SCHOOL BUS FLEET conducts an annual survey of special-needs transportation providers for our February issue. Not only do we try to keep tabs on long-term trends, like the rate of growth of the population of special-needs students being transported, but we also try to ask school bus operators something new each year.
This year, we asked operators what specific disability or special need posed the greatest challenge to transportation. The top answer was autism, with behavioral issues a close second. Students in wheelchairs, severe medical issues and emotionally disturbed students were the special needs that rounded out the top five most popular answers.
With this question, we hoped to provide some guidance for the types of training and education special-needs school bus drivers and aides might benefit from the most. In some cases, research on these disabilities can barely keep up with the need for knowledge — particularly in the case of autism, where the developmental disability’s causes are largely still unknown.
We also asked if transportation departments are receiving enough student information from the special education department, school nurse or families. Twenty-seven percent of respondents reported that they do not receive enough information. Many also specified that they sometimes need to follow up with various sources in order to get their questions answered. See the upcoming February issue of SBF for more detail on this topic.
Some data gleaned from this year’s survey reiterates what we’ve seen in previous years: special-needs passengers represent 11 percent of the students on school buses — a figure that has remained fairly steady over recent years. Last year, 56 percent of special-needs routes had aides, while this year the number dropped to 52 percent. Also, 10 percent fewer respondents reported mainstreaming special-needs students (or placing them on regular-ed buses) compared to last year.
We’re thankful to the 281 people who took the time to fill out our online survey. The data they provide each year helps us to track this crucial aspect of school bus transportation.
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