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February 01, 2008  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

Special needs, special issue

by Frank Di Giacomo, Publisher


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As you may have guessed by now, the copy of SCHOOL BUS FLEET you’re looking at is our annual Special-Needs Issue. We’ve devoted our February edition to this theme for many years, and we’ve never run out of new developments and challenges to write about.

As you’ll read in this issue’s roundtable discussion, transporting students with special needs is a growing segment of pupil transportation. It has also been growing in complexity, as medical advancements have allowed children with more severe disabilities to attend school.

This is great progress, of course. Providing education for medically fragile children not only helps them in developing mentally and physically, it demonstrates society’s commitment to their success.

But along with this progress comes the need for added training of staff, devotion of resources and collaboration with parents and the special-education department. In other words, you have your work cut out for you.

Meeting needs
We hope you’ll find a great deal of valuable information on special-needs transportation, as well as other topics, in these pages. But we acknowledge that our space is limited.

If you’re looking to further your knowledge, I encourage you to attend the National Conference and Exhibition on Transporting Students With Disabilities and Preschoolers in Little Rock in March.

The breadth and depth of the seminars offered is outstanding, and they don’t shy away from tough subjects.

One seminar title illustrates this point well: “Preparing Transportation Plan Solutions for Your Most Perplexing Cases.” Or how about “Severe Behaviors of Children with Autism: Interventions and Planning for the Bus.”

But the conference is anything but taxing. The presenters are experts on their subject matter, and they know how to convey their wisdom while making their sessions lively.

Keeping it fresh
One past edition of the Transporting Students With Disabilities conference featured a trivia game called “(Avoiding) Jeopardy.” The game posed riddles such as, “True or false? All students who have an IEP qualify for curb-to-curb service.” (The answer is false.)

Last year’s conference offered a program in a setting reminiscent of The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Conference officials answered questions that were taken from the audience by a dancing Pauline Gervais, alias Ellen DeGervais.

Among the many interesting and informative sessions this year will be an event labeled “Peabody Ducks on Parade,” in which attendees will get to meet the official conference “Duckmaster.” I’m not sure exactly what’s going to happen here, but I’d certainly like to find out.

Also, don’t forget about the trade show. Any product you might need for transporting special-needs students is bound to be on display: Type A buses, wheelchair lifts, tiedowns, safety restraints — the list goes on.

And as I’ve said about conferences in the past, the opportunity to network with colleagues from across the continent (and maybe even beyond) is well worth the price of admission.

 


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