12 Tips for Parents of Special Needs Kids who Ride the School Bus

With school back in session, many children with special needs will be riding school busses. Here are some tips to help make your child’s bussing experience problem-free:

  1. Know your child’s bussing arrangement. Will he be transported in a special bus equipped for wheelchairs? Does he need such a bus? Will there be regular-ed students riding on the bus? Will there be an adult assistant to help the driver? Will there be one designated driver? How many children will ride and what is the scheduled pick-up time?
  2. Get to know your child’s bus driver. On the first pickup, accompany your child into the bus and introduce yourself. Share any brief information and be sure that the transportation office has a home phone number and cell phone number to reach you. Make sure you know the number of the bus your child will ride.
  3. Don’t send your child with toys or food or breakable items.
  4. Have any necessary medical items, supplies, or materials in a pouch or packet labeled with your child’s name.
  5. Non-ambulatory children who require a harness or wheelchair need to have their equipment clean and in working order. Brakes and wheel locks should work properly. Harnesses should not be made of Velcro. Your bus driver is required to report any equipment that is unsanitary or in disrepair.
  6. To protect other riders who may have medical concerns, if your child has recently had any kind of viral infection, contact your transportation office prior to having your child ride the bus.
  7. Have your child ready for pick up five minutes prior to the scheduled stop. Bus drivers should not have to honk, and are only required to wait a few minutes.
  8. At drop off, bus drivers are not supposed to leave children unattended at the bus stop. Make sure you are waiting each and every time the bus will arrive. If you’re not able to make it, have a designated person there instead. The transportation office should be made aware of the identity of any potential substitutes in advance, and such a person may need to present ID.
  9. If your child will be picked up in front of your home, make sure there is a clear passage, especially in winter months. Snow, leaves, and debris should be cleared away.
  10. If your child’s behavior on the bus is disruptive, dangerous, or demeaning to the bus driver or other students, you should support the transportation office in not tolerating the behavior, and using appropriate discipline techniques at home. Ongoing problems should be discussed in your child’s IEP meeting, and you can certainly call a meeting even when one was not planned for some time.
  11. Your child’s bus driver should provide you with a written copy of his or her discipline plan. There should be a specific plan in place for dealing with discipline problems, outlining step-by-step how they will be handled.
  12. If you disagree with discipline being used with your child on the bus, you have a right to Due Process. You have a right to know the rules and discipline plan upfront, and the right to be informed of what rule was broken by your child and who witnessed it. You also have a right to a hearing before an impartial mediator, and the right to be represented by legal counsel.

My son Kyle has taken a bus to school from the time he was four years old. He loves riding the bus–when I even mention it he smiles. “I’m excited to ride the school bus,” he says. He can’t quite articulate why, but I always enjoy watching his familiar ritual of stopping just before climbing the steps, waiting about ten seconds, and then happily bounding aboard and choosing his favorite seat—the same one every ride. I’m sure there’s some mysterious mathematical equation involved in the selection.

You can read about his first experience riding the bus by viewing my blog: Once Upon a Time on the School Bus…

Kristyn Crow is the author of this blog. Visit her website by clicking here. Some links on this blog may have been generated by outside sources are not necessarily endorsed by Kristyn Crow.