Approximately 550 special-education experts and transportation personnel traveled to Indianapolis for the 12th Annual National Conference and Exhibition on Transporting Students with Disabilities and Preschoolers. Despite cold and snowy weather, the conference, held Feb. 28 through March 5, featured a host of informative and engaging workshops, stimulating great enthusiasm from members of the special-needs transportation community.
“Many attendees told presenters and myself that this [conference] was the best ever in our 12 years of programming,” says Roseann Schwaderer, president of EduproGroup and conference chair.
NASDPTS speaks up
Near the top of the heap of issues discussed was the release of a new report by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS). The report asserts the importance of transporters gaining access to health and medical information about the students who ride their buses.
Although special-education officials are often reluctant to provide transporters with medical information, government regulations grant school officials with a “legitimate educational interest” the right to access medical information. Most transportation directors meet this standard and should be privy to health-related information. The NASDPTS report, written by Peggy Burns, enhances the role of school transportation in the IEP team process.
Two prominent workshops
A day-long session titled “Seating and Securing Kids: Heads Up and Hands On” was one of the best-attended workshops on the schedule. Presided over by Texas state director Charley Kennington; Kathy Strotmeyer, regional coordinator for the American Academy of Pediatrics; and Cheryl Wolf, safety and training supervisor for Lafayette (Ind.) School Corporation, the session provided hands-on training, expert commentary and textbook instruction on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s school bus passenger safety curriculum. Says Schwaderer of the workshop, “The session on the safe seating of preschoolers was top-notch — the best I’ve ever attended in any industry conference.”
Another intriguing workshop discussed a lawsuit stemming from the death of a child who was strangled in a four-point harness. Lois DeAntonio, one of the plaintiff’s attorneys, and two witnesses from the case discussed how the accident was a result of a failed IEP process. “Lack of preparation, lack of communication and lack of cooperation,” said DeAntonio. A defense attorney in the case made an unexpected appearance and stated that the moral of the story is the need for solid communication between all parties in the IEP process.
A cornucopia of topics
Some of the other workshop topics included compliance tips for Head Start transporters, a summation of key elements of the No Child Left Behind Act, a guide to planning special-needs roadeos and multiple sessions on seating and securing students.
Jean Zimmerman, supervisor of occupational and physical therapy for the School District of Palm Beach County (Fla.), held an enlightening workshop on transporting medically complex students that emphasized training. “We can’t teach in absolutes,” she says. ”We have to help our drivers and aides think for themselves.”
There were several workshops on autism and ADHD, one of which was led by Jocelyn Taylor, specialist for the Utah Office of Education, that will be offered for sale on video. According to Burns, staff counsel for Adams 12 Five Star Schools in Thornton, Colo., and a conference presenter, “ADHD and autism present unique challenges requiring cooperation between special-educators and transporters now more than ever.”
A multifaceted event
The week-long conference, held at the Westin Hotel, offered something for everyone involved in special-needs transportation. Here is a run-down of some of the other activities:
A trade show with about 40 vendors
The Sixth National Special-Needs Team Safety Roadeo (For details, see News Alert)
Awards for the nation’s top special-needs transportation manuals
A plant tour of IMMI, a manufacturer of bus seats and restraint systems
An informal tour of Indianapolis Public Schools’ driver-training facility
A sponsored visit to Riley Hospital for Children
A tour of International’s engine plant and IC foundry
For more information on any of the workshops, contact EduproGroup at [email protected].