Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Unsung Heroes: Special Ed. Bus Drivers. Practical Tips on School Bus Transportation

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Unsung Heroes: Special Ed. Bus Drivers. Practical Tips on School Bus Transportation

Article excerpt

It is a steamy summer morning, with a few light sprinkles of rain. My daughter, who loves to play in the sprinkler, is fussing about the drops of rain on her face. As 1 futilely try to explain the absurdity of her reaction, the yellow bus. pulls around the corner and stops, lights flashing. My daughter and I walk around the front to the door where she is greeted by Miss Norma.

Miss Norma helps Erica onto [he bus, saying, "Erica, cheer up. We have someone special for you to see today." Miss Vicky, the driver, pulls a stuffed animal out of her bag and asks Erica to "babysit" Silly Willy on the ride to school. Erica beams as she hugs the toy and walks to her seat.

Once again, Vicky and Norma have pulled a trick out of their creative bag to help ease our daughter's transition from home to school. Vicky and Norma are our daily links to my daughter's special education classroom. Vicky Ehmke has been a school bus driver for 13 years and Norma Allen, the bus monitor, has been doing this work for 22 years. Norma is Vicky's mother, and Vicky is the parent of a child with cerebral palsy.

While this pair is unusual because of their family connection, they are typical of the remarkable people who transport Students to special education and mainstreamed programs. Although they do not sit in on IEP meetings, transportation personnel are integral to the child's access [0 educational services. They are not only responsible for driving safely, but also for managing behavior and offering first aid, particularly with children who are medically fragile or have seizures.

Many also take a personal interest in the families they serve. One of Erica's drivers used to take leftover food to feed the dogs at one child's home. When a woman and her child had to leave town suddenly due to the threat of domestic violence, their van driver went home and got a suitcase to loan them.

Most parents with children in special education can probably tell of transportation nightmares. We have had our share, as well. However, parents can reduce the likelihood of bus difficulties and, in turn, reward the exceptional drivers and monitors. The following are suggestions learned through hard experience:

1. Always follow the procedures set out by the school's transportation department.

Call in if your child will not be on the bus. Have your child ready on time. Be there for the afternoon drop-off. When the school schedule changes, double check with the driver to see when she thinks she will be arriving.

People usually complain about late buses, but they can be early, too. The first year my daughter attended summer school, dismissal was at 11:15 a.m. and the notice said she would arrive home at 11:35 a.m. I had an appointment that morning, but was home by 11:25 a.m. Since it took 15 minutes for the bus to go from school to my house, I thought I would be home on time. An hour later, my daughter still had not arrived home. In a panic, I called the transportation office. They told me that my daughter was still on the bus, which was delivering everyone else home since they had already come by at 11:20 a.m.

When the bus came, I apologized to both the driver and my hungry, grumpy daughter. I also asked why the bus was so early. The driver explained that she had been first in line to load, so she left the school early. From then on, I always made sure I was home by school dismissal time.

2. To avoid problems on the bus, inform the driver of any medical, behavioral or equipment concerns. …

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