Tag Archives: School Bus Transportation with Special Needs

15 Effective Special-Needs Training Tips For School Bus Driver

Regional rules require that students with special needs should be transported only by those who are specifically trained to provide the service. This is because the whole process is quite a difficult one which involves many different activities.

Here are some of the activities:
•    Loading and unloading students using specific procedures
•    Securing student using a wheelchair
•    Knowledge of operating specific equipment
•    Proper communication with students and concerned people
•    Evacuation of students in an emergency
•    Knowledge of regional and state laws pertaining to the transport of students with special needs or disabilities, etc.

Every driver and bus attendants should have these sort of training so that they can transport students with special needs in a secured way and with utmost care to and from school.

Below are 15 tips for school bus drivers to transport students with special needs.


  1. The first point that you can start with is you can search for ‘transporting students with disabilities’ in Google. The list that is thrown up would contain many websites that can provide help in this direction.
  2. Different states have published their own training manuals on the web. You can use any of these to define a starting point for your training and design program that suits your needs.
  3. One useful resource where you can spot an effective special needs driver training program is the NST specifications and Procedures manual. This can be downloaded from www.ncstonline.org.
  4. Your training guidelines for drivers transporting students with disabilities should be based on those that are dictated by your district policies.


    They should also be based on the regional and state legislation on the matter. This would tell the drivers and attendants the need for this kind of training.

  5. It is necessary to familiarize the drivers and attendants with the characteristics that pertain to the different disabilities so that they are able to identify them easily. This is likely to make the training more effective for them.
  6. Companies that manufacture equipment such as the wheelchair that is required to transport children with special needs provide training on different aspects such as loading the wheelchair on to the bus and securing it.


    It is essential to subject the drivers and attendants to such training every time whenever there is a new release of the product and/or its securement systems to keep them updated.

  7. The NHTS Administration has published many manuals to describe the use of child restraint systems in school buses. It is a good idea to become familiar with these during the driver and attendant training sessions.
  8. Your special education department is likely to contain resources that teach drivers and attendants how to control the behaviour of children with special needs during school bus rides.
  9. For drivers and attendants to become good at emergency evacuation procedures, it is important to conduct mock drills at timely intervals with help from the local fire department. This would provide them with first-hand knowledge as to how children with special needs have to be handled during emergency situations.
  10. Drivers and attendants have to be taught to keep specific information regarding students with special needs confidential. They have to be aware of the student’s medical needs if any and should be subjected to sensitivity training to best appreciate the condition of the student.


    These are important topics that have to be present in the training manuals. At this stage, the drivers and attendants have to be reasonably familiar with the line of practice that is followed in the specific district.

  11. Every training session should be documented for future reference. These documents should find an appropriate place in the drivers’ and attendants’ training files.
  12. The training program should be one such that it draws from the experience of the training veterans in the field of transportation of students with special needs.


    This does not mean that the new trainers can be left out. They will bring in their own expertise to the table. They should be asked to train the drivers and attendants about the requirements they envision in the future for transportation of students with special needs. As of now, there is a lot of precious information in this field that is waiting to be shared.

  13. It is important for drivers and attendants to remain updated about the latest procedure, best practices and incorporate new ideas and information.


    Trained drivers and attendants should be readers of school publications that cover the needs of students with disabilities.

  14. To make the training more effective, it is the duty of the trainers to make the environment more conducive to learning. The learning environment should be professional for the best outcomes after the training sessions.
  15. Bus drivers and attendants should be aware of student medical emergencies that may occur. They will have to be trained to pull over and call 911, stay calm, stay with the student during the medical emergency, lend emotional support to the student and correctly document the incident.


Bus drivers and attendants that transport children with disabilities shoulder a great responsibility. It can be done safely and effectively only when the drivers and attendants carry out the job in a very professional manner.

For this, the training has to be very effective. Drivers and attendants that are well trained provide the safest means of transport for children with special needs.

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Guidelines for Transportation of Students with Special Needs

The school administration systems have to ensure that children with special needs are transported in a safe manner in the approved transportation of the school, which, in many cases, is the school bus.

The school transportation should be planned and organized in such a manner that it provides proper and adequate support to children with special needs.

This article puts down some guidelines that need to be followed for students with special needs.

It is to be noted that the staff has to be trained appropriately, aides and nurses have to be provided as per the requirement, there has to be a written emergency evacuation plan, and there should exist a detailed infection control package.

Students with Special Needs and Their Transportation

A student’s individual needs form the main consideration in deciding whether the student can use the same transportation provided to those students without disabilities. 

For children to receive special education services, it is important to have a transportation representative who would provide the following recommendations as regards the bus transportation facilities of the school:

  • The type of the vehicle that the student can ride
  • The length of the ride, pick-up and drop-off times
  • Temperature conditions during cold weather
  • An emergency communication system to be present in the bus if required
  • Training and skills to be provided to the driver and bus attendant

Wheelchairs for Children with Special Needs

Wheelchairs are frequently used as the mode of transport on the school bus for children with different special needs. However, it is important that certified transit wheelchair has to be used for the purpose.

This is the type of wheelchair that meets the design and performance requirements. Such wheelchairs can also be used by the occupants while travelling in a motor vehicle. The school administration can seek help from rehabilitation therapists to identify certified transit wheelchairs.

Recommendations for occupant securement on a school bus:

  1. Any child with a special need that can be moved from a special seating device should be transferred to a child restraint system (compliant with standards) for transportation.



    The seat should be facing forward and occupant restraints should be dynamically tested for such a seat at the manufacturer’s end.

    In case the seat is unoccupied, it should be carefully fastened so that it does not become a projectile in the wake of a sudden stop or crash and cause danger to the occupants.

  2. Passenger seats with a restraint system should be fitted with a frame that conforms to laid-out standards. The school administration should consult these points with the bus manufacturer when the order is placed for the school bus or when it is retrofitted at a later point in time.
  3. Children weighing less than 50 pounds should be secured in an appropriate safety vest or child restraint system that conforms to the laid-out standards.
  4. A safety vest or a child restraint system should be installed only according to the manufacturer’s specifications. Such a system should not be placed on a seat next to the emergency exit on a school bus.
  5. Seats that are used to transport children that are less than one year old or weighing less than 20 pounds should be attached to the seat only in a rear-facing manner.



    If a child weighs 20 pounds before 1 year of age, rear-facing restraints meant for greater weights should be considered.

  6. Cart-type units, stroller devices, three-wheeled devices, etc., cannot be used as occupied transport in a school bus. In case such a device is approved by a manufacturer after specific impact tests, they have to be installed only according to the specifications laid out by the manufacturer. 
  7. Wheelchairs should be secured to the floor of the bus with specific fastening devices.  The fasteners are approved only after dynamic testing is done on them with the help of dummies and must have the capability of restraining the wheelchair. The occupant is restrained to the wheelchair using another separate device.
  8. Any plastic or metal trays that are attached to the wheelchair should be unfastened before loading the wheelchair and should be separately secured during the transport.
  9. For every wheelchair-borne passenger, the occupant restraint system used should be tested for specified force conditions separately for upper and lower torsos.
  10. If liquid oxygen is to be transported on the school bus, care should be taken to mount the cylinder securely and fastened in a manner such that it prevents damage and exposure to high heat. An appropriate sign should also be placed on the bus.

Additional Recommendations

#1: When children with tracheotomies travel on the bus, a nurse or aide with sufficient medical training should be on board the bus to provide medical assistance in case of emergencies.

#2: The school transport representative should also take part in the medical procedures training required for students with special needs. They should be adequately trained with the latest programs which will ensure that they provide the latest as far as the care is concerned.

#3: The guardian of the ward with special needs should be kept informed of all the transportation needs and specifications.

#4: Both the guardian of the child with special needs and the bus driver should be kept informed of all the specific needs during the transportation of the child.

#5: For every student with special needs, a copy of the emergency medical card should be present on the bus.

#6: There should be enough stocks of supplies that ensure precaution and spread of infections in the bus.

#7: There should be a written plan for emergency evacuation plans and the staff should be adequately trained for the same through dummy evacuation drills.

To conclude, it is the responsibility of the school administration system to obtain periodically updated information on restraint systems for children with special needs from the relevant authorities and implement the same.


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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. 

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