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This website is dedicated to promoting inclusive schooling and exploring positive ways of supporting students with autism and other disabilities. Most of my work involves collaborating with schools to create environments, lessons, and experiences that are inclusive, respectful, and accessible for all learners.

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Examine Your Transportation Needs

Posted on March 15, 2013 in Inclusion

From Section 3, idea #11 of Don’t We Already Do Inclusion?

Years ago, I worked with a wonderful elementary school. They were committed to making very aspect of the school inclusive, welcoming, and supportive. One issue they had not examined, however, was transportation.

During a visit, I saw a little boy with disabilities skip off an accessible bus, greet his general education classmates as they stood in line on the playground, and enter the building. I asked the principal why he was (a) using specialized transportation and (b) entering the building before his classmates. The principal said, “Um…they all do that.”

By “all”, he meant any student in the school’s “moderate-severe disability” program. These students had labels of autism, intellectual disabilities, and multiple disabilities. They “all” received specialized transportation and they “all” went into school when their bus arrived to “get set up” for the school day.

I was bothered that a school so focused on inclusion didn’t see the importance of having learners start the day with the peers. No educator seemed to question why this young man did something different than the 22 other third graders waiting, gossiping, giggling, chasing, and chatting on the playground. Further, no educator was questioning why the young man was taking a kneeling bus to school. He clearly didn’t need accessible transportation and the administrator didn’t know of any reasons why he could not ride the same bus as his brother and classmates, so why was he on that bus? The answer seemed to be, “Because we have always done it that way.” Of course some families will want and need specialized transportation for reasons not immediately apparent, but many would undoubtedly want the same transportation options used by their child’s neighbors, classmates and siblings.

In a movie I made on inclusive schools, You’re Going to Love This Kid: Teaching Students in the Inclusive Classroom (2012), administrator, Dr. Kurt Schneider, discussed the need to consider transportation in discussions around inclusive schools. He shared that issues of transportation are as critical as issues about any other “placement” and he discussed some of the questions he and his own staff members have wrestled with in the process of creating a district where everyone belongs:

Do we have segregated spaces that only kids with disabilities are accessing or only English language learners are accessing? If so, why? And let’s try to remove that. Are all kids accessing and riding the same bus that they would just if they did not have an identification? If we have busses that aren’t accessible, can we purchase the ramps to make them accessible? So those are all conversations that are taking place to align everything that we’re doing to the vision that is out there about truly being….an integrated, socially just school for all kids.

How inclusive is the transportation in your district? What would it take to make transportation more accessible for your learners? Do you have families in your schools who would actually prefer to access general transportation? What supports (e.g., teaching new skills, use of a paraprofessional) would be necessary to make this happen?

Comments

  1. From Jessica Stakey on 17 Mar 2013

    I really like how you brought up this point because I have seen this occur in schools where I am from. I believe that when it comes to the students entering the building early, they could easily enter the building at the same time and receive assistance as needed to perform like their peers. Isn’t it important for our students with disabilities to view themselves like their ‘typical’ peers? Instead we have a tendency to give them some special privileges (like going in to the building early). That is not how I want my students to grow up and feel as though that is always how this world works.

  2. From Patrick Mulick on 19 Mar 2013

    In my experience, I have been absolutely amazed how receptive staff in transportation have been in receiving professional development around students with disabilities. Two years ago, I lead a two hour presentation on autism for every bus driver and aide in my district. At one point I was interupted by thunderous applause when I suggested that we need to increase communication between special education and transportation staff. In January I provided a similar class for all of the special education transportation staff in a neighboring district, and again thunderous applause and appreciation at the end. I have now been invited to speak at the statewide transportation conference in June! I believe that bus drivers are thirsty for more information, but the small moments we have to talk during drop off and pick up may not be the best time to share.

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