Every day, more than 25 million students are transported safely to and from school by the yellow bus, including those who have special needs. The majority of those students are accommodated as much as possible by caring drivers, aides, and other staff members who are well-trained in the students’ conditions and needs.
That is not to say that this work doesn’t have its challenges, and often the hurdles don’t come from the students themselves.
In addition to our annual Special-Needs Survey, we reached out to our Facebook community to find out more about challenges that drivers and aides encounter when working with special-needs students. Dozens of commenters weighed in with a variety of responses. (You can read them here). There were the typical obstacles of a shortage of aides and behavior management, but many commenters also brought up the students’ parents — in particular, communicating with them.
One commenter noted that the students they transport and their parents often both present communication issues, which can be a hurdle (read the comment from Vicki Miller in our Community department.)
Another common concern, drivers and aides told us, is not being informed of key details on some students’ conditions or brought into the individualized education program (IEP) process.
Additionally, Neal Abramson, the transportation director at Santa Monica-Malibu (Calif.) Unified School District, shared an interesting point about new affordable housing developments lacking places for buses to pick up special-needs students.
The enthusiastic response on Facebook is a good reminder: If you haven’t already “liked” our Facebook page, you should do so. It has proven to be an engaging forum with spirited conversation and debate from SBF readers and users from a variety of positions in school transportation.
Some survey responses echoed the concerns shared on Facebook about communication with parents and not being privy to information about some students’ health conditions. Challenges within the general category of communication about students’ needs (with parents and school administration) were mentioned by nearly one in 10 respondents (7%).
We provide tips in a story in our February issue on getting drivers and aides involved in the IEP process. Hopefully, readers who are dealing with this problem will find some helpful advice.
The top challenge cited in the survey was a shortage of drivers and aides amidst a growing number of students with special needs. Almost half of those surveyed reported that the percentage of their passengers who have special needs increased compared to the previous year. (It should also be noted that exactly half saw that number stay the same.) Meanwhile, nearly one-quarter of respondents reported a shortage of drivers and aides.
One new development that may help slightly mitigate this staffing shortage is the use of rideshare services when appropriate. In another February issue story, we share information from transportation directors who are using the “uber for kids” style transportation mode to better meet the needs of some students while being more efficient with limited resources.
We thank everyone who shared their insights — whether through social media or our survey. We hope to continue the conversation with you and offer helpful tips whenever possible.