Submission to Minister's Advisory Council on Special Education
Communication: Collaborating with the Community

Topic Best Practices/ What's Working Well in Special Education Challenges/Issues
Preschool - JK/SK


Preschool Speech and Language Initiative is increasing the number of children who are identified with communication disorders and receiving intervention services before they start school.

Initiative mandates that a Transition Plan be in place for each child starting school.

Transition planning documents such as "Entering School: An Inclusive Approach" used by the Thames Valley DSB assist the process for parents and community partners.

The number of children being identified is increasing expectations by parents that schools will also provide speech and language services.

Many school boards do not have adequate speech and language services to meet all of the needs. As a result, some school boards are limiting speech and language services to the early grades or are limiting the range of services available.

Some school boards will not formally identify Exceptional Students in JK or SK or provide support services until the students are in school full time.

OAFCCD believes that school boards should provide a full continuum of services to students in all grades.

Systematic Identification of

Communication Disorders

Boards with effective and comprehensive speech and language services are able to provide teachers with professional development regarding communication disorders. In addition, proactive service delivery includes the use of screening tools at key developmental stages. Professional development for teachers and education assistants regarding communication disorders is often limited or non-existent. 

OAFCCD recognizes that early identification and intervention are effective, but that for some students, evidence of a communication disorder may not show up until the higher grades when the language expectations increase. OAFCCD therefore believes that school boards should have processes in place to identify students with communication disorders in higher grades. 

Parent Training and Support Recognizing that parents are partners in the education and development of students, Boards such as Peel DSB provide parent education and training opportunities. 

OAFCCD also provides parent workshops through their local Chapters in collaboration with local school boards.

Many school boards do not have the resources to meet student needs and can not provide the level of parent support and education that they would like.

OAFCCD believes that parents should be recognized as partners and that they should be provided with educational opportunities.

Special Education Funding Formula Special Education Grants are now protected and funding levels for 1998-99 and 1999-2000 have been maintained or increased.

SEPPA grants are calculated on a per pupil basis and all Boards will be provided with the same per pupil rate.

ISA grants recognize that there are some very high need students who require intensive support.

ISA 1 Grants provide funding for expensive personalized communication equipment that is needed by students with severe speech and language impairments, and those requiring augmentative communication.

Funding special education based on a provincial average has reduced the revenue available in large urban boards, who previously spent more on special education. In Ottawa-Carleton this has resulted in proposals to significantly reduce services, including speech and language services.

The ISA Grant Criteria, as originally developed, were very confusing and resulted in Educational Assistants being closely tied to individual students. As a result some students who only needed a little assistance were unable to get the classroom support they needed.

Changes in the criteria for ISA Grants in March and April 1999 have resulted in more confusion and uncertainty for school staff and parents. 

The demand for increased documentation by the Ministry, and confusion by Board staff and parents regarding eligibility for ISA Grants is increasing the paperwork and labeling of students.

OAFCCD is recommending to all parent members that they have their child formally Identified as Exceptional to ensure that their needs are met.

School Board Amalgamation Amalgamation has resulted in some savings and efficiencies in school board administration. 

In some boards, amalgamation has increased the range and levels of support services available to students.

In many Boards amalgamation has highlighted the discrepancies and inequity in available special education services (i.e. Oxford County Students still do not have access to Speech-Language Pathology Services)

In other Boards amalgamation has resulted in resources being spread too thin to be effective (i.e. in Upper Canada DSB three Speech - Language Pathologists to cover 45,000 students and seven counties)

OAFCCD believes that Speech-Language Pathologists should be provided and funded at a level of one Speech-Language Pathologist for 2250 students.

Policy/Program Memorandum 81 and the Interministerial Guidelines on Speech and Language Services  This policy is dated and out of touch with the recent reforms in the three Ministries.

Local variations in interpretation of this policy have resulted in many students falling through the cracks and failing to obtain the services and supports they need.

OAFCCD supports the Minister's commitment to review this policy and guidelines, and urges a speedy and comprehensive process. 

School Health Support Program In some school boards this program delivered through the Community Care Access Centre (CCAC)is the only available source of speech and language services for students.*

Experienced pediatric specialists employed in this program have long been a source of high quality service for students.*

Service collaboration in Grey-Bruce between health funded agencies and the school board have resulted in a ratio close to that recommended by OAFCCD (1 SLP to 2250 students).*

* OAFCCD does not support division of speech and language services based on labels 

The range and levels of service available through the CCACs vary significantly across the province.

There are no clear guidelines regarding the referral process and service protocols.

There are no service standards or staff qualifications and students are likely to be seen by staff with limited pediatric expertise.

The Request for Proposal Process used by CCACs can result in disruptions in service and variation in service quality (i.e parents have been very concerned in London by the recent decision to divide School Health Support Service between four service provider agencies.) 

School Health Support Program funding is not protected and is part of the global budget of CCACs. This could result in the needs of students being measured against the growing acute and chronic care needs of seniors.

OAFCCD believes that speech and language services for all school age children should be the responsibility of a single ministry, the Ministry of Education and Training.

New Curriculum A new standardized curriculum is being implemented for all Elementary grades and subjects.

The Durham DSB has undertaken an analysis of the new curriculum with regards to oral and written communication skills. This analysis will assist support services in targeting the skills and competencies required by all students and allow the development of intervention strategies which are curriculum and outcome based.

The speed of implementation has not allowed for adequate teacher preparation or the identification of appropriate accommodations and modifications for Exceptional Students.
Secondary School Reform The goal of a more stringent and focused curriculum for secondary students is to be applauded. The speed of reform and the implementation by September 1999 seems to be too ambitious. 

Professional development for Teachers appears to be inadequate.

The lack of clear information regarding accommodations and modifications for Exceptional Students is a concern.

There is inadequate information regarding the Grade 10 Literacy Test and Community Involvement expectations for Exceptional Students.

Special Education Advisory Committee Regulation 464 and directions from the Ministry have resulted in greater consistency in SEAC membership and regular meetings.

Most school boards are enhancing the role of SEAC and the involvement of SEAC members in board planning and communication activities.

In a few boards the participation of SEAC members in the development of the Special Education Plan and the annual Budget process has been very limited. 

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