School Safety Issues for Special Needs Kids August 31, 2018
With the school season upon us, it is a good time to refer to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) recommendations on safely transporting special needs children to and from their school facilities. Every school is responsible for providing special needs kids with safe and federally-compliant transportation that their families can trust.
What Are Special Needs?
Although every child is different and has individual needs, special needs typically refers to kids who require extra assistance because of:
- Emotional/psychological, medical and/or learning problems or disabilities
The Census Bureau estimates that there are 2.8 million children between the ages of 5 and 12-years-old with special needs in the United States. Many of these children have been diagnosed with conditions like:
- Dyslexia or other reading and/or learning disabilities;
- Cerebral palsy;
- ADHD or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder
Some children require assistance with refocusing on tasks, and others need help to physically maneuver through areas. When it comes to transportation, certain buses and vans are designated for special needs kids and contain accommodations that are intended to ensure both their comfort and safety.
The American Academy of Pediatrics’ Recommendations
The AAP’S updated recommendations are written for children who require car seats, are in wheelchairs, have tracheostomies (a surgical incision on the neck that creates a direct airway), and other kinds of special needs. The academy notes that school administrations need to follow basic transportation safety guidelines, such as:
- Training staff members;
- Ensuring that aides and nurses are available;
- Creation of emergency evacuation plans, and:
- Making sure there is an effective infection control program in place in case of emergencies
Is Your Child’s Wheelchair Transit Safe?
It may come as a shock that although plenty of special needs children on school buses are in wheelchairs, usually they are not certified as transportation devices and therefore not required to undergo crash testing. Luckily, certified transit wheelchairs do exist. Professionals like rehabilitation specialists can help point caregivers and parents in the right – and safe – direction.
The AAP recommends that all special needs children weighing less than 50lbs be secured in appropriate child restraints or safety vests per the recommendations laid out by the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and Regulations, or FMVSS. If you would like to read the FMVSS, please visit: https://www.nhtsa.gov/laws-regulations/fmvss.
Other recommendations for safely transporting special needs children on buses and vans from the AAP include:
- Every occupied wheelchair should be secured in a forward-facing position;
- Any child who can be safely moved from a stroller, wheelchair, special seating device, or assist with his or her own transfer into a seat belt or child restraint system that complies with FMVSS regulations should be moved;
- All safety vests and seats must be secured to bus seats as prescribed by the manufacturer of the safety product;
- No restraints should be secured directly next to emergency exits;
- Each child should have a medical emergency card kept on the bus;
- All metal or plastic trays and lap boards that are attached to wheelchairs should be removed and secured separately for transport, and:
- Any liquid oxygen that is being transported should be fastened to prevent it from getting damaged or being exposed to a heat source. There should also be a sign that indicates oxygen is present on the vehicle.
Talk to Healthcare Providers – and Bus Drivers!
It is critical to discuss your child’s individual transportation needs with his or her treating pediatrician or primary care physician. Not only can your child’s pediatrician make sure that current transportation safety guidelines are being met, but he or she can also ensure that your child is receiving the individualized care that they need.
Lots of schools assign one designated driver per bus route. Parents and caregivers of special needs children are encouraged to have a conversation with the driver to find out more information on what accommodations are available as well as to advise him or her of relevant medical updates that affect the child’s needs.
If you have questions or concerns about an injury your special needs child sustained while being transported to or from his or her school facility, please contact a representative at our firm who may be able to help answer your questions.
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At Galfand Berger, our personal injury lawyers in Philadelphia are experienced in representing injury victims. With offices located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.