RIP Mel Baggs

The Synesthete Cartoonist

This is a very bittersweet time for me to be celebrating Easter, as we have all just lost a prominent nonverbal autistic activist yesterday, April 11th, 2020. Thank you Mel, for all you have done to challenge everything I once thought I knew about classical autism. Thank you for showing me that not being able to speak does not mean not having anything to say. May your legacy continue to stay alive and better the future of all autistic people around the world.

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“Short bus” Stories

The Synesthete Cartoonist

To all who have followed #TheShortBus Flashblog, you may have wondered if you will ever see any more posts there. I hope the answer can be “yes.” I have been making changes to the blog so that people can now email me their blog posts at any time and I will post for them.

After a few other name trials, I have decided on We Took the Short Bus. The site has been navigated to this new address and I will be deleting the old one soon. Please follow the new address:

I rode #TheShortBus

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About Being Considered “Retarded”

It has been at least 10 years since this video was recorded, yet it will continue to have its relevance. I watch it again from time to time to remind myself what brought me to the neurodiversity movement in the first place. It does not matter if someone does in fact have an IQ lower than 70 (if those tests even are accurate, though science is proving otherwise). There is nothing shameful about being “slow.” Even though I have made it though to get a 4-year degree from a prestigious university, I still have other areas in which I remain slow at learning. By definition, that is all it means to be “retarded.”

Small Town. Big Secret. Sporting Reason.

Original post by 

Map of Wimmera. The pin points at Wimmera Lakes Caravan Park. The green would be forests/conservation reserves; the blue part includes lakes. Source: Apple Maps/screenshot by me [Adelaide Dupont].

Welcome again to the #ShortBusFlashBlog edition for August/September 2017.

I write at Halfway up Rysy Peak. Some of you may have seen me at NOS Magazine writing comments to the Atypical streaming series.

Some of you might have met me at Ellen Seidman’s Love that Max.

I’d like you to look at this map and to think about it.

The three big towns on this map are Horsham Rural City; Stawell and Ararat.

Even though Wimmera involves Ben and Fab as protagonists, it does not begin with them.

Throughout my literary career I have rarely underestimated the power of a good prologue, and the Wimmera prologue certainly is all that.

“Dad told them never to cross the highway,” it begins. And indeed crossing the Henty or the Western Highway gives many people a good fright.

It doesn’t Jed or Danny. They are yabbying in a dam like the ones in this map.

J and D end up finding something in the lake – like in so many stories of this type.

And I’d like you to think about the distance involved. The locations in this map are four and five hours away from Melbourne, to the west and to the north.

Fab is trying to make a future in either Stawell or Ararat so that’s where – and why – those two towns are there.

Ben remembers a school camp at the Grampians National Park and he ended up going somewhere much more boring.

And the Wimmera newcomer knows Ben’s parents and tries to inveigle himself.

At first Ben is resistant, like so many country boys of 10 and 11 years old might be. He is told, though, to be polite to adults, and he sometimes desires to have conversations with them.

Fab from the start is suspicious. He thinks Ronnie is a secret agent, and he is probably not far wrong.

As I said – the book is set in the 1980s – 1989 to be exact.

It seems five years behind the City in some respects especially when it comes to education and law enforcement. This will become important later on.

Brandi is using his background strategically here as we will see in pages 39 and 40.


Young Fab is being bullied and his great friend Ben is sympathetic and heroic.

We see the difference between The Karate Kid and Monkey Magic – the former is shaping Fab’s response to a bully after the holidays.

And what was the element of surprise on the bottom of page 39?

When I read it I wanted to say, “It’s their/our Wimmera too!”

There was a short queue at the bubble-taps – a few nervous preps and one of the retarded kids, the Down syndrome one. There were two retarded kids at school. They both came every second day on the vegie bus from the Special School.

And later on: The Down syndrome kid suddenly started crying for no reason, which made one of the preps start too.

In regional Victoria especially “vegie” is used where many Americans would say #shortbusThe other time I would read it a lot would be in reference to veggie maths.

And the travel in the bus from the Special School would be quite a distance – two and three hours each way. No wonder you would cry – at the injustice and the torture of it all.

And there is a lot of etiquette these boys enforce about the bubblers which are the drink fountains in USian English.

I am glad Ben felt like hugging Fab at the end of page 40. This results in a lot and I like the peer-to-peer affection; the intimacy between two best friends.

I wonder if there was a similar alliance.

Here is the Sporting Reason:

every year in the TriState Games between South Australia; New South Wales and Victoria there are teams.

The two might be part of the Horsham Rockets or Axis or another Horsham team.

In three short months time – 12 to 17 November 2017 – the TriState Games will be in Horsham for the last time.

There are teams in the Grampians – the Pinnacle team in particular.

When you see the posters in the sandwich shops of the main streets, it’s great.

Click to access 2016annualreport.pdf

I first learnt of the Games in 1998 or 1999 when they were in Benalla and Tim Huber was competing in them and had won a whole lot of medals.

It’s as good a reason to come to the Wimmera, as say, the Tom Willis statue and associated football ground, or the Horsham and District Football League or the Wimmera League.

Ben’s big sport is cricket; Fab has a flirtation with martial arts.

In 1989 the first time the TriStates were held outside Mildura where the Christie Centre is based was in bordertown Wodonga

Hola! Gracias! Dios mios!

Original post by

Hello everyone.

Those of you who read Halfway up Rysy Peak and do not know Spanish – the headline means “Hello! Thank you! [oh] My God!”

Doing a free write on Barcelona.

That city had a van run through a major throughfare – Los Ramblos. The big place was the Catalonian Road.

13 people were killed – some 80 people were injured. It was 50 confirmed when I learnt about it an hour ago.

For some months Barcelona was not exactly welcoming to tourists and rentiers. A section of its people failed to be the accessible and inclusive city they knew they could be.

So quite naturally – advantage was taken; terror may have been executed. Some people inspired by Daesh have “taken responsibility”

Twenty-five years ago the Olympics were held here in 1992. Amigos Para Siempre as Sarah Brightman and Jose Carreras would sing. That song is a reflection of the friendship we need to show.

And then of course I go and think: what if a #shortbus – as a #tourbus or a #caravan or #recreationalvehicle – could be used as an article, an instrument, of terror?

Of course many people consider already access vehicles and emergency vehicles as torture and terror or may have had experiences there which closely correspond. These may have been crimes against humanity.

In Europe over the past 18 months we have had to think a lot about this.

And how vulnerable people are able to travel in the ways which suit them and benefit locally, globally and regionally.

It is also the time when lots of people – English and Welsh in particular – are receiving the results for their examinations and assessments and planning for the new year.

Malala is going to Oxford, for instance. She is 20 years old and has studied in Birmingham for the past few years. You can find out more about her education in He Named Me Malala.

A few of my relatives have been on a George Orwell kick – Homage to Catalonia is always welcome. You can read about the socialism and anarchism which was big in Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War.

Now I will tell you what I am reading or have read a few weeks ago.

It is a crime novel by Mark Brandi about Wimmera. It concerns two eleven-year-olds in this region of Western Victoria. The book is set in the 1980s – 1989 for choice. Chapter 5 pages 39 and 40 is what we will talk about. It’s these paragraphs which are widows and orphans that you may or may not notice if you are reading fast. And I was reading slowly. It is published by a French conglomerate – Hachette – who used to publish Enid Blyton books and who merged with several England-based publishers.

[Willow Farm, incidentally. I am thinking of Penny, the youngest girl, and the way she would not wait for adults to say “We’ll see”. Of course I never wanted to be that adult and I wanted children to see what they see and I see and we will meet together].

Another crime novel I have read recently which involves an I/DD character is The good daughter by Karin Slaughter. That character is Kelly and she went into a school to shoot the daughter of her teacher and another teacher at her school.

There is a crescent moon in the sky. Waning or waxing?

I have just read the Criminal justice response – it took me two days this week to do this from Monday to Thursday. This is part of the Royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse. I will use it as I talk about Ben and Fab and what applied to them back then. Both as victims and as offenders.

Delay is very important. So many reactions percolate and don’t last until about 7 to 20 years later. Especially in this field, especially around here. We will talk about Ronnie and we will explore the lakes and maybe even do a bin night at Horsham Rural City – the councils weren’t amalgamated until 15 December 1994. I do know the town/council of 1989 – and some of the places around it like Stawell and Ararat which are mentioned in the book.

And when Fab goes to the city and works in a supermarket. Afrikia is a really awesome character who I wish to talk about in the #shortbusflashblog.

Mark Brandi worked for the Department of Justice in Victoria as a project officer and policy advisor. He with his colleagues would probably have a role especially if the policies and projects were made in the early 2010s – this Royal commission has been going on from 2012 to the present.

Chapter Nine in the Criminal Justice Response is about juvenile offenders. And the chapter after that is about Policy Responses.

Another Victoria Police connection: Susan McLean who is a cyber-safety expert was visiting Barcelona and Los Ramblos with her husband. She did say she was “ex-law enforcement” so I had little difficulty identifying her as that Susan McLean.

And again – Hola! Gracias! Dios mios! Amigos para siempre!


Making the “Short” Bus Cool

Shared from GoFundMe


Michael Beers grew up in Missoula, MT riding the “short bus” to school.  Today Michael works at Summit Independent Living in Missoula as the Youth Transitions Coordinator.  He spends his days encouraging and supporting young people in our commmunity as they prepare for life after high school.  In addition, he travels our state and the country spreading the positive word of Disability Advocacy to students, parents and professionals.  He has always had a dream of touring using a “short bus” as transportation.

We have been searching for a bus for a long time.  On March 25, 2016 we found one in Missoula.  The owner has given us a great deal on the bus.  It will need new tires and some work but it is a solid vehicle.

We are asking you, our friends, to help us buy and refurbish this bus and then follow us on Facebook as we take it on the road encouraging young people with a disability to pursue their dreams.

Note from the Author

Once upon a time, I took the small yellow school bus from kindergarten through 8th grade. I was enrolled in special education classes for most of my earlier years, but finally mainstreamed in third grade after a few failed trials. Because I still qualified for special needs services, the school still allowed me to continue taking that mode of transportation. Yet when going into middle school, my mother was concerned that I would become the butt of jokes if I left class 20 minutes early and the other students saw me taking that bus. But we did not have many other options. My classmates were going to tease me anyway; you cannot blame my ride for the cruelty of other kids.

Finally getting on that bus was a relief after spending a long miserable day with my mainstreamed classmates. At least I was not alone on the bus, there were other students who were also looking for friends. But I regret to say that the “mildly-affected” kids (even me) did tease the nonverbal children. While my bus drivers never allowed it, it took me years to realize that my nonverbal peers understand far more than anyone gives them credit for. It was not until I watched Amanda Baggs’ videos, when I started to see my hypocrisy and “Aspie supremacy” attitude.

The “special” bus always made sure I got inside my house before leaving. My parents worked long hours and were rarely in the house before 5pm. I did have a house key, but did not always commit to taking it with me. I had to count on my older brother being in the house. If he listened to loud music, he would not hear the doorbell. If no one answered, the bus driver would take me back on the bus and drop off another child until I was the last to be dropped off. Fortunately, all of my bus drivers were trustworthy people and would never take advantage of me.

Most of all, my friends and I gained interaction skills just by chatting with our bus drivers. They were always friendly people with interesting stories to share; often they talked about things that the district would not have allowed! I will never forget the man who would “argue” with me about the color of rabbits. He would always bring up the time when he drank champagne and saw bunnies in every color of the rainbow. Years later, another driver was very open to talking about numbers with me. The number 40 was her favorite, as it was referenced frequently in the Bible. Yet she did not like those three 6’s. She was quite happy that day when I finally dropped my fixation on that number. The next year, my final driver told me that “what you see in the news, is always bad news.” Though I did not agree with him defending George Bush this way, he was spot-on when I told him about the “Autism Every Day” video.

Now imagine how different my life would have been have I taken the regular bus. Despite having “special” branded on top of many other insults, I was better off on that “short bus” than any other mode of transportation.


Dressed as Cleopatra near my middle school bus stop (Halloween, 2004)