Train Drivers To Connect With Special Needs Students On The School Bus
published on March 12, 2019 by Sonia Mastros
Are your bus drivers doing everything they can to look after any special needs students riding the school bus?
Of course, every student on a school bus deserves care and respect, but special needs students need a bit more care. It's vitally important that your drivers understand how to work with special needs students, and how to ensure their needs are taken care of. This helps the students directly, as well as decreasing the chances the student will cause problems on the bus ride.
Here are some tips for training your drivers to work with these special students riding the school bus.
Four Ways to Help Your Bus Drivers Interact Positively With Special Needs Students
1. Be sure drivers are fully informed about the special needs.
One of the worst situations a driver can be in is having a special needs student on the bus, without having any warning or a briefing on what that student's needs are. This can easily lead to frustration - on both sides - particularly if the student's behaviors could be mistaken for deliberate rule-breaking. Always give your drivers plenty of information about their riders!
2. Coach drivers who "talk down" to special needs students.
It's unfortunately common for people to "talk down" to students with disabilities, even if those disabilities have nothing to do with their intelligence. Watch out for this behavior in your own drivers, and coach them if they show it. Special needs students should be treated with respect, and - as much as possible - treated like any other student.
When in doubt, it's almost always better to risk talking over their heads, rather than talking down.
3. Don't expect eye contact from students with emotional issues.
For students with autism, or other "emotional spectrum" disorders, eye contact is difficult and uncomfortable. Bus drivers should understand this, and know that an autistic student isn't necessarily ignoring them just because they aren't making eye contact. If the driver isn't certain whether the student is listening, asking them to repeat what was just said is often a good way of checking for comprehension.
4. Understand that every student is going to be different.
There can never be a "one size fits all" guide for working with special needs students. Every student is truly unique, and the driver will need to adjust their behavior according to each individual situation. Prepare your drivers for this reality, and encourage them to look for individualized ways to reach out to special needs students.
Special needs students riding the school bus just need a little extra care and attention. How does your own district train its drivers to do this? Let's talk techniques in the comments below!