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Kim Stagliano: The Dream, The Nightmare

Bobby-ewing-dallasBy Kim Stagliano

Sat 11/13/10

I'm sitting on a bed in a hotel room in St. Pete, at the National Autism Association conference on a sunny, clear Florida day. On Thursday night I had a book event at the NAA NY chapter, followed by dinner with my agent and husband. Across the room sat Bob McGrath from Sesame Street! I got to meet him and tell him how much the show has meant to my family. Mia's first word was GROVER and she still loves Sesame Street, at 15.  Yesterday morning I met the Doobie Brothers in the Green room at WFLA in Tampa, where I taped an appearance for a program called DAYTIME. THE DOOBIE BROTHERS! They gave us tickets to their show in Bridgeport! Last night I shared laughter and camaraderie with over 50 autism Moms and Dads at my book launch party called "Drink Pink" (my my that pink rum punch bowl emptied out fast!) I enjoyed a lovely dinner with Dan Olmsted, and we both chuckled as the well trained (think Seaworld)) waiter said, "Good night, Mr. and Mrs. Olmsted," as we left. I told Dan I should not have nibbled on his ear after that tall Chivas and soda...   At 10:30  this morning I have a book signing. And then Mark Blaxill and Dan and I will meet to discuss Age of Autism business over drinks and good food. I've seen so many friends, Michele Pierce Burns, Teri Arrranga, Polly Tommey, got that coveted hug from Dr. Wakefield (OK Kim, let go now) and saw so many AofA readers, and fans, and the amazing women of NAA. My book is being well received everywhere. I have a charmed life, don't I?


The last three pages of my book are deadly serious. I bring up the horrible situation where our Bella was abused on the school bus.  Fox News CT has taken on the story - the video is above.

I really do have a great life - I'm clear about that in my book. My family is gorgeous, I have a Father Warrior husband I adore and a career I'd never imagined. I still keep hoping one day  I'll wake up and it was all a dream. I'll be planning Mia's sweet sixteen with a kick-ass bright yellow Camaro for her December birthday instead of a party at Bounce U, a jumping castle joint. Gianna will be at a sleep over with her BFF. Bella will have to race off to a swim meet. 

Yes, autism for OUR COMMUNITY is about hope, healing - but it hurts. It really, really hurts. The parents, the family and most of all - please - most of all - the kids. 

All I Can Handle SmallKim Stagliano is Managing Editor of Age of Autism. Her book from Skyhorse Publishing, All I Can Handle I'm No Mother Teresa; A Life Raising Three Daughters with Autism is available now. Visit her website at Kim Stagliano.



Mike Diaz


You are correct, it hurts more than many people can comprehend. Imagine having everything stolen from your child. I don't mean the material things I mean the memories. Sure struggles make memories but thats what set's Parents with Autistic Children apart. The statistic that places a 95% divorce rate on families with Autistic Children. Let's not forget the arguments the blame and the pain...

Jake Crosby

Kim, I am beyond sorry for what your family and particularly your daughter has been through. I've had some bad experiences on school buses but none so bad as this - I wish your family all the best and fully support your campaign to mandate the viewing of all school bus surveillance footage.

Carolyn M

Autism Grandma,

With regard to school personnel not reviewing the footage from these cameras, I think that it is likely that they view these cameras as a tool to aid in STUDENT discipline - they probably only view the footage when there has been a complaint about a student riding the bus (and that probably by the bus driver or bus aide!). I doubt that it has occurred to them that one or more of their employees could ever be at fault; they are predisposed to think that any problems are due to the student or his/her parents.

I fully agree with you that footage from these cameras should be reviewed frequently and that these cameras should be in the classrooms as well. Unfortunately, there is opposition on the latter issue even from other parents of children with autism. They dismiss the idea - thinking that it isn't happening where they live or asserting that the good teachers will leave if cameras are installed in the classrooms.

Kim, I hope that those people who are responsible for hurting your daughter get everything that they deserve and that Bella is getting better.

Theresa O

The reporter did a good job, I thought.

It's almost unbelievable that the cost of having someone watch the video even came up... I don't know what's within your means, Kim, but suing the school district / bus company would show them the *real* economics of their decision. How economical will it be for them to pay victims of bus monitor abuse?

The cameras are there; the tapes should be reviewed. It's appalling that your child had to suffer so much in order to make this obvious to everyone... what a horrible wake-up call.

Whatever route you pursue, I hope that you get justice for your daughter.


So well put Kim. This summer I was at girl's weekend by a pool, with a drink, no kids, laughing it up with my friends. I picked Leanne Whiffen's book and started to read. It took me right back to what had transpired in my life with my son's regression. The pain was as fresh as if it was happening all over again.

I felt like I had ruined the party as my immediate emotional breakdown was felt by everyone there. I felt badly but the truth is, that is our truth, it's our life. There is tremendous pain when you watch your child or children suffer. There's no goodie bag, party, fabulous life experience that can erase the fact that your child is not where or whom they were meant to be, not to mention the seizures, headaches, stomach pain, inability to express themselves,etc. You can't stay in that place at all times, or constantly dwell on the 'what if's' but there are times it overwhelms you.

My life is wonderful, my kids, my husband, my friends and family are beyond the greatest gifts a person could ask for. I'm blessed. But my son is suffering and is very vulnerable and how I, like you, wish it had never happened.

Bella is a beautiful, wonderful child who did not deserve this horrendous experience. She has the most exceptional parents and I know you will move mountains to make sure she heals and that nothing like that ever happens to her or anyone else again. I admire you enormously.

Robin Rowlands

@KimStagliano - twitter issues


The bus driver was her MOTHER and she was texting for much of her bus route - the Detective in the video was working toward her arrest too.

Thank you to everyone for your concern this isn't over until the autism Mom Lady has sung and I'm just warming up.


Why do they need footage of each incidence? Can't the bus driver(s) testify to what they've seen? Kim - I'm so sorry you've had to go through this.


Oh Kim, I am so sorry. That is just horrific and heartbreaking. Hugs to Bella.

Theresa Cedillo

I couldn't watch the whole video. Once I saw Bella's beautiful and innocent face it just made me sick. I can't even imagine how you and your family are dealing with this. It's all so wrong.

I'm so proud of you, all that you've accomplished and how you keep going forward.


Autism Grandma

I can't believe they have these expensive cameras and no one has ever reviewed the recordings to check on the bus drivers or kids!!! The first thought that came to my mind was "how horrifying for a non verbal child to suffer and not be able to tell anyone".

The second thought is: I wonder how many parents end up getting blamed for bruises and injuries that occur at the hands of school personnel against non verbal children because they expect to get away with it.

Third thought is: Thank God Kim and her hubby are taking this further in order to protect other children. Video recording reviews should be mandatory at all schools, and video should really be in classrooms as well, due to all of these problems with restraint and seclusion tactics, 33,000 on record just for California and Texas for a single year, 2008. This entire situation with handicapped children in the school system is frightening, especially for the non-verbal children who can't tell their parents what is happening to them.


It's a very sad story, to have a salaried monitor torture a defensless child.

I hope the penalty is more than a slap on the wrist!


So sorry about what happened to your daughter-it breaks my heart. I worry about my son every day on his "mini" bus. His bus has been changed so many times since school started. Last week, he escaped out of his seatbelt (he was supposed to be in a car seat). He comes home crying often. Drivers and monitors changing all the time. I've been told at I.E.P meetings that monitors and drivers are NOT trained in Special Education. I say "Why not??!!"

Heidi N

Is the bus driver going to get charged for not reporting this?


Kim, I am reading your book and it's wonderful! We all share a common bond and I am so sorry about what happened to your daughter. I have a son with autism and it's something that I will always worry about. I hope your fight for Bella will help protect all our helpless children from this kind of horrific abuse in the future.

Laura Sauls

Great post, Kim! The dream/nightmare dichotomy is so true! The bus situation is truly part of the nightmare. Wishing you speedy JUSTICE for Bella!

Linda Wynne

Thank you for all you do for the autism community. As the mother of 4 boys, 2 on the spectrum, I must say that your girls are very lucky to have such wonderful parents and I am so sorry and angry about Bella's bus situation.

Amy Hebel

Kim, I'm almost done with your book. I just bought it on Friday and I think I only have about 50 pages left. It is such a GREAT book. I feel like our lives have been almost parallel except I only have one daughter and not 3. You are definitely an inspiration to all of us!!

Teresa Conrick

Amen Kim.

When things get tough, I try to remind myself that we are all blazing trails in many ways.
Thank you for your continual support for all of the kids and families.

Bella is so lucky to have you and Mark -- her dream -- yet autism, her nightmare. The hurt is enormous. The bus abuse is horrific and is a glimpse of what we are up against.

God speed as you change this and make it safer for the other innocent victims out there. Let us know if we all need to join you in a National campaign -- state by state -- from one bus company to the next.


It is a dream and a nightmare. No one can understand unless they live it. Thank you for everything Kim.

Anne McElroy Dachel

The thorns are there amid the roses...but don't the roses smell sweet?
xox Anne

Dan E. Burns

Well said, Kim. Keep up the good work!

Maurine Meleck

The video is absolutely chilling, but I'm so glad that the tv station picked it up and I hope Bella is doing better. The whole country needs to hear the story.
Wish I were at NAA. Enjoy.

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