Koan’s favorite song is The Wheels on the Bus. He’s loved this song since before he was one and he still adores it at ten years old. While he likes music in general, this song is special for some reason. And, like so many other things with Koan, I have no idea why this is the case. Koan is a pretty good natured guy. He’s always happy unless he’s not… Of course, because he’s non-verbal, it’s really difficult for him to let us know what’s displeasing to him. So, occasionally, he gets frustrated and upset. And, loud, abrupt sounds can set him off, too. The vast majority of the time when these things happen, a quick chorus of The Wheels on the Bus will calm him down — no matter the cause of the unhappiness.
Over the years, we’ve collected/captured a lot of different versions of The Wheels on the Bus. A recent favorite version is a Cooper Tires ad that uses a version of the song. Koan’s not a huge TV guy, but that gets his attention every time. There’s a really high probability that if you walk into our house and say, “Alexis repeat!” You’ll hear Bert and Ernie’s Sesame Street version of The Wheels on the Bus come blasting from our Amazon Echo. The Echo has really been a game changer. It’s made it possible for us to hands-free play the song both preemptively and in reaction to situations where Koan might be upset. For example, doing the dishes — the clank sounds of plates can get him upset — or watching the Hawkeyes play. Inevitably, Jeri or I will make some sort of abrupt exclamation (either of glee or dismay) that will startle and set him off. This song is playing a lot in our house.
A couple of years ago, we found and bought him a toy — a school bus that when it rolls plays a version of Wheels on the Bus. To our surprise, he was kind of lukewarm to this particular toy. He’d play with it, but he didn’t love it or seek it out. So, it went into the toy box. Koan can’t really get into the box to get new stuff out. So, when a toy goes into that container, we often forget about it. A couple of weeks ago, Jeri and I reorganized his room. When we did that, we freed up some shelf space and we decided to put some toys on these shelves. In this case, the shelves were low to the ground — within Koan’s reach. We had been keeping containers of socks and pajamas there. And, we were getting sick of gathering up socks and pajamas from all over his room each morning. He would often get out of bed at night and dump these containers. So, we decided to put some toys there instead. We looked in the toy box and put the school bus on one of these shelves. A new favorite toy was born…
Over the course of the next few days, we began to hear the toy’s version of Wheels on the Bus right after putting him to bed at night and early in the morning. Koan has always liked bedtime and we’ve never had issues putting him in bed for the night. But, he doesn’t stay in bed very long. The last couple of weeks, we hear him playing with that toy within seconds of closing his door for the night. In some regards, this is pretty cool. We love the fact that he’s now more interested and playing with toys. In fact, I’ve been playing a game with him the last few days. I’ve been putting the bus in different locations in his room (all within his reach) each night. He finds it every night.
About a week ago, I put the toy on a shelf in a different area of the room — new location. In under 15 minutes, I heard the toy playing. So, I opened his door to put him back in bed (a futile effort). When I opened the door, I saw something I had not seen before with him. He was sitting by the door with the bus under his left hand. He was rolling it back and forth (this makes it play the song). This type of intentional play is a big deal. But, this was a snapshot moment where all the progress he’s made was really evident to me. He might have been any child (without disability), sitting there rolling the toy around the room. It was striking. I wish I had taken a video or picture of it. But, I’d guess none of the intangibles I was seeing would have translated to these media. Still, it was a really cool moment, and I’m glad I got to see it. I was left feeling that all was well and as it should be. It’s curious how these littlest of moments can bring such happiness.