This year’s Transporting Students with Disabilities and Special Needs Conference and Trade Show is now a pre-holiday memory, but what a terrific way to end 2022. More than 700 attendees and exhibitors, made this year’s five days in Frisco, Texas, a record-breaking event.
For more than three decades, transporters, occupational and physical therapists, and professional teams involved in delivering special education related services, have seen the need for continuous learning, and once again, they (wisely) chose this forum to share and gain knowledge. Post-TSD, the challenge as always is to keep that newly charged mindset and actually use the information received as a catalyst for change and continuous improvement. Audience members were reminded during several sessions that once back in their respective district or company’s daily operations, a child-first and student-first service model should be the priority, regardless of the other competing priorities that may exist.
Like the TSD Conference, the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) also recently celebrated a milestone anniversary. Since its signing 47 years ago in November, the goal of providing a Free and Appropriate Public Edu-cation (FAPE) in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) has been the IDEA’s overarching purpose for every child in the U.S. who has a disability. This was also a common theme throughout the days in Frisco, and participants heard more than once that FAPE cannot happen without LRE: If a child is not in their least restrictive setting, how can we call it “appropriate?”
Not surprisingly, the discussions and programs taught this year had some commonalty to similar conversations and topics 30 years ago, when the conference first be-gan. Session goers were given thought-provoking ideas and encouraged to keep these timely and meaningful dialogues going:
Is transportation as a related service being included (when necessary) during the assesment and when screening children with disabilities before they are assigned to a bus?. Is there proactive rather than reactive planning taking place between special education, PTs/OTs and the transporter?. Are parents being asked for input before they give it? And do their children feel safe on the bus?. Have they been asked? Is the training being provided as a district/company level hands-on? Are drivers and attendants well versed in both the securement and evacuation of mobility equipment and Child Safety Restraint Systems?. Is the communication between departments, passengers and the public on point? Could that communication (or lack thereof) be used in legal proceedings? Is there a safety-first mentality with equipment, disinfectants and vehicles? Is it documented? Are technologies available that aren’t being used?. How can an increased lack of human resources be avoided so as not to create a hazard for those trans-ported? And is there a good fit for those resources that are in place?
Luckily, there were as many answers as questions, but more importantly, this year’s TSD provided guidance and support. For 29 of the conference’s 30 years, I have benefited from the guidance and support TSD has provided. It is a place to learn, understand, question and review. It is also a space where the best resources aren’t just the presenters at the front of the room but those sitting next to you in the audience.
Ensuring all the knowledge is actualized may be the only daunting task “P-TSD.” Otherwise, a terrific, timely and “trauma”-free time was had by all.
Editor’s Note: As reprinted in the January 2023 issue of School Transportation News.
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