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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Ask Questions to Help Make Your Special Needs Child Safer on the School Bus

Picture this: A special needs child is on a school bus and can't communicate to the bus driver his or her stop, or worse yet the bus driver doesn't notice a non-verbal child who is way in the back of the bus. An experience like this actually happened and is described below and in the Apraxia-Kids blog by Sharon Gretz.
Two weeks ago we learned of a very disturbing story via the internet about a four year old girl with childhood apraxia of speech who was left unattended and forgotten on her school bus for over three hours. Little blond Ava was unable to yell out for help. Despite school district bus safety policies and procedures, the bus driver allegedly failed to do the seat by seat check that would have located Ava in the rear of the bus. An investigation ensued and shortly thereafter the bus driver resigned.

Ava’s family would like the Apraxia-KIDS community to understand how important it is to ask questions about your school’s bus safety procedures and to ask for a written copy.

So the bottom line is this: What can parents do to best protect their child with limited intelligible speech?

1) Make sure that your school district has bus safety procedures in writing and assure that you get a copy of the policy.

2) Inquire about whether your child’s bus driver has had special needs training. Arrange a meeting between school administration and your child’s bus driver to discuss your son or daughter’s communication needs.

3) Include travel safety and transportation details as part of your child’s I.E.P. Transportation is considered a “related service” and so specific transportation details can and should be included when the IEP team has agreed to include transportation for your child. The Individual Transportation Plan would be a tremendous addition to the IEPs of children who are unintelligible or nonverbal.

4) Communication goals at school and at home should include self protection and self identification goals. Children with communication challenges need a way or need practice with skills such as calling for help (“Help Me”); how to gain someone’s attention (“Hey you!” “Wait!”). These phrases can be incorporated into speech targets or augmentative communication.
The TapToTalk can be customized to include the necessary pictures and sounds that could aid in achieving the communications goals (as in Sharon's 4th point).

If you have a TapToTalk idea or story you'd like us to share with other TapToTalk users, please email us at blog@taptotalk.com.

The TapToTalk Team
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