Special Needs Transportation

Special-needs transportation: We're good, but we could be better

Pete Meslin
Posted on October 1, 2015
Newport-Mesa Unified School District has started teaching special-needs students transportation safety fundamentals, such as staying out of the danger zone, as shown here. The program, called “Bus in the Classroom,” will debut at the NASDPTS conference in November.

Newport-Mesa Unified School District has started teaching special-needs students transportation safety fundamentals, such as staying out of the danger zone, as shown here. The program, called “Bus in the Classroom,” will debut at the NASDPTS conference in November.

Fortunately, the era of referring to “the short bus” or “the special-ed bus” is finally fading.

The pupil transportation profession has made major strides in complying with the intent of the Individuals with Disabilities Act. Students are now more frequently receiving bus service in the least restrictive environment. Many transportation administrators now try to provide service for all students on the same bus where possible and appropriate.These trends are important steps in helping students with special needs achieve independence, a safer school career and a more productive post K-12 life.

In an attempt to foster independence, some of the more progressive districts have established educational standards for transportation-related skills. This educational model works just like any other academic subject. If a particular student has not demonstrated proficiency to the disability-specific standard, then transportation goals can be written into the student’s individualized education program (IEP). Theoretically, the educational staff can then provide remedial instruction to help the student reach the expected level.

For a transportation-related education plan to be effective for students with special needs, it is necessary to create at least one — and possibly several — transitional bus stops. As the student demonstrates “mastery” of essential skills, the transportation department can relocate bus stops in safe locations farther away from the student’s residence. Eventually, with continued success, it is reasonable to expect that a fair share of students will be able to transition to the neighborhood bus stop and receive bus service with their non-disabled peers.

“IEP teams mistakenly reason that student transportation skills are not something that can or should be taught prior to the age of 16 ... In the interim, the students do without the safety and behavior skills that would make them safer school bus riders.”
Pete Meslin is director of transportation at Newport-Mesa Unified School District in Costa Mesa, California.
Pete Meslin is director of transportation at Newport-Mesa Unified School District in Costa Mesa, California.
Comments ( 1 )
  • Heather Handschin

     | about 3 years ago

    Brought this message back to our district last year after hearing Mr. Meslin speak about it. I am looking forward to hearing more about "Bus in the Classroom" upon its debut - thank you, Pete!

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