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In-Service Safety Series
In-Service Safety Series
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III. Team Communication Issues

  1. It takes a team of people to best provide proper transportation for students with special needs
  2. In this section we will talk about
    1. Who should be on that team
    2. What information to communicate and what not to communicate with team members
    3. What to do in an unexpected situation
  3. Who needs to be on the transportation team?
    • Depends on the individual needs of the student
    • Should include anyone necessary to ensure a safe ride for that student
    • Options:
      • School bus driver/attendant
      • Teacher
      • School nurse/aide
      • Occupational/physical therapist
      • IEP team
      • Parent or caregiver
      • Anyone else who meets the school bus to assist with loading/unloading
      • Counselor
      • Student
  4. What information should/should not be communicated?

    [Conduct discussion.]
  5. Communication among the team members is essential
    1. All team members need to be able to have contact with each other
    2. Team members also need to understand that other team members need to know what is going on, even if it seems insignificant
  6. Communicating with other professionals in the system
    1. Other professionals include
      1. The teacher
      2. The school nurse/aide
      3. Members of the IEP team
      4. Occupational/physical therapist
      5. Psychologist
    2. There should be a mechanism for easy communication with other professionals in the system
    3. If there isn't, make a point of passing on information and asking for information
    4. Review local policy and procedures for communicating with other professionals in the system
  7. Communicating with the transportation supervisor
    1. Refer any questions outside your responsibility to your supervisor
    2. Questions to ask your transportation supervisor
      1. Safety questions
        1. “What should I do with the dog?”
        2. “What should I do if the wheelchair tires are flat and the battery is run down?”
        3. “What should I do if I can't get the child safety restraint secured properly?”
      2. Health questions
        1. “What should I do if the wheelchair is dirty?”
        2. “How should I handle this type of equipment?”
      3. Difficult/unusual/inappropriate requests
        1. From a parent: “My son had seizures last night. If he has one on the bus, please insert this suppository.”
        2. From a teacher: “The handle on Johnny's walker came off today. Could you please try to tape it until he gets home?”
        3. From a teacher: “We are going on a field trip and I don't want to use a lift equipped bus. Please carry Sara on and off the bus and we will borrow a chair when we get to the field trip site.”
        4. From a teacher: “Please drop Adam off early because his mom called and I said it would be okay.”
    3. Review local policy and procedures for communicating with the transportation supervisor
  8. Communicating with parents and caregivers
    1. Remember that you are not alone in dealing with parents and caregivers
    2. You are not obligated to do everything a parent or caregiver requests although some requests may make it easier to transport the student
      1. Know which questions to refer to someone else such as the transportation supervisor or the IEP team
    3. Be sensitive in dealing with parents and caregivers
      1. Be firm but kind
      2. Explain why something is done a certain way, e.g, for safety reasons
      3. Remember that parents and caregivers are advocating for the student's needs
        1. However, they aren't in a position to tell you what your job is and how to do it
    4. Remember too that it's not your job to be a go-between with parents and teachers
    5. Review local policy and procedures for communicating with parents and caregivers
  9. Communicating with the student with special needs
    1. Know and respect the cognitive capacity of student
    2. At the level the student can understand, explain what you are going to do and why before you do it and explain again while you are doing it (if appropriate)
      1. It's helpful to explain things in terms of safety reasons
      2. For example, “you need to stay seated because if we stop fast or hit a bump you won't be protected and you might get hurt”
    3. Keep bus rules simple and repeat them often to help students understand
      1. For example, bus rules should simply be
        1. Remain seated
        2. Don't touch any bus parts such as lift controls
        3. If you have a lap belt, keep it on, snug and low
        4. Be cooperative
    4. Reinforce bus rules by praising students who follow them
    5. Remember, if a student can't communicate with you, don't assume that the student can't understand you
  10. Handling emergency or unusual situations
    1. Let's talk about how to handle an unusual situation
    2. Give me some examples of situations that might be considered an emergency or unusual

      [Conduct discussion.]
  11. How and when to communicate about emergency or unusual situations
    1. First, let's look at the emergency situations we have identified

      [Conduct discussion.]
    2. Now, let's look at the unusual situations we have identified

      [Conduct discussion.]
    3. Finally, let's talk about what to do if you encounter a situation that you have not been prepared for
      1. If you encounter a situation that you hadn't expected, your first response should be to contact dispatch and request advice from your supervisor
        1. You don't want to jeopardize the safety of the student or other students on the bus by transporting inappropriately
        2. In addition, a delay in notifying dispatch may jeopardize student safety in a medical emergency
      2. When you contact dispatch, remember to respect confidentiality
        1. Radios and cell phones are not secure
        2. Use discretion when talking over non-secure lines
        3. Avoid using personal identifying information unless you have no other choice
        4. Use a code system to identify the severity of the situation
      3. Depending on the situation you may need to pull over at a safe place until the situation to continue
        1. The exception might be an emergency situation where the decision is made to continue
      4. (a) In some remote locations it may be best to drive the school bus to the help site or to a meeting point with emergency personnel
      5. For help with recurring medical problems
        1. Request assistance from the IEP team and keep your supervisor informed
        2. Document each occurrence
        3. Seek help from other transportation team members
      6. VERY IMPORTANT: DO NOT tell other drivers or non-drivers about the situation
        1. Respect the confidentiality of the students you transport
      7. Review local policy and procedures about handling unexpected situations
      8. To help you deal better with unexpected situations, request additional driver training

III.B - Display Slide #10

III.C - Write on flipchart

III.D - Write on flipchart

III.F - Distribute Handout #3, Team Communications

III.J - Write on flipchart


III.C. Ask the question and continue to probe until all possible members are listed. The key point here is that the appropriate transportation team members depends on the individual student and his or her needs.

III.D. From your discussion, make 2 lists of information:

  • Things to communicate
    • Medical/emotional concerns
    • What kind of day the student had
    • Student's attitude
    • Equipment concerns
    • Discipline issues
  • Things that should NOT be communicated
    • Personal opinions
    • Care issues (e.g., whether student should be taking medications or not)
    • School/parent issues (the school bus driver is not a go-between)

III.F. Distribute Handout #3, Team Communications. Review it with the participants.

III.G.1. See the discussion in the Introduction section on the limits of the school bus driver's responsibility: know the nature of the disability, know how the disability impacts transportation, and know what equipment the student uses.

III.J.2. Here are some examples of emergency or unusual situations if you need them to start the discussion. Once the list is complete, have the group decide if a situation is unusual or an emergency. Place a “U” next to unusual situations and an “E” next to emergency situations.

  • No wheelchair when a student needs one
  • A regular child stroller instead of a wheelchair
  • A wheelchair or safety seat inappropriate for the size of child
  • A really large oxygen tank
  • A wagon carrying the oxygen tank
  • A new child who doesn't know how to ride the bus
  • Being asked to give student medications against policy
  • Being asked to deliver equipment but not the student
  • Being asked to do an unauthorized drop-off
  • Having to clean out a tracheotomy
  • Student wanting to eat breakfast on the bus because he/she didn't get up in time

III.K.1. Lead a discussion toward the need for an emergency plan in each identified situation. Take one or two of the situations and develop a plan of action for each. At another time, the group can develop plans of action for each of the identified situations, if they haven't been done already.

III.K.2. Reinforce the need for a plan in each identified unusual situation as well. Take one or two of the situations and develop a plan of action for each. At another time, the group can develop plans of action for each of the identified situations, if they haven't been done already.

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