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Special Education: A Series by Cathy Abraham Part 2December 11, 2011

Author: Webmaster

reprinted from the February 2005 BCCPAC magazine ImPACt

Part 2: Learning More About Learning Differences

There are approximately 62,000 students in our public schools labeled as having special needs (about 10% of the total student population). The Ministry of Education tops up the provincial per-pupil funding for certain categories of these students as follows:

  • Level 1: Dependent Handicapped; Deaf/Blind—$30,000 
  • Level 2: Moderate to Profound Intellectually Disabled; Physically Disabled, Chronic Health; Visually Impaired; Deaf/Hearing Impaired; Autistic—$15,000 
  • Level 3: Intensive Behaviour; Serious Mental Illness—$ 6,000 

School districts are required to use this additional funding to create an educational program appropriate to the child, which may be done in a variety of ways.

The provincial per-pupil funding allocation includes additional funding for students with other special needs, such as mild intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities, moderate behavior or mental illness, and for students who are gifted. Approximately one-third of labeled students are individually funded, and two-thirds are funded within the per-pupil allotment.

Services for students with special needs are guided by legislation and Ministerial Orders. The primary reference document for parents and educators is Special Education Services: A Manual of Policies, Procedures and Guidelines. Parents may find the Policy Directions section helpful, as it outlines roles and responsibilities of parents and educators, and explains how services should be organized to reflect the diversity of educational needs within the student population.

Parents have an essential role in developing and monitoring Individual Education Plans (IEPs) for their child with special education needs. The Individual Education Plan Order describes what an IEP is, when it is required, and the right of parents to be consulted about the preparation of the IEP.

The Ministry of Education’s Special Education Review completed in 2000 assessed the status of special education services. Many of its recommendations have been implemented, but there are a number of issues remaining for parents:

1.  Lack of consultation:
Parents often express frustration when they are not given an opportunity to participate in their child’s educational programming. Sometimes IEPs are not written; at other times they simply arrive home for a parent’s signature.

2.  Misunderstanding about funding of special education:
Special education is often seen as separate and apart from mainstream education, rather than as a means of organizing funding to address the educational needs of some students.

3.  Labeling of students:
It can be detrimental to students to carry the special label, particularly if it is used to define the student, or is used in the absence of an understanding of their learning differences, or it results in the isolation of the student from other students. Parents have complained that school districts have used labels to acquire additional funding which does not always result in services that meet students’ needs.

4.  Lack of understanding among educators of learning differences:
Educators may not understand or implement strategies to address learning differences within the classroom. Parents sometimes complain that the education of students with special needs is done only by specialist teachers and teacher assistants.

5.  Lack of accountability for implementing policy:
There is still a lack of understanding of the roles and responsibilities of teachers, administrators, and school districts. Educators are not always held accountable when services are not provided as required by the manual. Appeal processes can be intimidating for parents.

Despite these issues, we continue to make progress in creating inclusive schools where all students are welcomed. Our children benefit from learning to accept and appreciate differences. By continuing to strive for excellence through our PACs, DPACs, and School Planning Councils, parents will ensure that schools become accountable for all the students they serve. We can be leaders in taking the special out of special education.

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