Special education Internet links for parents & teachers

Listed here are some special needs and special education web resources that would be very helpful for parents or teachers. Normally, this information is posted on my header bar. However, I thought I should publish it to get the post onto the various search engines. (See also the non-endorsement disclaimer below.)

Applied Behavioural Analysis or ABA Treatment — (Link) (Link)

Alberta Committee of Citizens with Disabilities — (Link)

Autism Society Canada — (Link)

Autism Treatment Centre of America — Autism development treatment program called “Son-Rise.” (Link)

Canadian Association for Community Living — Advocacy for individuals with intellectual/developmental disability (Link)

Canadian Association for Independent Living — Information, programs and services for individuals needing assistance with daily living (Link)

Gifted Canada — (Link)

L’arche — International movement of people with developmental disabilities (Link)

Learning Disabilities Association of Canada — (Link)

Learning & Reading Disabilities — a site about the importance of phonics and other techniques to improve and enhance reading (Link)

Our Kids.net — Lists schools children that are focused on accommodating attention deficit disorder and/or learning disabilities (Link) (Link)

Son-Rise — Autism treatment program (Link)


Disclaimer: The Internet organizations and web links listed on this page are for information only. They are not affiliated with this weblog or its owner, nor are they endorsed in any way. As such, it is up to each and every visitor to determine whether to use them or to conduct further research or inquiries.

Trustees: Say no to “one size fits all” policy for special education

This article is directed to Ontario voters, all those who will hopefully get out and vote tomorrow, Monday, October 25th, 2010. What I am asking is that when you mark your ballot for one or more school board trustee candidates, please vote only for those who have openly recognized that a “one size fits all” special education policy for children with special needs does not work.

To put it bluntly, full classroom integration, or mainstreaming as it is called in the U.S., is NOT usually about what is best for children requiring special education accommodations. Rather, it is primarily what is best for boards of education and the provincial government. In other words, it is about saving money. 

Yes, I am a conservative and I don’t like large government and high taxes. But no, I don’t want smaller government and fewer taxes if it is at the expense of the most vulnerable in our society.  There is an old expression: “pay now or pay later.” In special education, what that means is that we either spend what is necessary to educate and treat children now or we pay much more later through higher social assistance, criminal justice and health care costs.

When I was in private practice, I can’t begin to tell you the tragic stories I heard about kids being integrated into the regular classroom. While it may be politically incorrect to say out loud, the reality is, that even with the help of a teaching assistant, there are just too many children in a regular classroom for a teacher to give  individual attention to a few. However, if a teacher does give individual attention to only a few, such as those with special needs, all the other children are short changed.

What I used to help parents fight was the lack of options, the lack of choice in the public school system, whether secular or Catholic. You see, it all depends on the child and the identified needs of that child, not some ideological notion of fairness that simply is not actually fair at all. If a child can thrive in a regular classroom, then by all means, assign them an assistant and integrate them. But, if a child has behavioural, attention and/or concentration problems, then he or she should be placed in a segregated environment, at least part of the time.   

I also understand this situation as a parent. As a mother of a special needs child, we had to pull our son out of a regular public school when he was 13 years old in order to send him to a private, segregated, special needs school.  Financially, it was tough. But, I would do it over again in a minute.  He had been in a segregated primary special education class and then integrated for grade 6. By Grade 7, he was unable to cope. His teachers did what they could but he just could not concentrate and his behaviour was disrupting other students.

And, then there was the after-school bullying. Sure, in principle it makes sense that everyone get used to living and working with people with special needs, but unfortunately once a child is off the school grounds, it’s a jungle out there. Every day he would come home crying. Finally, the last straw for us was the day he arrived home covered in blood.

Eventually, after a long fight with the school board (where both my husband and I worked as teachers) and the provincial government, we got funding for him to attend a segregated independent school. As a result, he finished high school and is now a fully functioning adult — albeit receiving some disability benefits.

So, Ontarians, vote for the trustees who are willing to consider that integration is not applicable for every child with special needs, that some segregated classes are necessary. Moreover, vote for trustees that understand there needs to be recognition that public dollars may have to be spent when a child is identified as “hard to serve” (e.g., for specialized treatment like IBI or to send them to a private school or facility that specializes in dealing with their particular special need).

Is the increase in special needs labelling a scam?

While I don’t have individual percentages for the number of special needs children in Canadian schools,  the link that Maria S. (Dodo Can Spell) gave me is a real eye opener.  Check out this “Biased BBC site, for instance, which is referring to a U.K. report from Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education) regarding the claim that one in five U.K. children has a special need.

Now, the key question to ask is whether or not the term “special need” is referring to children at risk, children who are vulnerable for some reason (maybe English is their second language) versus children with a diagnosed disability. If it is the former, then they should NOT be labelled as “special needs” and school boards and school districts should not get extra funding.  

Because, what they are, in fact, are just regular children or teens who simply need more time to learn a skill or content, which they can do with a teacher or tutor after school — or dare I say it, simply by being exposed to good teaching.  
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