Spring is definitely here (for now :)) and things are jumping in the People for Education office. We’re working on the first draft of the 2012 Annual Report on Ontario’s Publicly Funded Schools; getting ready for Telling Tales Out of School, our annual gala, on June 3rd; and answering our toll-free Parent Support Line (1-888-534-3944).
The number one issue parents call about is Special Education. And there’s news on that front!
New information from the Ministry of Education sent to Ontario’s school boards in late December appears to indicate a sea change in special education policy.
More students may qualify for special education support
The Ministry explained that “all students with demonstrable learning based needs” including conditions such as ADD/ADHD, Tourette Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, are legally entitled to appropriate special education programs and services and may qualify to be identified as “exceptional.”
This comes as a surprise, because up to now it has often taken strenuous advocacy to get a child with something like ADD/ADHD identified as “exceptional” in the legal sense. But the memo appears to say that any medical condition that affects students’ ability to learn, may qualify a student to be identified as “exceptional.”
The change is important because students with that official designation have a legal right to receive special education programs and services. There are five types of exceptionality (Behaviour, Communication, Intellectual, Physical and Multiple) that qualify students for support. Until now, school boards used the lists of conditions in the Ministry of Education’s Special Education Guide to help them decide what kinds of conditions fit under those five general types.
But the Ministry now says the guide is meant to be “interpreted broadly,” is not intended to exclude any conditions, and that many medical conditions may qualify students as exceptional under the Education Act.
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