Special Needs Transportation

Conference focuses on collaboration, communication

Posted on April 1, 2006

ORLANDO, Fla. — Warm weather and cool vibes helped usher in the 15th National Conference & Exhibition on Transporting Students with Disabilities and Preschoolers. About 550 pupil transportation professionals attended the conference, held March 3-8.

Charlie Hood, conference chair and director of student transportation for the Florida Department of Education, and Roseann Schwaderer, president of Edupro Group, welcomed vendors, conferees and guests to the event, which included more than 40 educational sessions highlighting best practices in special-needs transportation.

Among the many workshops was a session on collaboration between special-needs educators and transporters. Peggy Burns of Adams 12 Five Star School in Thornton, Colo., presented 10 reasons for collaboration. The list stressed the need for special educators, transporters and parents to work together for the benefit of special-needs students.

“All areas of student transportation must share information for maximum efficiency,” Burns said.

The session included a distinguished panel of experts who offered instructive testimonials on working with IEP teams and special educators.

Katherine Baltes, transportation manager at Community Bus Services in Warren, Ohio, and Susan Shutrump, OT/PT supervisor at Trumbull County (Ohio) Educational Service Center, presented effective ways to produce creative but inexpensive individual transportation plans (ITP). The duo broke down the complexities of the ITP by explaining the relevance of each question and how to respond to them appropriately.

Alex Robinson, director of transportation for the San Diego Unified School District, discussed ways that special-needs transporters can work with teachers and parents to solve problems that arise when transporting students. Robinson stressed the need for accessibility, open communication and thinking outside the box. She recalled the mixed emotions she sometimes experienced with parents who had done their homework and understood the services available to their child. “We want parents who know their rights,” she said. “If they know their rights, then they also know their responsibilities.”

Kathy Strotmeyer of the American Academy of Pediatrics led a session on care and management of child safety restraints. The presentation included objectives such as understanding each other’s objectives at the scene of a school bus crash, increasing levels of communication and identifying areas of cooperation to enhance effectiveness.

The workshops and exhibition, which featured a full house of OEMs and vendors, were well attended.

“We had specific goals when we structured this year’s program, and I’m pleased with the successes we had in meeting them,” Schwaderer said. “Fourteen speakers were first-timers for us, and they did an excellent job in complementing presentations from our tenured faculty and national board of advisors.”

Next year’s conference and trade show will be held in Louisville, Ky., March 8-14.

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