Tag Archive | strategy

Yet another idea not received well..

A’s first day of school and subsequent days were fantastic. A stayed all morning on the first day with no behavioural mentions. And to believe that his principal wanted him to go home at 9am!! He proved them wrong again by doing well the following two days. I will be asking the teacher to write a log so that I can keep abreast of his morning in class. A was able to tell me what he did at school, what he had to eat each day and that he made new friends. He also divulged to me that he is bored in his classroom. What he is saying is not too surprising. His accomplishments are astounding.

He can count to 100, sing the entire alphabet, socialize well with peers his age and older and read many books by himself (the ones with lots of words). He is currently learning more about time, money, adding and subtracting. Daddy is a certified school teacher and thinks that A meets all the requirements for Grade 1. If he went to grade 1, he would be learning beyond socializing and block time. On the first day of school, I discussed this with J.L. but she wasn’t having it. She hasn’t got to know A yet and maybe a teacher to principal chat will get things moving. I feel the dreadful feeling again that any meeting with J.L will be a pain yet the nagging message in the back of my mind to try and get along as much as possible.

Today, I was told A had an excellent day but had difficulty cleaning up. Ms B’s response specifically was, “A had an excellent day but he struggled with clean up after circle time. I just let him stay there instead because I have 20 other kids to look after”. Her tone of voice and defensive response really cast a sour mood during the short conversation. She had two children left whose parents’ had not arrived yet she behaved as if she had a whole class left to dismiss. My response was to share A’s thoughts and to explore the idea of full day Grade 1 with an SNA/EA support. A meets many expectations of Ontario’s Kindergarten Curriculum such as;

  • identify and use social skills in play and other contexts
  • demonstrate an ability to use problem-solving skills in a variety of social contexts
  • demonstrate a beginning understanding of the diversity in individuals, families, schools, and the wider community (empathy)
  • demonstrate a sense of identity and a positive self-image
  • demonstrate independence, self-regulation, and a willingness to take responsibility in learning and other activities
  • demonstrate an awareness of their surroundings (A can tell you almost every store, most subway stations and street names with ease!)
  • demonstrate understanding and critical awareness of a variety of written materials that are read by and with the EL–K team (I like the Clifford book because I really like dogs)
  • communicate in writing, using strategies that are appropriate for beginners (he likes to write e-mails to Grandma – I’m sure that’s beyond appropriate)
  • demonstrate a beginning understanding and critical awareness of media texts

Ms B immediately dismissed this – again I heard its not age appropriate AND, read this, “I have many JK students who can read by themselves”. I’m beyond awe – what did the last school say about us?? Who is this woman?  I ask myself why is no one considering that A possibly has enough potential to try Grade 1. He would require an SNA most likely for transitional periods and the SNA is already available for children in Grade 1 and up according to J.L. So what is the harm? A has plenty of time spent socializing with older children and also again surpassing curriculum expectations for SK and JK alike. How is A hanging out with 3 year olds  for half the day any more beneficial than placing him with children who can model proper social norms (e.g. sitting at a desk) or talk about interests A’s actually interested in? It continues to amaze me how A’s teacher knows so much about the rest the class but hasn’t really commented on anything positive about his day other than he was “excellent”. Any word can become far from music to the ears after a while.

Furthermore, A shared that in today’s class that Ms B yelled too loud at William****** (changed to protect identity) and covered his ears while explaining. He went on to say that he wants to be in Mrs F’s class because she doesn’t yell at her class and he was told “writing is not allowed” and that he must draw dots instead. I believe that while children tell the occasional white lie, A is very much able to articulate his feelings. I asked him about his last teacher, Ms A, and her classroom etiquette. “I like Ms A, she doesn’t yell.. why can’t we go to Q.V? Ms B makes me feel nervous.” The more days A goes to school, the more he shares his feelings of sadness, nervousness and fear. Is all the progress A has made and the hard work we do at home all in vain??

Our first step is to draft a letter formally requesting another IPRC meeting for the ‘review’ component of said acronym. It should not be an issue since I have offered A’s principal copies of IPRC, SST and Safety Plan notes (and she refused). We have contacted our lawyer in the interim and will be also drafting our own letter in a few weeks. P and I felt it was best to naturally give the school a few weeks before sending our first legal letter. In the meantime, hubby and I have some work to do of our own.


Strategies For Parents Seeking Support in the Classroom

Navigating through the public school system can be overwhelming for many parents trying to obtain and develop educational support in the classroom. For parents of early school age children, the journey in getting special needs support immediately is even more difficult. Your child may have just received a diagnosis or have an older child in the public school system and need more information. While there are many wonderful community agencies out there, many are stuck outside of the school doors due to Toronto District School Board policies. TDSB school administration may not be as forthcoming with information as parents would expect.  What can parents of special needs children do this year and in the future to get support in the classroom now? In this post, I will be using Toronto District School Board as an example, based on my personal experience. Other School Boards may have different policies. Here are some strategies that have been successful in our journey to building a support system quickly.


  • Always remember you are your child’s best advocate. There will be no one else who can speak better for your child’s needs than you!
  • Understand the roles of those who work with your child at school. Teachers educate, observe your child in the classroom and can provide useful insight into your child’s strengths, weaknesses and identify goals in the classroom. Principals have the authority to make requests for Special Needs Assistants and teachers. Superintendents can override Principal decisions, suspensions and are your recourse should you not be making head way with the Principal. Trustees are publicly appointed individuals who are the final contact should you be unsuccessful with the teacher, principal or superintendent.
  • View the teacher and principal as part of the team, not the enemy. It’s easy to allow emotion to cloud the big picture and to take negativity personally.  Make friendly with the principal, however, do not be afraid to ask questions or speak up for your child’s needs. Make every attempt to sustain a relationship between your child’s teachers and principal.
  • Identify issues and information required to overcome it. Why does your child need support in the classroom? Is your child identified or gifted? How do you have your child formally identified? Do you want your child to be in a regular classroom with support or in a smaller classroom with other special needs children? These are all things parents should think about and KNOW when advocating for their children.
  • Ask your child’s teacher to write in a log. Sometimes, teachers do not have the time immediately after dismissal to talk about the day. Stay updated during these times by having your child’s teacher, EA or whomever is working closest with your child write about your child’s day.
  • Familiarize yourself with education acronyms, their meanings and purpose. It is crucial to know the different between an IEP (Individual Education Plan) and an IPRC (Identification, Placement and Review Committee), for example. (Click herefor a list)
  • Familiarize yourself with applicable special education and human rights law. When you understand the law, you understand what is required of schools. If you feel your child’s rights are being violated, it may be time to consult a lawyer. (Check hereif you live in Ontario, on a budget and need legal help in educational matters)
  • Educate yourself about the school board’s Special Education program and ask around. TDSB shares very limited information on their Special Education program and the steps needed to get support in the classroom is not so clear. You will learn more by researching on the web, talking with different parents, teachers and more. I learned from a Trustee that SNA’s are appointed to a school based on student numbers in June BUT the Principal can request additional support staff any time.
  • Keep a binder or file folder for documents.  Go to the local dollar store and purchase a binder to keep letters, reports and more ready on hand. If you have enough time, you may even consider colour coding sections for easy access during school meetings.
  • Ensure your child sees his or her family doctor, pediatrician and specialists (if any) regularly; obtain any documentation for your records as you may need them to prove any diagnoses. Your child’s health care provider may also write letters supporting your children in receiving special equipment such as computers, learning tools from the Special Equipment Amount.
  • Document every conversation. As in our experience, it may prove useful to do so in your own. If necessary, quote dates, times and names of individuals you spoke with in your letters.
  • Make every request in writing. Want input into your child’s Individual Education Plan? Has your child’s school given you a date for a meeting? Not seeing results?  Sometimes schools do not honour promises that are made through a phone or in-person conversation. Therefore, it is in your child’s best interest to push the school a bit more and hold them accountable.
  • When writing letters, do not blame or belittle staff. Again, parents on this journey will often experience unacceptable discrimination or face situations that bother them immensely. Whether wrong or right, write about your concerns and feelings but avoid name-calling. Those who conduct themselves in such a manner will find their child is the one who loses out the most!
  • CC (Carbon Copy) every request letter to the area superintendent, your child’s doctor, specialists, special education department and if necessary, the media. The more people informed, the more likely there will be increased accountability. This strategy can push schools to meet deadlines and get what you want done.
  • Learn the types of meetings there are and other opportunities to speak for your child. There are opportunities available during School Support Teams (SST) meetings, one on one meetings, Parent / Teacher interviews, etc,. Always request a meeting, in writing, if possible.
  • Be involved. Parents are permitted to provide input for the SST, IEP, Safety Plan and IPRC. You may use your position as the parent to submit letters from professionals providing recommendations, techniques and overall support. If you cannot make the meeting, ensure someone suitable and well knowledgeable of your family is there or reschedule.
  • Bring a photo of your child to school meetings. This is an amazing strategy to remind everyone (including you) who they are at the meeting to discuss. Often, members of the School Support Team meet with a lot of parents and do not have an opportunity to put a name to a face. I find this tip to be extremely helpful at keeping parents calm and encourages positive opportunities to share with others a memorable story about your child.
  • Your child’s school has phoned you at work and asked you to pick up your child because they are unable to manage behaviour. What do you do? When you give into the school’s demands, you allow TDSB staff to create a negative environment for your child and an angry you. By enabling this behaviour, TDSB staff will call left, right and center and your child will lose critical learning time. The solution requires deep thinking on the staff’s part to find ways to managing the issue(s) at hand – stay put at work. TDSB phoned our family every day for three weeks straight – I did not give in once.
  • Provide the school techniques that work for you at home. While schools may or may not implement them, at least they remain knowledgeable and do have a new avenue to try should old Board techniques become ineffective (which often they do).
  • Consider involving a Social Worker, Behavioural Therapist, or more from a local community agency. A Behavioural Therapist may write a list of techniques that the school can use in its capacity and or may recommend that a special needs assistant be brought in to carry them out. TDSB and other school boards may try to discourage you from doing this, however, both Board hired specialists and those employed elsewhere have the same qualifications. Your child’s specialists may be readily available whereas Board ones have a lengthy wait list.(Remember: Schools do not have to allow third party agencies into the school unless the Board already has a connection with their agency which is why letter writing is recommended)
  • Learn to negotiate and pick your battles wisely. Very rarely will your child receive one Special Needs Assistant for their entire day or even everyday. While the infamous line, “1 SNA for every 600 students” is far from the truth, your child will have to share their support assistant with other students. The support you receive may not be in the form of a Special Needs Teacher or Assistant but rather a co-op placement or volunteer. The school and board are obligated to provide an individual who is experienced and educated in the area of your child’s specific needs.