Jonathan is a high school student with cerebral palsy who uses a wheelchair for his mobility.
Is there a difference in evacuating a school bus passenger who has cerebral palsy versus one who has a muscle disease? The answer is a definite yes.
So in our training programs, we must be sure that we are covering the distinctions of the disease or medical condition of each student that we are talking about evacuating.
In the next few issues of SBF, I will be writing about various disabilities and medical conditions and the specific knowledge that we need to have for emergency evacuations.
The goals of these articles are:
1. To help pupil transportation professionals understand more clearly the characteristics of the most common medical conditions and the behaviors associated with them.
2. To learn implications for evacuating safely from the school bus.
Specifics of cerebral palsy
The first medical condition I will cover is cerebral palsy, which is one of the most common medical conditions of the students that we transport.
Simply stated, cerebral palsy is damage to the developing brain. The damage could have happened before birth, during birth or immediately after birth. This brain damage can affect the student’s physical ability in a variety of ways.
Some students with cerebral palsy can have one entire side of their body involved, and these students may still have the ability to walk.
Cerebral palsy can also manifest itself in involuntary movements primarily in the lower extremities, and usually these students can walk with a walker or crutches — however, they need a wheelchair for distances.
Finally, there are students with cerebral palsy whose entire body is involved. These students are usually in a wheelchair at an early age. As they get older, the wheelchair becomes more customized and may have to be molded specifically around the student.
The mental involvement of students with cerebral palsy is also very variable. Some students may have completely normal mental functioning; others may be at the lowest end of the spectrum of mental capacity.
Cerebral palsy does not get worse over time. However, as students get older and bigger, they will often have increased difficulty with movements because they have a larger body to control against gravity.
The entire gamut of a student’s cerebral palsy must be taken into consideration when the individualized transportation plan is being developed. Is staying in the wheelchair and being lowered down the back of the bus, with the wheelchair being lowered over the back bumper, a preferred way to evacuate this student? Or is the student so large that you will need to take him or her out via the drag method on an Evac-Aide?