Monday, January 7, 2013

Meaningful Transportation Services

As New York City parents contemplate plans for getting their children to school in the face of a threatened strike by school bus drivers -- who transport 152,000 of the City's school children along 7,700 routes daily -- we thought it might be a good time to revisit transportation to and from school.

For students who have Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), transportation is considered a "related service", like physical or occupational therapy or counseling. For a student to receive transportation other than that which is provided to all students in the district (whether that is a bus pass, a Metrocard, or some other entitlement to free or discounted public transportation) transportation must be included in that student's IEP.

The regulations that implement the IDEA note that,
It is assumed that most children with disabilities will receive the same transportation provided to nondisabled children, unless the IEP team determines otherwise.... If the IEP team determines that a disabled child requires transportation as a related service in order to receive FAPE, [a Free Appropriate Public Education, the core requirement for students classified under the IDEA] or requires accommodations or modifications to participate in integrated transportation with nondisabled children, the child must receive the necessary transportation or accommodations at no cost to the parents. This is so, even if no transportation is provided to nondisabled children.(U.S. Department of Education, 1999a, p. 12551)

There are two other kinds of transportation services which are far less common than busing, but which can provide crucial assistance for some students. One is Orientation and Mobility Services which are available only  to students with visual impairments. The other is Travel Training, which is defined by the Regulations to the IDEA as: "providing instruction, as appropriate, to children with significant cognitive disabilities, and any other children with disabilities who require this instruction, to enable them to---

(i) Develop an awareness of the environment in which they live; and
(ii) Learn the skills necessary to move effectively and safely from place to place within that environment (e.g., in school, in the home, at work, and in the community)."
[emphasis added]

While most schools will not think about travel training for students with learning and/or attention problems, parents are well advised to consider  their child's need to get around their larger community and to determine  whether their child might need assistance learning the skills needed to navigate beyond their school building. These can range from reading a map, understanding travel zones and fares on local transport systems, looking both ways when crossing a street, and personal safety issues when they are out and about in their neighborhood. Even driving lessons for older students could be considered among the "... skills necessary to move effectively and safely from place to place ..." 

Thinking about travel and transportation in a broader way can help create a meaningful IEP that will assist students in navigating their world safely and efficiently.

school bus photo courtesy cc

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