowadays I’m more of a “grab the popcorn and watch other people insult each other” kind of girl. I stay the hell out of it because I have a life to attend to and don’t have time to address every single thing.

I observe racial and homophobic debates and insults with bated breath, hoping for the best. I absolutely speak up when necessary, but tend to do a lot of head shaking rather than getting heated and screamy. I watch feminist debates with enthusiasm and a “Go Team!” attitude and refuse to be insulted by mysogynists because, really… What’s the point? Let them burn in their own ignorant flames.

But bringing special-needs children and adults into the mix? That’s pretty low. Lower than fat-phobic slurs toward the other group it’s “okay to insult”. I feel a need to quickly speak out on behalf of special-needs individuals and their families.

As I understand it, not everyone knows what “riding the short bus” means in a derogatory sense. In many areas short buses are used to transport special-needs individuals between school and home. The short buses are used for this purpose for a few reasons; One, because the ratio of special-needs children to neurotypical or physically-abled children is low, and a long bus is not required (in most areas) for their transport. Two, because a short bus is easier to maneuver through neighborhoods where special-needs individuals must be picked up from and delivered to their homes. Three, because a bus with a low head count is easier to control in behavioral situations. In many rural areas, a short bus is used to deliver all students simply due to a low head count, which is why some people may not be familiar with the usage of “riding the short bus” in a derogatory fashion.

When a friend of mine used the term in what she thought was a humorous way, with no emotional harm intended? I understood that, but thought it odd. She’s not a hurtful person, and is extremely PC for the most part (way more than me). When a guy friend told a joke with a “short bus” punchline? I got that, too. He thought he was being innocently funny. It’s not on most people’s radar the way racial or homophobic slurs are… which is why it needs to be discussed.

I am a mother of two children (one whom will be an adult shortly) who have special needs because they’re both on the autistic spectrum. Guess what? Although they both now have alternate means of transportation, they both used to ride the short bus. And those jokes are heartbreaking. In essence, my children, and children of every other special-needs parent, who are sweet and caring and generally innocent, are being used as the butt of jokes and insults. And it hurts. And it sucks.

When the term is used as an insult to infer that an individual is stupid, not up-to-par, or generally uncool? It’s offensive and painful to special-needers and their families. This pain is often caused by an innocent joke (think of Obama and his 2009 Special Olympics faux pas on the Jay Leno show… ouch), and often it’s caused by plain cruelty (think high school kids bullying the less popular)… and it really just needs to stop.

I won’t go on and on about this because, really, I think you get it, and it doesn’t require a pages-long rant on my part. If you’ve just read this and realized you may have been unintentionally causing emotional distress to special-needers and families and have vowed to stop? Thank you… you are gold. It means the world.

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