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April 04, 2014  |   Comments (3)   |   Post a comment

Don't take a back seat in the IEP process

Dr. Linda Bluth says that under specific circumstances, transportation personnel should play a key role in transportation decisions for children with disabilities, long before a child has been assigned to a school bus route. It is essential to recognize that all children with disabilities eligible for transportation services do not require the same level of specialized intervention.

by Linda Bluth


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Dr. Linda F. Bluth is past president of the National Association for Pupil Transportation and special initiatives education program specialist at the Maryland State Department of Education's Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

Dr. Linda F. Bluth is past president of the National Association for Pupil Transportation and special initiatives education program specialist at the Maryland State Department of Education's Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

Under specific circumstances, transportation personnel should play a key role in transportation decisions for children with disabilities, long before a child has been assigned to a school bus route.

It is essential to recognize that all children with disabilities eligible for transportation services — as a part of their entitlement to special education and related services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) — do not require the same level of specialized intervention. The vast majority of children with disabilities ride the same school bus as their non-disabled peers, and these children often require no or minimal assistance on their ride to and from school.

However, other children with disabilities require highly specialized planning prior to initiating transportation service. Focused and specialized decision-making may be necessary during the initial development of a child’s individualized education program (IEP) and annually thereafter, or more frequently if needed.

In Transporting Children with Disabilities (National Association for Pupil Transportation, 2009) the following examples provide general guidance for when transportation personnel should consider attending IEP meetings:

•    A child with a disability rides the same bus as non-disabled peers; however, the child requires ongoing assistance because of behavioral problems or requires special equipment and assistance from a trained bus attendant.
•    A child with a disability rides a school bus exclusively with other children with disabilities to and from school, and requires any of the following: special equipment, bus attendant or a specific behavior management program.
•    Special school bus equipment is required to provide transportation services, and these services are to be addressed on the IEP for the first time.
•    A child with disabilities has severe behavioral problems impacting safe transportation, and transportation is an integral part of the school-based behavioral management program.
•    A child with a disability is medically fragile and requires special handling and supervision, including specific information from medical personnel.
•    A child with a disability has a technology-dependent condition.
•    A child with a disability has an infectious disease that requires precautions beyond typical universal precautions practiced.
•    A child with a disability rides to school with a nurse.

Transportation and special-education personnel should work closely to determine when it is necessary for related service personnel — such as school nurses, occupational therapists, physical therapists and psychologists — to be involved in or attend an IEP meeting in order to address the specific transportation needs of children with challenging physical, emotional or cognitive issues. It is critical that transportation personnel be clear when it is necessary to participate in IEP meetings to ensure a safe ride.

Thirty-nine years after the passage of the IDEA, transportation personnel all too regularly take a back seat in the IEP process. This can result in unforeseen consequences. In my 20-plus years as an expert witness, I have failed to observe an instance in which a death or severe injury occurred on a school bus when the IEP appropriately addressed and implemented transportation service.

The IDEA requires that transportation needs be addressed on a case-by-case basis when a child requires services different from children without disabilities. As far back as the 1999 IDEA regulations, it was stated that “in determining whether to include transportation in a child’s IEP and whether the child needs to receive transportation as a related service, it would be appropriate to have at the IEP meeting a person with expertise in that area. In making this determination, the IEP team must consider how the child’s disability affects the child’s need for transportation, including determining whether the child’s disability prevents the child from using the same transportation provided to non-disabled children or from getting to school in the same manner as non-disabled children.”

Far too many school districts do not follow this practice. It is well known that the input of parents into the IEP process addressing transportation is important, and the failure to do so is considered a significant procedural violation.

Here are five guidelines that transportation personnel should follow to address specialized transportation needs:

1.    Describe the role of all personnel required to assist a child with IEP services during the school bus ride.
2.    Describe in the IEP all necessary specialized bus or adaptive equipment.
3.    Define the pickup location when it is different from that of non-disabled peers.
4.    Describe IEP medical interventions required that are not provided to non-disabled students.
5.    Describe unique services, such as individual behavioral intervention plans, to be implemented during the school bus ride.

In summary, in a 2003 memorandum issued by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs, it was stated: “Transportation providers play an integral role in the school lives of many children, including children with disabilities, which makes effective communication between the school and the providers essential. We believe that, for the safety and well-being of all children who ride school buses, including children with disabilities, it is crucial that they are appropriately and effectively transported by well-informed and well-trained transportation providers.”

Not taking a back seat in the IEP process is key to ensuring that transportation and school personnel are headed down the road in the same direction. Attending to the specialized needs of children with disabilities with challenging transportation issues is a vital safety measure.


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Read more about: IEP, NAPT

Kids that are considered "special needs" how long can they be on a school bus during transporting? Is it based on the IEP of the student? Age? I'm trying to find it written, but no success. Please advise. Thanks

Karen    |    Aug 22, 2014 03:14 AM

As a special needs bus driver I see the needs that our kids deserve to make the journey to school and home a ride of ease and comfort for our kids. I will take my own bus as a prime example. I drive a 99 freightliner blue bird with a chair lift with 90,000 miles. This bus is hot as heck in the warmer months due to no ac, yellow roof, no tint on windows, the bus has a very high step for kids able to board and exit bus, it is extra loud engine noise and rattling of the lift on rough county roads. We have door to door service per IEP and there are roads we must go that are extremely rough and my kids bounce uncontrollably even in belts. Some of my kids are on 1 hour plus, there are small kids who have tough time climbing the steps, the seats are very hot or very cold. Put it this way I need lower entry points ac and heat that work tinted windows to reduce the heat and better lift systems that do not rattle, and better seats for my two route aids that ride with me for the 2&1/2 hour ride two times a day. I feel that all school busses need a better evac system that I would love to discus with some one in detail that would help me in getting my kids off in time of need. there should also be wider isles for many reasons but will not at this time. If there is any bus company out there who want to contact me to explain do so.

Eric Evans    |    May 17, 2014 10:46 AM

As a former school-district educator - transition coordinator - I welcomed the participation of pupil transportation in the IEP process. Not only can transportation colleagues contribute to IEP goals and services, I valued their input regarding content that I could integrate into my teaching about transportation and mobility. I want students with disabilities to have the best possible outcomes when they leave school - and without transportation, they won't be able to realize these goals. The yellow school bus is the first opportunity for students and families to learn about mobility - the more that I could embed content about transportation into instruction - the better riders students would be on school transportation - thus preparing them for using other transit options when they leave school. Educators don't always learn about the value of school transportation colleagues to the IEP process, therefore, they may not naturally reach out to you. This creates opportunities for school transportation to lead the effort to build relationships with educators! Thank you Linda for raising this topic! Judy, Easter Seals Project ACTION - http://www.projectaction.org/Initiatives/YouthTransportation.aspx

Judy Shanley    |    Apr 07, 2014 10:00 AM

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