|Written by Stephane Babcock|
|Friday, 01 February 2008 00:00|
Drivers on special needs routes have a number of options for receiving training from many levels
There is no general profile for a special needs student. The definition includes a wide spectrum of children who look at the world in any number of different ways than most. Currently, there are five million special needs students who are afforded an appropriate education through their individualized education program, or IEP. Of this number, the industry has had some difficulty on extracting the number of students whose IEPs include home to school transportation.
To best serve those students on their way to and from school, drivers and monitors go through training that covers not only the loading and unloading requirements for certain students, but different types of disabilities, their related behaviors and specialized evacuation techniques. Training can come from any number of sources at many different levels, including the local school district, the state and some national conferences.
“The program is specifically designed for those drivers and attendants who transport children with disabilities, but with today’s inclusion of special needs children, all drivers will be trained in transportation issues regarding special needs children,” said Liz Valdes, a spokesperson for First Student. “Individuals who deal with students with disabilities need to know how to assist them, to help make the transition from home to school and back again a safe one.”
First Student’s drivers are trained when they are initially hired and receive additional training on a case by case basis, based on the needs of the routes. Drivers learn about the types of student behaviors that are manifested by the disability and how to deal with those behaviors, what to do in the event of an emergency that would require an evacuation and how to safely do it, and safe loading and unloading and securing of all special needs passengers, according to Valdes.
Like First Student, Durham School Services also gives all its new hires the necessary training, as well as at least one annual refresher course during one of their safety meetings. Drivers who transport disabled students are also given in-house student management techniques and go through additional modules to learn about the differences among disabled students.
“Although disabled/special needs student transportation creates more challenges than regular education student transportation, we consider all training important,” said Tiffini Bloniarz, a spokesperson for Durham. “Regardless of the capabilities of the students, safety is the first priority, and we put equal emphasis on all our training.”
“I am confident that the special needs training offered in this conference is, undisputedly, the best available in this country,” said Roseann Schwaderer, president of Edupro Group and the event’s sponsor and chair. “It’s a reputation we work continually to deserve.”
The conference uses a tenured faculty of eight people who remain consistent from year to year and who are encouraged to make themselves as accessible as possible to attendees. Transportation directors leave the workshops with ample information to bring back to their districts.
“Most of what I have learned has been at the Transporting Students with Disabilities & Preschoolers conferences,” said Janice Graniero, EC transportation coordinator for Onslow County Schools in Jacksonville, N.C. “I pass the information on to the drivers and safety assistants at regular training sessions throughout the year.”
The event also gives the industry a chance to connect with peers from around the U.S.
“Several years ago, on the final day of the conference, a young woman who was attending for the first time came to me and said: ‘I’m new to transportation, and when I came here I didn’t know anybody. Now I have friends all over the country. I’ll never be alone again when I need an answer to a question about special needs transportation,’” said Schwaderer.
Pauline Gervais, director of transportation services for Denver Public Schools (DPS), uses the district’s autistic and behavioral teams to provide training for her approximate 500 drivers and paraprofessionals. Before Gervais arrived at DPS a year and a half ago, driver were given general training without specifics on the different types of behaviors they might encounter. They now receive a eight-hour preliminary class, as well as additional training as needed.
“In the past there was only very basic ‘across the board’ training,” said Gervais. “You can’t just focus in on teaching student management and discipline and how to work with different behaviors just for drivers who work with students with disabilities, you should teach all your drivers. We will focus in on drivers who are having a difficult time with their students and provide some additional training specifically for that particular driver.”
From there, training is based on need. If there is a new student coming on a route with particular behaviors that the driver might not be familiar with, Gervais will pull in members of the behavioral team. In addition to offering individualized training, team members will ride the bus with the driver so they can work out a behavior plan and provide the driver additional tools to use — what to say to the student, what may trigger them or how to de-escalate the student. DPS drivers are also given the customary training related to evacuations and related equipment.
“The other piece that’s crucial is teaching your drivers how to use the equipment, whether it’s safety vests, wheelchair tie-downs or safety seats, and also how to install them,” said Gervais. “The drivers who have been here for years are given additional training because we can’t just assume they know how to use the equipment. Equipment has changed so much in the last five years.”
• Know the characteristics of the disability population transported
|Last Updated on Thursday, 14 January 2010 17:17|