Transportation » Transporting Students with Special Needs

Transporting Students with Special Needs

Transporting Students with Special Needs (Resources)


(From Transporting Students with Disabilities, Special Needs Committee, National Association for Pupil Transportation, 1996)

It is essential for the transporter of students with disabilities to be familiar with the characteristics of these students. The decision that a student has a disability is made by the multi-disciplinary team. Direct input from transportation personnel is important in order to provide the safest and most efficient delivery of transportation services.

Transportation options must always be considered when special provisions are required. The majority of students with disabilities do not require special services solely on the basis of their disability, but due to such factors as: (1) IEP services, (2) age, and/or (3) distance.

It is important to remember that all children are individuals first, and that descriptions of specific categories of disability do not apply to the same extent to all the children within a disability category.


The Student
These students exhibit a wide range of intellectual and behavioral differences. Some students do not communicate, communicate in a meaningless manner, or have emotional outbursts, abnormal reaction to sound, hyperactivity, lethargy, abnormal responses to objects, abnormal fears, and difficulty communicating with others.

The Driver/Attendant
  • Bus attendants are essential to assure transportation safety for this population.
  • Ignore behaviors that don't hamper bus safety.
  • When behaviors affect bus safety, intervene.
  • Plan intervention carefully. For example:
    • Give only one or two word directions to correct inappropriate behavior.
    • Do not provide choices.
    • Be sure that all requests are given in a quiet, gentle, firm voice.
  • Stop the bus if there is a severe disruption.
  • Maintain a daily routine that minimizes inappropriate behaviors.
The Student
Not all deaf students communicate in the same manner. Some deaf students only use sign language, other deaf students only lip-read, and other students use a total communication system that includes both sign language and lip-reading.
The Driver/Attendant
  • Deaf students who are able to maintain communication with the driver or assistant will present fewer behavioral problems.
  • Be familiar with the student's mode of communication.
  • If the primary mode of communication is sign language, learn enough basic signs and finger spelling to provide safe transportation.
  • Keep paper and pencil available for transportation purposes.
The Student
Students with hearing and visual impairments require very specialized planning. Consistency in seating, communication, and daily management are required in order to minimize transportation problems. Students who are deaf-blind react positively to a daily routine and are easily distracted and upset by sudden change.
The Driver/Attendant
  • Bus attendants should be considered essential to accommodate these students.
  • Transporters of this population require extensive training, skill, and knowledge about mobility and alternative communication techniques.
The Student
Students with hearing impairments may or may not use sign language. These students may have fluctuating hearing and therefore do not respond consistently to verbal communication.
The Driver/Attendant
  • Establishing good communication practices increases acceptable behavior.
  • Be sensitive to each student's communication needs.
  • Accommodate hard-of-hearing students by patiently repeating missed information, speaking clearly, and avoiding excessive background noise, which further reduces hearing.
  • Students should be able to see the lips of the person speaking. 
 The Student
Students who are mentally retarded demonstrate a broad range of abilities and functional levels. These students may be ambulatory or non-ambulatory, and may attend their local school or a special education center.
The Driver/Attendant
  • The degree to which transportation services must be modified depends on such factors as independent functional level, ability to follow directions, ability to memorize and retain safety rules, and day-to-day age-appropriate self-help and adaptive behavior skills.
    • More and more mentally retarded students are being transported on regular vehicles and integrated with their non-disabled peers.
    • Severely and profoundly mentally retarded students require a greater level of assistance because of their limited level of comprehension or severe memory limitations.
    • Work closely with the school educational staff regarding best practices.
  • It is difficult for students to conform to what is expected if they can't comprehend the expectation. Expectations should be directly related to the student's functional ability.
  • Follow a daily routine.
  • Speak softly and firmly.
  • Be friendly.
  • Give one-part directions.
  • Students who have toileting problems should be toileted before leaving home in the morning and before leaving school in the afternoon. Appropriate garments should be worn to protect the school bus seats.
 The Student
Students with multiple disabilities require extensive planning.
The Driver/Attendant
  • Recommendations for other disability students may be implemented for these students. In addition, many of these students may also have medical problems that require special knowledge and skills.
  • In-service training must include extensive information and skill development about alternative communication systems, special equipment management, student positioning, and behavior management techniques.
  • Because of the range of severity of disabilities under this definition, emphasize safety.  
  • Visually monitor the status of each child during the ride. It is recommended that there be a trained bus attendant who can work closely with the driver.
 The Student
Students with orthopedic impairments may require specialized services.
The Driver/Attendant
  • Many of these students require specialized seating, physical handling, or specialized equipment with adaptations.  
  • If significant modifications are required, they should be discussed at the IEP meeting where the parent, and appropriate educational and related services personnel, can address the required modifications.
  • If special personnel are required to assist these students, both the driver and attendant should be knowledgeable about each student's needs.
  • Safety in student handling and equipment management are essential skills for drivers and attendants.
 The Student
This definition encompasses a broad range of students. This category includes children who have limited strength but may appear no different from their non-disabled peers.
The Driver/Attendant
  • Know about each student's disability and how it may be manifested while on the school bus. Special education personnel, occupational and physical therapists, and nurses can provide valuable assistance that increases safety and reduces the risk of liability in emergencies.
    • For example, safety of a student with hemophilia requires priority seating to prevent any dangerous bleeding.
    • For the epileptic student, seat assignment and climate control may be vital to reduce seizure activity.
    • For the student with diabetes, glucose tablets should be available on each school bus and the driver or attendant should be familiar with administration.
    • Students with lead poisoning may demonstrate mild to severe attention deficits, as well as an inability to control impulsive behavior.
  • All drivers should be provided adequate in-service training about children with disabilities since children with health impairments may frequently be transported with their non-disabled peers.
 The Student
These students can be the most challenging to provide with daily transportation services. The day-to-day transportation problems may range from mild to severe behavior disruptions. Inappropriate behaviors may include failure to stay seated, name calling, hitting, spitting, screaming, stealing, fighting, exiting the bus, and destruction of property.
The Driver/Attendant
  • Get behavior management training.
  • A structured daily routine that is coordinated with the student's instructional program will enhance appropriate behavior.
  • Video cameras have been recognized for their effectiveness in modifying bus behavior.
  • In addition, there has been success in not transporting all seriously emotionally disturbed students on the same bus. In urban areas where mass transit is available, many students have successfully used this means of transportation.
 The Student
This student population rarely requires special transportation intervention. The majority of these students ride the school bus with their non-disabled peers.
The Driver/Attendant
  • Because these students frequently do not look or act differently from others, their special needs are not obvious.
  • A learning disabled student may have a problem using or understanding language.
  • Students who have severe learning disabilities may require patience and understanding with written and oral communication.
 The Student
This student population rarely requires special education transportation services except for the reason of age. Because of the emphasis on early intervention, this population is more frequently being served at a very young age.
The Driver/Attendant
  • Have transportation equipment that is appropriate for a child's age to ensure safety for young children.
 The Student
This student population often requires very specialized transportation planning because of limited physical, behavioral, or intellectual abilities. Students who have suffered traumatic brain injury were not born disabled and may demonstrate extreme frustration trying to accept changes in their physical, behavioral, or intellectual status.
The Driver/Attendant
  • Identify personnel to provide assistance with interventions recommended on the student's IEP. Rehabilitation personnel are often the most knowledgeable about the needs of this population and can provide valuable assistance.
  • Patience, compassion, and good communication are essential elements for appropriate services.
 The Student
This student population may or may not require special services. The degree of intervention required depends on the student's ability to function independently.
The Driver/Attendant
  • Carefully assess each student to provide the appropriate level of assistance.
  • Some students require extensive assistance to be seated, while others need little or none.
  • To ensure safety, maintain a consistent daily routine that includes the same seat assignment.
  • Use verbal communication to provide compensation for what cannot be seen.
  • Directions should be precise.
  • Communication should be friendly and direct.
Courtesy of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Autism Awareness Understanding Children with Autism