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 professional development for educators of students with disabilities.
Professional Development for Educators of Students with Disabilities
Since many students with disabilities attend school with their non-disabled peers, classroom teachers are educators of students with disabilities. Moreover, teachers who support these students to access lessons and school activities are also educators of students with disabilities. Therefore, the AODA mandates accessibility training for educators, to prepare them to teach in accessible ways. However, this training may leave educators unprepared for many situations. As a result, the Committee recommends more accessibility training for educators. For example, educators should have training, either at teacher’s college or through professional development, about:
In addition, the Committee recommends training on language to use when speaking to or about people with disabilities. Teachers who learn accurate details about the disabilities their students may have should gain a clearer understanding of those students’ capabilities. Similarly, educators should receive training on how to gather data about the accessibility of their students’ learning experiences.
Furthermore, the Ministry of Education, school boards, and community organizations should create shared resources for professional development of educators who teach students with disabilities. These resources should help educators learn to work closely with other people involved in supporting their students, including:
- Parents or guardians
- Occupational therapists
- Medical professionals
Educators who work well with other members of students’ support networks will be better able to meet students’ needs in consistent ways. For example, educators should learn how to communicate with parents when creating and implementing individual education plans (IEPs).
Finally, educators should also receive training to improve the accessibility of experiential learning, such as job placements. Likewise, teachers and other staff should know how to help students learn and practice the skills they will need for success in employment.
Training for Educators who Specialize in Teaching Students with Disabilities
The Committee also recommends additional training for educators who specialize in teaching students with disabilities. For instance, teachers of the blind or visually impaired should gain additional qualifications, to teach students with varying needs and degrees of vision. While some students may read large print, others should learn to read Braille. Therefore, teachers should be fully prepared to teach any of these students to read, and to make learning resources accessible for them. In other locations, these teachers must have master’s degrees. Therefore, the Committee recommends that some Ontario teacher’s colleges should offer similar programs, in both English and French.
Teacher’s colleges should also offer more courses that focus on teaching students with disabilities. As a result, classroom teachers would have the knowledge they need to teach in ways that more students can access.