Currently, there are no AODA education standards. However, two AODA standards development committees have drafted recommendations of guidelines that AODA education standards should include. One committee has recommended guidelines for the kindergarten to grade twelve (K-12) education system. In this article, we outline recommended guidelines for creating and implementing individual education plans (IEPs).
Creating and Implementing Individual Education Plans (IEPs)
An individual education plan (IEP) is a document outlining accommodations that a student uses in school. For example, some accommodations include:
- Communication supports, such as:
- Sign Language interpretation
- Plain language
- Accessible formats, such as:
- Large print
- Communication devices, such as:
- Assistive listening systems
- Communication boards
- Devices that speak what users type
- Assistive technology (hardware or software)
- Modified or alternative curriculum expectations
Many people work together to create a student’s IEP, including:
- The principal
- Classroom teachers
- Special education teachers
- The student, if they are sixteen (16) or older
Staff working with a student who has an IEP should know how the plan affects their work with the student. For example, if a student joins a school club, staff advisors should understand how to make club activities accessible for this student. However, a student’s IEP should otherwise be confidential.
The Committee recommends that the Ministry of Education should give students with a variety of disabilities the chance to have IEPs. Any student with a disability as defined by the AODA should benefit from an IEP. Likewise, the Ministry should expand the types of accommodations students can receive.
When the Ministry changes these IEP standards, it should notify the public. The Ministry should also verify that all school boards are following the new standards. For instance, the Ministry should audit IEPs, to confirm that school boards are planning to accommodate many students in various school activities. Similarly, school boards should audit their own IEPs at least once a year, and report the results of this audit to the public. This process will ensure consistent IEPs among school boards. For example, a student who moves to a new school board should continue to receive the same accommodations.
Student and Parent Involvement in Individual Education Plans
In addition, school boards should inform the families of all students that IEPs are available for students needing them. Similarly, parents of students with disabilities should be informed of their children’s rights to integration and full participation in all school programs. Moreover, school boards should hold events, and have staff available, to help parents understand the board’s processes affecting students with disabilities. Staff can also help students and parents advocate for services they or their children need.
Furthermore, school boards should also inform parents and students about possible types of accommodations, programs, placements, or services that the student could benefit from. For instance, parents may choose to visit and observe different programs or placements. If parents are aware of every program, placement, or service that could help their child, they can be fully involved in choosing the accommodations that will be best for their child. As a result, information about possible accommodations should be available in:
- Many languages
- Plain language
- Accessible formats
School boards should inform families whom to contact for more information, or to raise concerns about how school staff are following their child’s IEP. To ensure that this needed information reaches all parents, school boards should have action plans outlining when and how parents will receive the information.
Individual Education Plan Meetings
Parents, or students sixteen (16) or older, should be involved in meetings to create and review IEPs. In addition, professionals who can support the parents, students, or school board should also attend. For example, a student’s occupational or physiotherapist can discuss the student’s progress, and supports needed in school to achieve goals. Attendees should be able to access the meeting in many ways, such as in-person or by phone.
Resolving Disputes about Individual Education Plans
Students or parents may disagree with school staff about what students’ IEPs should include. For example, parents might feel that the school board’s suggested program would not be appropriate for their child. Alternatively, parents and staff might disagree about how to implement an IEP. Therefore, the Ministry should create a fair, timely, accessible, independent, and respectful process to resolve these disputes. This process should include how to:
- Appeal a decision about a student’s placement or their IEP implementation
- Make changes to an IEP
- Confirm that a school board is correctly implementing an IEP
- Resolve a dispute through an arm’s-length mediator, if needed
Students should continue to receive their accommodations throughout the dispute resolution process.