"So many dreams at first seem impossible. And then they seem improbable. And then when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable."
~ Christopher Reeve
Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Back By Popular Demand
Okay, maybe "demand" isn't quite the word, but I can tell you it sure was popular! And since it is that time of the year again...
Oh yeah, I decided to be extra nice today -you don't even have to click on the link back to the original post.
And yes - yes,I did check all the links and there are still valid. But if anyone knows of any other relevant document that I missed, please include the link in the comments.
One Stop Shopping
Back to school. Ugh.
Back to school shopping. Again. Ugh.
Although, personally, I would take the shopping any day over actually having to send my kids back and start yet another year (this will be year 15 for my oldest) of "advocacy".
But do not despair. Nice person that I am, I have put together a list of ammunition documents you really should be familiar with as we start another school year.
I've tried to bring some order to the chaos by organizing them by topic but ... well, really, you wouldn't want me to take all the fun away and make it too easy, would you? Just think of it as digging through the bins at Frenchy's ... you never know when you will find a great bargain that fits you just right!
Special Ed in General
Special Education Policy Manual aka "The Bible" (2008) -That's right, this document should be your Bible for just about any issue you might face with your school, your Board or the Department.
Life Skills: Supporting Student Success (2009) - A little-known document that can be a life-saver when your school tells you that they're very sorry but your child MUST take all these academic courses to get the credits necessary to graduate. It's not their fault; blame the Department.
OR you could just pass over this document, which sets out exactly how "life skill" credits can be and are recognized. Look at that ... a How To Guide for your school!
Increasing Learning Success (2008) - Although written more or less as a how-to guide for reorganizing high school to keep typical students engaged, there are a fair number of ideas discussed that could be very helpful for students with special needs.
"Just how do I go about getting my child an IPP?", you ask. Look no further... Supporting Student Success: Resource Programming and Services (2006) - Written to provide direction to school boards on the role of resource teachers and their expected competencies and to assist in the development of related policy and procedures, it is also intended to serve as a framework for professional development for resource teachers, classroom teacher and school administrators regarding the resource role in the program planning process.
In other words, find out just how Resource is suppose to work.
Respect for Diversity: A Planning Resource (2007) - This resource came out of the Minister's Response to Addressing Bullying in Nova Scotian Schools: A Student's Perspective in 2003. (The more things change ... no?) It's intended to be a resource for students to use to support the advancement and promotion of diversity ... meaning it's to be used a resource to assist in the planning and delivery of a school-wide Respect for Diversity Day. Never heard of such a thing? Don't feel bad ... neither have I!
It just might just be worth checking out, however. Challenge your school and see if they're up to holding their very own (and chances are, very first) Respect for Diversity Day.
The regulations made under the Education Act require the Minister to create a Provincial Discipline Policy (aka the Provincial Code of Conduct). All school boards are mandated to create Codes of Conduct (discipline policies) based on the Minister's Policy and each individual school is obligated to create its own School Code of Conduct. Neither a Board's nor a school's Code of Conduct can contradict the Minister's Policy.
Now listen carefully - the Provincial Discipline Policy was changed in a very significant way in 2008. Prior to that time, no provision was made to take into account a student's stage of development and special needs when meting out discipline. In fact, there was a chart which very clearly in black and white laid out specific behaviour and the consequences of such behaviour - if you do this, you will be suspended; if you do this, the police will be called in; etc.
Thankfully, that is no longer the case - the Provincial Policy clearly states that consequences for misbehaviour must be "appropriate to a student's stage of development and in consideration of the student's special needs". It is further stated that "consequences must make sense to a student as much as possible." The School Code of Conduct policy also supports the development and implementation of a comprehensive school-wide PEBS (positive effective behaviour supports) program. Behaviour is divided into "disruptive" and "severely disruptive" and a range of possible consequences are provided for various behaviours within these categories.
All of the above are very significant changes. Very significant changes that, one would presume, were brought about, at least in part, by a Charter challenge against the Province's discipline policy many years ago.
The case never made it to court and the parents involved could be forgiven for thinking it had all been for naught and no progress had been made. Or, at least, they no doubt thought that until they saw that some of the very changes they were requesting have been incorporated in the Province's Discipline Policy. We haven't made it as far as some other provinces (in particular, Ontario, includes the need to recognize a student's special needs when it comes to discipline within the regulations made under their Education Act) but we have made progress.
So the next time an administrator tells you that they have no other choice, their hands are tied, they have to suspend your child just as they would any other student who had (fill in the blank) .. you might want request both your Board's and the school's Code of Conduct and compare them to this document.
Time-Out Guidelines(2010) - Check out that date ... anyone care to hazard a guess as to the why behind these Guidelines? As so very often happens, change only seems to occur when parents GET LOUD.
** By the way, did you notice that the practice of using time out is to be decided through the Program Planning Process as set out in Policy 2.2 of the Special Education Policy Manual? Which, to my way of thinking, requires priorparental consent (or at least knowledge) of its intended use.
Guidelines for the Use of Student Restraint (2011) - Need to know what the school can and can't do to restrain your child? Need to gently remind them that physical restraint is to be considered a last resort and only to be used when someone's safety is at risk?
School Board and Ministerial Appeal Guide (2000) - Sets out the procedure to be followed when a parent appeals an IPP; first at the school board level and then at the Department level. And, remember this, although you may not have a very good chance of success at the Board level (cough, cough), your chances improve significantly should you convince the Minister to grant you a provincial appeal.
Tuition Support Program - If your child has a diagnosed Learning Disability, ADHD or autism* and you are not familiar with the TSP, then you need to be. And take heart, the program has become a little looser than it previously was.
* Unfortunately you are more likely to find a school able to accommodate your child if they have a LD or ADHD, then if they have autism.
** Let's take a look at some of the school board and school responsibilities set out in this document:
develop an inter-agency agreement between the school board and their respective District Health Authority(ies) for the provision of health care training for school staff and support for students with special health care needs such as Type 1 Diabetes;
identify, and transfer to specific school staff, specific diabetes health care functions, including monitoring blood glucose levels, monitoring insulin pumps and supplies;
collaborate with their local District Health Authority, Continuing Care, and local diabetes management centres to develop formal interagency agreements regarding the training, supervision and monitoring of school board staff who perform various health care functions, including individual diabetes care for students with Type 1 Diabetes;
make arrangements for training, supervising, and monitoring school personnel to whom specific diabetes health care functions have been transferred;
ensure that an Individual Diabetes Care Plan for students with Type 1 Diabetes is developed as recommended by the Canadian Diabetes Association; the Individual Diabetes Care Plan must include parents as members of the student’s planning team and the plan must identify persons responsible for daily monitoring of blood glucose levels, insulin pumps, supervision of meal and snack times, observing signs and symptoms, emergency response procedures, home/school communication plan, and emergency contact information. Note: Daily routine administration of insulin injections at school is the parent’s responsibility if the student is unable to self-administer insulin. However, schools are expected to support parent/health care team arrangements in order for routine insulin injections to be given at school when the parent is not available;
Now I don't know about you but when I read that list of responsibilities, I would assume (dangerous thing to do that "assuming") that for students who are unable to self-inject, it would be the responsibility of the school board to ensure that certain school board staff are trained in this procedure. After all, there's a heck of a lot of collaborating and cooperating with local District Health Authorities going on in there, isn't there?
And yet, apparently I would be wrong - school boards and schools are only required to:
support parents in making their arrangements for administering insulin by injection at school (for students unable to self-administer insulin by injection); and
ensure that an Individual Diabetes Care Plan for students with Type 1 Diabetes is developed as recommended by the Canadian Diabetes Association; ...
Note: Daily routine administration of insulin injections at school is the parent’s responsibility if the student is unable to self-administer insulin. However,
schools are expected to support parent/health care team arrangements in order for routine insulin injections to be given at school when the parent is not available;
That's right, school staff will not administer necessary (life-saving) insulin to students who are too young or otherwise unable to self-inject; meaning parents are expected required to somehow arrange their days, their work, their lives so that they can attend school however many times a day their child requires insulin..
Teacher Assistants (aka EAs, TAs, EPAs)
Guidelines for Teacher Assistants (2009) - Need to know the roles and responsibilities of teacher assistants? What are their expected qualifications and competencies? Unfortunately, the document doesn't quite answer many parents' burning question ... "How the heck do I get one for my child?"
Schools Plus - One of the Department's newer initiatives and worth taking a look-see at. You can find a series of special reportshere, including the Autism Management Advisory Team (AMAT) Report - Lifespan Needs for Persons with ASD. And although not technically from the Department of Education, you might find this document useful if you find yourself trying to explain to the school why your child with autism requires a service dog at school.
One (or two) last word(s) ... it took a while to convince me, but after meeting twice with the Minister of Education last year, I am at last convinced that the Department, itself, actually has some pretty good policy documents; as just one example, I was particularly pleased to be pointed to the Life Skills document above after having been repeatedly told my child's high school that she had to sit through (what to her are) totally useless academic courses so that she could get a (to her) totally useless piece of paper (diploma). Can't do life skills as credits, huh? Knowledge IS power. So now our challenge, as parents, is to actually find and use those documents in our dealings with our children's schools and school boards. I just did some of the leg work for you ... now it's your turn!