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April 01, 2005  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

Conference takes on challenging needs


PHOENIX — About 500 professionals gathered last month to discuss pressing issues and share best practices on special-needs transportation.

The 14th National Conference & Exhibition on Transporting Students with Disabilities & Preschoolers, held March 11-16, offered more than 40 educational workshops that delved into such topics as security on the special-needs bus, origins of best practices for wheelchair securement and difficult behavior.

Among the workshops was a session on medically complex students that was led by Jean Zimmerman of the School District of Palm Beach County in West Palm Beach, Fla. Zimmerman said that many pupil transporters are being asked to perform some complex medical procedures on their buses. She explored which of these are feasible and which — such as rectally administering Diastat for seizures — may be too invasive and difficult in a bus setting.

Attendee Diane Wedel, assistant director of transportation for the Mehlville School District in St. Louis, said she gained the most insight from the executive briefing on pupil transportation law and compliance. The full-day session, led by Peggy Burns of Adams 12 Five Star Schools in Thornton, Colo., required an additional fee for attendees.

“It was well worth the extra cost,” said Wedel.

For Michelle Spradlin, special-needs scheduler for the Douglas County School District in Castle Rock, Colo., the highlight was the “(Avoiding) Jeopardy” trivia game during the opening session. The game posed riddles such as, “All students who have an IEP qualify for curb-to-curb service” (false).

“They really found an interesting way to get a lot of information across and get people’s attention,” said Spradlin, who was attending the conference for the fourth time.

According to Conference Chair Roseann Schwaderer, this year’s trade show was the biggest yet, with 10 new vendors adding their products to the mix.

Next year’s conference and trade show will be held in Orlando, Fla., March 3-8.

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