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Special Education – Introduction

Learner Needs/Profiles Designations


Who is the Special Education teacher?

A Special Education teacher is a teacher with the specialized knowledge, skills, and experience necessary to act as as resource to school staff and parents who are supporting students with difficulties in learning and adjustment, or who require an individual education program. They identify, assess, plan, implement, report, and evaluate in collaboration with team members.

Sections 17(1) and (2) of the School Act, and the attendant School Regulation section 4, spell out the responsibilities of teachers within the school system. The teacher responsible for a student with special needs is responsible for designing, supervising and assessing the educational program for that student. Where the student requires specialized instruction, this is best done in consultation with resource personnel available, with the parents, and with the student. Where the student's program involves specialized instruction by someone other than the classroom teacher, collaborative processes are required to make best use of the expertise of the specialists available to assist and to ensure a co-ordinated approach.

Who is the Student with Special Needs?

A student who has a disability of an intellectual, physical, sensory, emotional or behavioural nature, has a learning disability, or has special gifts or talents, as defined in the Manual of Policies, Procedures, and Guidelines, Section E.

What Does a Special Education Teacher Do?

  • Where to Start?
  • Year at a Glance
  • Accessibility Checklist
  • The Designation Process is clearly laid out in Special Education Services: A Manual of Policies, Procedures and Guidelines.
    The checklist below is a summary of the more detailed process laid out in this document.
    • Student is identified as someone who is struggling in the school context. This is most often done by the classroom teacher but can be anyone. If it is not the classroom teacher, the person identifying the student should speak directly with the teacher first.
    • The classroom teacher should introduce variations in instructional or behavioural approaches within the classroom to see if there is any impact on student learning.
    • The teacher should consult with the parent/guardian and when appropriate, the student, regarding concerns and progress.
    • If these efforts prove insufficient to meet the student’s educational needs, the teacher should collaborate with school based resource personnel. This may result in additional suggestions for classroom intervention.
    • If the student’s needs are still not being met, the teacher should refer the student to the School Based Team (SBT).
    • The School Based Team makes the decision to apply for an appropriate Ministry designation for the student. The SBT can appoint a case manager, identify the need for additional services and/or initiate referrals to access other school, district, community or regional services. The SBT can also initiate or facilitate inter-ministerial planning and service delivery. Please see the Checklists for Various Ministry Designations for the criteria for each of the Ministry designation categories.
  • Individual Education Plans (IEPs) are written records documenting the individualized planning process for students with special educational needs. Individualized planning is a continuous and integrated process of instruction, assessment, evaluation, decision-making, and reporting. It takes the form of a concise and usable document which summarizes and reviews the plan for the student's individual education. This form varies from school district to school disctrict and often from school to school as well. In the end, it should be the written records of reports prepared with input from students, parents, guardians, school personnel, and other service providers. The following is the link to the Ministry of Education document Individual Education Planning for Students with Special Needs. This is a very comprehensive document and the 'Frequently Asked Questions' section does address many common questions that people have about IEPs.

Provincial Resource Programs

Special Education Services: A Manual of Policies, Procedures and Guidelines - March 2011 

Updated June, 2015

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