FRISCO, Texas – A unique trivia session at the Transporting Students with Disabilities and Special Needs Conference tested attendees’ knowledge on alternative transportation and got student transporters sharing how they work with these service providers to better support students with special needs.
Fourteen percent, or 7.3 million students in the U. S., are identified as having special needs, confirmed Alex Muirbrook, who works in business development for ALC Schools, which sponsored the Friday afternoon session.
Alternative student transportation providers can transport students with special needs or disabilities if IEPs are met and state and federal guidelines are adhered to, noted Christine Robley, also in business development for ALC.
Driver consistency is a crucial issue to parents and students, especially for students on the autism spectrum. Participants elaborated that this is the area that drivers have the most control over, in how they greet the student to start their day.
It also helps to give the student a heads up if a different driver needs to be subbed in, a bus driver attendee commented. When choosing an alternative transportation vendor, a point of consideration should be how they handle driver assignments, added another attendee.
Though specialized trips need consistency, Muirbrook stated that ALC found 45 percent of such trips had route changes in 2020. At one district that has to change routes almost weekly, a two to three day notice is standard.
For wheelchair-bound students secured in a passenger vehicle, the Americans With Disabilities Act requires that both lap and shoulder belts are used.
“And pull on it to make sure it’s tight,” added the attendee who correctly answered the trivia question.
A driver trainer in attendance said she still notices drivers incorrectly using the lab belt to secure the wheelchair rather than correctly securing it over the passenger’s lap.
If an adult monitor is being requested from the alternative transportation provider, ALC VP of Business Development Josie Wilkes advised thorough vetting of that individual.
An attendee noted that some special needs students even end up becoming monitors themselves, which can turn out to be a fulfilling and enjoyable job for them.
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Several districts reported using nurses for certain buses when students need medical services. In other cases, bus attendants or aides are used. Wilkes said that ALC can provide aides or attendants but not nurses, who may be picked up at a school or provided by the student’s family.
The ratio of monitors to students depends on student IEPs, Wilkes added. For example, multiple monitors may be needed on a bus if one student is assigned a dedicated one-on-one monitor.
Attendees agreed that it is important to get the correct data from the alternative transportation provider so accurate information can be reported to parents and the state. Wilkes shared that technology, especially onboard video, is an often-requested feature.
What student transporters in the special needs space do is essential and often thankless, so they should be valued, noted Steve Scott, field training manager with Massachusetts-based mobility provider Beacon Mobility.