Children learn in different ways and at different rates. Many children need extra support to be successful at school. Special education is a broad term used to include a wide range of additional services for kids.
Learning together: Why integration works
Educators and parents now understand that, as much as possible, students with special needs should be able to learn in regular classrooms. BC teachers believe that students with special needs benefit socially when schools include them in the regular classroom.
The teachers of BC have made and continue to make significant efforts to serve the needs of all students, respecting a wide range of student diversity. In all schools, during every school day, thousands of teachers enjoy and deal with the many challenges of diversity. Such an approach towards meeting all student needs is also reflected in the existence of seven BCTF provincial specialist associations which focus professional thinking on practices and strategies to serve the needs of students who, for example, have a learning disability, are gifted, face physical challenges, or who fit within other categories of special education.
Students with special needs often have an educational team of parents, educators, professionals, and para-professionals assigned to them. Experienced special education teacher, Kelly Shields, outlines steps parents can take to prepare for team meetings.
Stresses and strains
For many families, special needs seem to mean lengthy waiting lists, endless bureaucracy and deep frustration. Teachers feel that frustration, too. They're trying to give all their students the attention and support they need. But when the resources aren't there, it can be difficult or impossible. We—teachers and parents—need to work together to ensure that children get the services they need and deserve. Budget cuts may mean a decrease in services for your child. You, as parents, need to insist that the decision makers in education provide the necessary support for your child's learning.
Based on survey data collected in June 2001, teachers do not believe that the implementation of inclusionary policies is adequately supported to meet students needs. Our research report, BC teachers' views of special education issues, shares the perspectives of over 600 BC teachers from all districts. The BCTF research department has published several other reports on special education.
Teachers and teacher assistants
Roles and responsibilities of teachers and teacher assistants: a BCTF/CUPE BC joint paper elaborates on the roles and responsibilities of teachers and teacher assistants who work closely with students with special needs.
Parent support groups
There are a number of special education support groups for parents.
Resources for parents
The BCTF Teaching to Diversity: ESL, Learning Assistance, Special Education subsite provides one-stop shopping for materials and ideas to support ESL students and students with special needs. The resource inventory includes articles written with parents in mind, and there is a very helpful listing of parent-focused resource materials, books, videos and support groups.