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6 Q&A on Transporting Students with Special Needs


Students with special needs often become side-lined in measures to ensure child safety in schools, particularly in school bus transportation. While the safety measures tend to generalize the needs of all the students under one umbrella and when efforts on safety compliance are implemented, these children receive the last loaf.

Some might be wondering if there is any justifiable need to differentiate the safety measure efforts adopted in the majority of the children and those geared for specially-challenged children.

Of course, there are several such reasons and it would be better to know a few of them in particular.

1. Do they require special provisions in the school bus?

Normally, giving special provisions can isolate  the special needs children. However, if the situation warrants the need for one, like the use of a wheel chair for the physically challenged children, then it might be wise to accommodate the use of one. Support from the staff and other kids can help them to build their confidence even though they are treated differently. 

2. How to teach them safety rules and regulations?

Teaching safety rules on school bus transportation requires a little effort and concern from the teachers and parents alike. Game videos and mock traffic parks might not always work for them. Teachers can instead opt to teach them simple rules customised for their learning styles and patterns. Peer learning is another tried and tested method which has proved successful in many instances.

3. How to communicate with them efficiently?

Communication is an important factor while transporting children with special needs. The tone, language and the mannerism all need to be adjusted to accommodate the physical and emotional needs of such children. For example, children with vision, hearing or cognitive difficulties might need special assistance to have the instructions clear. Talking to such children will not help in any way. The support staff should be able to connect with these children with their tone, language and behaviour. Instructions on school bus safety rules should be conveyed to these children in a simple and easy manner.  Step by step instructions will prove helpful. Use images and gestures to teach and have them displayed on buses for faster communication.

4. Should staff be educated on their condition?

A simple change in approach of the staff can formulate better school bus transportation for these kids. With the help of appropriate training, communication method of school bus staff can be altered to suit the needs and connect better with them. It would be ideal for school authorities to incorporate lessons on transportation safety for children with special needs. And these lessons can also be included in the general training of drivers and support staff on traffic rules and regulations. 

5. Does it require any behavioural changes from staff and other students in school bus?

Special needs children face various upsetting situations. However, the general approach of the society towards these kids is  accommodating and appreciative. It would be wiser to train the staff on providing special care for such children. Apart from the school bus staff, other students should also be taught to respect and treat these children with empathy. A sympathetic or bullying attitude can disrupt their confidence levels to lead a normal life. 

Maintaining eye contact with such kids make communication easier. Simply kneel down when needed to maintain eye contact and you can witness the difference. Taking a bossy attitude and having such non-verbal body cues doesn’t help you to create a satisfactory rapport with them. 

6. Will it be beneficial for them to have a personal aide or help while on the ride?

Children with special needs tend to be confident when they do their chores independently. However, things differ while on a school bus. Consider, for instance, a physically challenged student seeking assistance of the driver while on the school bus. It might be nearly impossible for them to approach the driver or supporting staff on a moving vehicle. Having a personal aide in special needs school transportation is advisable in such cases. Peer support and buddies can also be utilized to overcome such situations. 

How to Handle Students with Autism in a School Bus?


While arranging transport services for children with special needs you need to initiate an extra precaution, provide ample care and consideration to  students, especially for those with autism. Parents rely on school bus authorities for providing an emotionally and physically safe environment for their adorable kids.

Even a little support and compassion from your side can create wonders in special need students. When adults understand, the nature of disability and mindset of a kid, it will be easier to teach them about the importance of school bus transportation.

The kids with autism will be easily agitated, and confused during the school bus trip. Due to this fear and confusion, it may result in troublesome and challenging behavior. For this reason, you can execute certain strategies that will be helpful for addressing the issues ofstudents with special needs.

What is the nature of autism?

Children with autism face difficulty in accepting and constituting social relationships. Too much sensory input and communication will be difficult for children suffering from autism. Furthermore, kids with autism act in a socially inappropriate, bizarre, or immature manner. Often, you may have heard people say, “He/she has no social skills”, “He/she is strange and “he/she done it purposely”, etc. Actually, the truth is that the child has autism. 

How to teach them  proper behavior?

Autistic kids may not possess pertinent skills that assist them to be successful in the society. Of course, a school bus and schools are indeed a part of society. Sometimes, your indifferent attitude to them can create uneasiness and depression in them. They may at times have certain perplexing questions in their mind such as “Why should I travel today also?”(as they board the school bus again), “What will happen if the driver lost the way?”, etc.

All you need is a little patience to teach them on a repertory of social skills and behaviors. You can teach them about how to establish a positive relationship with their fellow beings, how to avoid misconduct in a school bus, etc.

The following is a list of tips that can be useful for you in teaching autistic students:

  • Teach the student on observing the peer's or teacher's non-verbal behavior, what it indicates, and respond to it accordingly
  • Autistic students should compulsorily be taught about commencing a conversation with others, effectively develop the conversation (give and take), and how to politely wind up the conversation
  • You can inculcate in them the quality of social cognition, how to accept other's perception and recognise it properly. Tell them it may be challenging for you if you are not attempting to grasp others' perspective, and the world out there
  • Teach them about the “hidden curriculum” such how to handle an unfriendly situation, how to safely exit the bus, how to control their excitement while talking about their favourite subjects, or how to be flexible with the sudden route change or schedule changes
  • You should teach them about the usage of coarse idioms and metaphors. For example, if your colleague says, “See you later punk”, the child should understand that “punk” is an unpleasant word
  • Teach the appropriate bus riding skills: how to patiently wait in the queue, board the school bus, and apply the seat belts. Guide them how to appear an evacuation drill, the relevance of organizing it, wheelchairs on the school bus are acceptable, etc.

Academic and social skills: Know the difference between them

Suppose, a child has brilliant academic records (high scores in exams, competitions, extracurricular activities, etc.) but at the same time, they may lack social skills. This is the scenario of a child suffering from Asperger's syndrome or higher functioning autism. They may not have an awareness on providing privacy to others, bullying attitude of others, the other person dislikes you, etc. Meanwhile, even simple affairs such as building a positive relationship, understanding the complicated situations, etc. may be a difficult   case for them.

Teachings based on the child's social failure

Observe them closely and recognise the social behavior that they are actually lacking from others. Sometimes the child may not have an understanding “my space” and “your space”, you can provide an awareness of it to the kid with sufficient patience, care and consideration. Sure, they will try to understand it.

In addition, teach them the difference between jokes and cruel taunts. Consequently, ask them to report to school authorities whenever they fall victim to any sort of teasing. And, ensure that they have an understanding of the disparity between general school bus safety rules and the rules in times of emergencies.

As a matter of fact, autistic students are never rude or ill-mannered, they are just special. Provide them a little concern and consideration, then surely, they can come out of their shell and become one of you. After all, they too deserve to travel along with you, sit beside you, and worthy of interaction.