First, it is important to understand that Special Education services are meant to help your child succeed as a student and as an individual. Hopefully it is no surprise when your child is referred for Special Education Services. This referral can come from you, the teacher or anyone else who works with your child. Once your child is suspected of having a disability or believed to require extra services, a referral is placed.What is a referral? Paperwork is submitted to a team called the CSE or Committee on Special Education. Generally the team consists of teachers, the school psychologist and other people who work with your child. What you may or may not know, the most valuable member of the CSE is the parent. After all, you know your child best!Once the referral is received, the student is evaluated. Different members of the CSE meet with your child and evaluate through observations, and various assessments. It is important to note, that this can NOT happen without your consent. Usually, the initial evaluation includes: a physical examination, psychological assessments, social/emotional history, observation of your child in their classroom and any other appropriate assessment. This could also include speech and/or language, behavior evaluation etc.Once the evaluation has been completed, a CSE meeting will be scheduled. It is important that the parent be present and is aware of their rights. At the CSE meeting, the results of the evaluation will be discussed and recommendations will be made. If you disagree with the results, you have the right to request that an outside agency evaluate your child, at the expense of the school district.If your child is eligible to receive special education services, the Committee must select a disability category that is most appropriate for your child. Again, if you disagree with the committee, you have the right to seek mediation.Once your child is deemed eligible to receive services, the committee will be responsible for developing an IEP or Individual Education Plan for your child. When creating your child’s plan, their strengths and needs will be taken into consideration. The IEP will document goals that your child will attempt to meet with the support of special education services. The IEP will also indicate where the services will take place. It is important to note that Special Education services are based on a spectrum that ranges from the least restrictive environment or LRE to the most restrictive environment.Once the IEP has been implemented, you should receive written progress reports documenting how your child is progressing with their goals. Once a year, the CSE will meet to review the IEP. Every three years, a reevaluation will take place, similar to the initial referral to CSE to determine if your child still requires the support of Special Education services.Hopefully this has “unpacked” the special education process for you.
The Special Education system in Ontario has a language of its own. If you are the parent of a child who has been recently identified as exceptional by the school board, you can get lost in the language during your first school meetings. There are many acronyms that are used by school administrators and school staff and most often they don’t think about the fact that parents may not understand their “language”. So it’s up to the parents to become knowledgeable about the language of special education. In this article, I am going to explain the meanings of ten of the most important acronyms in special education.IEP – Individual Education Plan.The IEP is a document that lists the strengths and needs, and the programs, services, accommodations and supports that are required by a particular student. It lists the annual goals in each alternative or modified subject area, as well as the learning expectations for each term, which are determined by the student’s strengths and needs. A student does not have to be formally identified as an exceptional student to receive an IEP. But if the student is formally identified by an IPRC, it is a requirement of the Regulation 181/98 of the Education Act that they receive an IEP.IPRC – Identification, Placement and Review Committee.The IPRC is composed of at least three persons, one of whom must be a principal or supervisory officer of the school board. At annual meetings, where the parents are invited to attend, the committee decides whether or not the student should be identified as exceptional and if so, which category of exceptionality. They also decide on an appropriate placement for the student. The parents can either agree to the decisions, or appeal the decisions.OEN – Ontario Education NumberParents will notice the OEN on school documents such as the report card. A unique OEN is assigned to every student across the province by the Ministry of Education. The same number will follow the student through his or her elementary and secondary education and will be indicated on all of his or her school records.OSR – Ontario Student RecordThe OSR is a record of a student’s educational progress through school. The contents are to be used by school staff for the purpose of “improvement of instruction” of the student, according to the Education Act. Parents are to be told about the purpose of the OSR and its contents. They must be allowed to have access to all of the information contained in the OSR.EQAO – Education Quality and Accountability OfficeEQAO is an arm’s-length agency that provides information about student achievement in Ontario, based on periodic assessments. This is basically to see how the teachers, the school boards, and the educational system in general are performing. When students are in grade 3 and again in grade 6 they are required to take reading, writing, and math tests administered by the EQAO. They are also required to take a math test in grade 9. However, the principal is authorized to exempt students from taking any or all of the tests if they are unable to participate for reasons such as a developmental disability.SERT- Special Education Resource TeacherThere is usually one in every school. As the name implies this teacher is a resource for regular classroom teachers. He or she consults with classroom teachers regarding students who have IEPs and are placed in the regular class. In fact the SERT is usually the lead person in charge of developing the IEP for these students. Sometimes small groups of students are withdrawn from the regular class to a resource room for more intensive instruction in math and language. This class is run by the SERT.EA – Educational AssistantEAs are assigned to classrooms, either regular class or small placement, to support students as part of a multidisciplinary team. They also help teachers with non-instructional tasks. In some school boards, EAs may have the same duties as described below for SNAs.SNA – Special Needs AssistantThe SNA supports students with special educational needs, usually in a special education classroom, under the supervision of a special education teacher. In addition to helping with their learning needs, duties may include assisting with the students’ safety and physical needs, including hygiene and feeding, as well as assisting with therapy sessions.ABA – Applied Behaviour AnalysisABA methods are best known for treating people with autism and other developmental disabilities.ABA methods are based on scientific principles of learning and behaviour to build useful repertoires of behaviour and reduce problematic ones. The undesired behaviour(s) are clearly defined and recorded, and the antecedents and reinforcers of the undesired behaviour(s) are analysed. Individualized programs are developed based on this information. The teacher must collect and analyze the data on an ongoing basis in order to measure the student’s progress in each of the program areas. The program must be altered as necessary to maintain or increase a student’s success.TEACCH – Treatment and Education of Autistic and Communication related handicapped Children.Intervention strategies include clear and explicit expectations, physical and visual structure, schedules, work systems and task organization. The goal is to allow children with autism to develop skills so that they can be independent of direct adult prompting.These ten acronyms are just the tip of the iceberg. Take some time to learn some of the “language” of Special Education and you will be a better advocate for your son or daughter with special needs.
Advocating best interests in an educational process for your child, who has a disability, can be challenging. Schools are sometimes short on resources, which can make them alter, add or even deny any educational service to your child, often without any prior written notice. Parents have to know what is covered in their rights to demand the best for their child from school districts.Negotiating the best educational plan often can not be done alone. You need to be aware of constantly modified procedures and guidelines to build a strong case for you. You might need professionals by your side to handle this expertly and deliver you the paramount solution without you having to worry.What is the difference between an IEP and 504 Plan?The Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) is a program to ensure that a kid with any disability is provided the required resources as per his or her needs. The student receives specialized education services free of any charges in the public school. IEP is periodically reviewed to ensure the fulfillment of educational objectives.Under the 504 Plan, students with disabilities receive any required accommodation for continuing with their education successfully. It is not like an IEP which is a requirement for students with special education needs. Students needing a 504 Plan are suffering from an impairment which impacts learning. However, they receive general education and do not need any specially designed instructions.How does an educational advocacy firm help you?A special educational advocate represents the family and student and is someone who speaks/writes on their behalf or in their defense. The educational advocate will assist you in obtaining the required accommodations for your child to have a successful educational program. For instance, the child might be allowed some flexibility with their assignments, if, under a 504 Plan.Special education advocates will make sure the child has all the educational facilities required. For a child’s specific needs, they will suggest you suitable special education programs or services. Advocates assist parents in getting proper accommodations for the child so he can adequately take part in school activities and educational programs.You can get a free initial consultation from an educational advocacy firm. The firm will need documentation in the form of report cards, assessment reports and any psycho-educational report. It will help you present your case in IEP meeting at school and place any requests.Together the parents and special education consultants can create an education program meant to truly unlock the child’s potentials.