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February 08, 2010  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

Opportunities for Stimulating Special-Needs Training Abound

Instruction in this area is important for school bus drivers and aides to successfully work with students with disabilities, and changing how the information is delivered and who delivers it helps promote trainee engagement. There are numerous resources within and outside of school districts that can enliven sessions and motivate employees.

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Consultant Jo Mascorro spoke to Denver Public Schools’ bus drivers about student behavior management in January. Pauline Gervais, executive director of transportation services, says the training pairs well with the department’s Positive Behavior Support program.

Solicit the expertise of conference speakers

Attending the National Conference and Exhibition on Transporting Students with Disabilities & Preschoolers and reaching out to speakers who present at the annual event is another way to obtain invaluable information to enliven training sessions.

The conference offers sessions on timely issues related to special-needs transportation and disabilities. Moreover, the speakers are often disability experts and people who work with special-needs students daily, and they are happy to provide their expertise to operations.

Jo Mascorro, a consultant who provides training on behavior intervention practices, effective communication, parenting skills and programming for students with severe disabilities, is scheduled to present at next month’s conference, to be held March 5-10 in Orlando, Fla., and Gervais said Mascorro spoke at Denver Public Schools’ transportation department in January.

Jean Zimmerman, a physical therapist and supervisor of occupational and physical therapy for the School District of Palm Beach County in West Palm Beach, Fla., is another conference speaker who frequently heads special-needs training sessions for pupil transportation departments around the country.

Zimmerman’s sessions comprise a classroom portion followed by a hands-on portion in and around a school bus (she, along with many pupil transporters, feels this is an effective format for training). In her sessions, Zimmerman covers the characteristics of various disabilities and how they can affect the transportation process, as well as such topics as child safety restraint systems and evacuations.

The hands-on component of the session involves comprehensive instruction on how to use the equipment necessary to transport students with special needs, like wheelchairs and wheelchair tiedowns.

“I have the trainees go through the process of loading and unloading motorized wheelchairs, and we train them on the correct way to tie down the wheelchairs and use the occupant restraint system,” Zimmerman explains.

Zimmerman also works with trainees on proper lifting techniques for transporting students out of the bus during an evacuation and the different types of transfers that may be needed during an evacuation.

“At the Transporting Students with Disabilities & Preschoolers conference, I will be premiering a training curriculum that I have completed with the assistance of the Pupil Transportation Safety Institute (PTSI) on evacuating students with disabilities,” Zimmerman says. “I have written this curriculum based on requests from bus drivers, monitors, trainers and supervisors that I have met as I have traveled.”

Zimmerman’s curriculum will be available from PTSI at the end of February.            


Additional resources

The Road to Compliance for Special Needs Drivers and Confidential Records: Training for School Bus Drivers by Peggy Burns, owner of Education Compliance Group Inc.
• The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Child Passenger Safety Restraint training course. The course is available at the Transporting Students with Disabilities & Preschoolers conference.
• The Pupil Transportation Safety Institute’s Transporting Children With Special Needs curriculum.
• Bruce Cram, chief operating officer for Douglas Enterprises Transportation Services in Martin, Ga., recommends Dr. Ray Turner’s Website,, which offers such materials as articles and handbooks on special-needs transportation as well as IEP guidance. 



Tips for working with special-needs students

Beyond receiving training to help them understand students’ disabilities, drivers and aides must listen to these kids and become familiar with their needs.

“We want our staff to get to know what the students need on an individual level,” Meslin says. “We encourage people to seek out information — talk with the students’ teachers, physical therapists and parents, and find out what’s working in the classroom.”

Knowing how to communicate with the students can also help to make the ride more enjoyable for them. Taylor offers the following tips:

• Use a calm voice and calming phrases, such as “I will help you” and “It’s OK.” Also, get down to the student’s eye level when speaking to him or her. (“One thing I’ve learned from Jocelyn’s presentations is that you have to give these students time to process what you say,” Wolf notes.)

• Photos that show students successfully riding a school bus are also effective. The visual component of communication can also include a schedule of the bus ride with photos that show each aspect of the ride — boarding, sitting in one’s seat, buckling up, disembarking, etc. The visuals can be distributed to each student or placed on the back of the bus seats, or the aide can point to the photos to direct students.

• If a student needs a prompt, the driver or aide can put his or her hands on the student’s shoulders from the back and gently move the student forward, put pressure on the shoulders to indicate “stop” or gently turn the shoulders to indicate that the student should walk in a certain direction.

• If a student needs a prompt, the driver or aide can put his or her hands on the student’s shoulders from the back and gently move the student forward, put pressure on the shoulders to indicate “stop” or gently turn the shoulders to indicate that the student should walk in a certain direction.



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