Frequently Asked Questions

Click on these links to read FAQs on the following topics:

behaviour
   what to do when asked by school staff to pick your child up early
guidelines for suspension
class trips
Educational Assistants (EAs)
report cards
School Support Program (Kinark)
School Team
support in the classroom


Behaviour

My child's school often asks me to pick him up when the staff are unable to handle his behaviours. How should I respond? Many staff and parents think they are solving the problem by picking the child up from school mid-day or whenever the school requests it. However, you should do your best to resist this response to a challenging situation. By picking your child up from school when his behaviour is difficult for staff to manage, you are setting into place a pattern that will enable the staff to avoid the immediate problem, rather than dealing with the underlying issues behind the problem. When challenging behaviours arise, the first thought by educators should not be to remove the child from the classroom and/or school environment. Instead, a well-informed educator will look at solving the child's problem. Picking your child up from school also sends a message to your son that if he wants to escape a situation that is challenging for him, or a task he doesn't enjoy, all he has to do is behave inappropriately and the school will immediately call you to pick him up. Therefore, giving the school this "easy out" ends up postponing your child's critical learning. In many cases, a lack of staff training results in unreasonable fears and a desire remove the child temporarily. However, offering training, awareness and support to the school staff can be the solution to the situation.

Involve the board Behaviour Team and/or Autism Team. If these resources are not involved, give the principal a written request to invite them in immediately. Most teachers and educational assistants appreciate specific direction from a perceived professional. Receiving written direction and support from board level staff can have a positive impact for a teacher as such direction gives them a plan, and that inspires confidence when faced with challenging behaviours. Involving board level staff who are readily available for further consultation (and monitoring) is often a positive step in helping the teacher "grow into the job." Although the consultant's advice may not be significantly different from a parent's suggestion, it is more readily accepted because of the board endorsement.

Think positive thoughts about the teacher, and assume the best! The vast majority of educators really want to do the right thing, but they may lack the knowledge or training to do so. Arrange a meeting with your child's teacher (including the School Team, if possible) and ask: What resources do you need in order to successfully manage my child in your classroom?

Request that the following resources be arranged:
• autism awareness
• a written behaviour plan that directs behaviour management
• support from board level resources • ongoing support from the administrative staff in the school
• training and coaching
• advocate for the placement of immediate support and joint planning, and once it is in place, ask for ongoing follow-up to review the situation.

Once these resources are in place, a process where the school staff will begin to deal with your son appropriately will begin to take place. (Adapted from Ask Lindsay Moir: When being asked to 'pick him up' from school published November 23, 2007 by Ontario Association of Children's Rehabilitation Services).

Guidelines for Suspension

My child keeps getting suspended from school for behaviours that are beyond his control. What recourse do I have? Under the Safe Schools Act , teachers and principals are given the authority to suspend students, within certain guidelines. However, the Act contains provisions for exceptional students where there are “mitigating circumstances,” including the student’s inability to control his/her behaviour and inability to understand the consequences of his/her behaviour. Under such circumstances, suspension is not mandatory but is left to the discretion of the principal. Unfortunately, a number of principals are either unaware of this or choose not to exercise their discretion in a way that is beneficial to the student.

As a parent, you are your child’s best advocate. Becoming thoroughly familiar with your child’s rights under the Special Education Section of the Education Act will be a tremendous asset. Click here to read more about the Special Education Section of the Education Act.

If you have discussed the issue of repeated suspensions with the principal and Superintendent of the school board, and have not resolved the issue to your satisfaction, you may wish to contact your board’s Autism Ontario – Durham Region Special Education Advisory Committee Representative (SEAC Rep) for guidance. Click here to find contact information for your Board’s SEAC Rep.

Class Trips

Which class trips should I be paying for and which ones should the school be covering? Copied below is the section of Education Act from Part I, S.8 subsection 3 which indicates that special education programs and services are to be provided without payment of fees by parents/guardians: The Minister shall ensure that all exceptional children in Ontario have available to them, in accordance with this Act and the regulations, appropriate special education programs and special education services without payment of fees by parents or guardians resident in Ontario … In other words, parents should not required to pay for trips that are for the purpose of social skills development and/or other educational benefits which are identified as needs and program goals on the IEP. When the class plans an activity or excursion that is an extension of the regular program, the school may request a one time payment from the parent/guardian. If the trip does not provide benefits related to the student's individual program goals, parents should have the option to decide whether or not they want their child to remain at school to continue their educational program that day.

Educational Assistants (EAs)

What are the duties of an Educational Assistant? An Educational Assistant (EA) and a classroom teacher are a team. The EA is assigned to meet the needs of specific students and/or program needs within the school. The teacher is ultimately responsible for the education of all students in the class and the EA serves as a support. The EA's duties will vary depending on the school board, type of school and level of education. They may include:
● assist students with lessons under direct supervision of classroom teacher
● assist students with special needs, such as those with mental or physical disabilities, with mobility, communication and personal hygiene
● assist with marking of tests and worksheets
● assist with classroom inventory
● assist in school library or office and perform other duties assigned by a school principal
● assist the teacher in the completion of daily paperwork utilizing various computer programs
● monitor and report to classroom teacher on student progress
● monitor students during a break or noon hour
● accompany and supervise students during activities in school gymnasium, laboratories, libraries, resource centres and on field trips
● prepare classroom displays and bulletins
● operate or assist teacher in operation of projectors, tape recorders and other audio-visual or electronic equipment
● carry out behaviour modification, personal development and other therapeutic programs under supervision of professionals such as special education instructors, psychologists or speech-language pathologists

Report Cards

How often should my child be receiving a report card? Like all other students, your child should be receiving a report card every reporting period. This is the Ministry of Education directive: ● Non-semester – 3 reports per year ● Secondary – 2 reports per semester.

The goal of the Durham District School Board is to have a consistent approach across schools – measurable performance tasks on the IEP with the report cards reflective of progress on these tasks. As this is a new initiative, please work with your child’s school. You may need to select one or two tasks to focus on initially.

School Support Program (Kinark)

Can I request a Kinark School Support consultation for my child? The Kinark School Support Program - Autism Spectrum Disorders (SSP-ASD) is available to schools in the form of a consultation process. There is a team of consultants supporting the Durham District School Board with additional consultants supporting the Durham Catholic School Board. Any school board staff can request a consultation through their Special Education Facilitator.

The program was developed in partnership with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Children and Youth Services. The goal of the School Support Program is to:
● enhance the knowledge of school board staff with respect to the characteristics of ASD;
● supplement the knowledge and skills of school board staff with respect to principles of Applied Behaviour Analysis, effective behavioural teaching strategies and other evidence-based teaching strategies;
● facilitate linkages between school boards and community supports. The Kinark consultants will collaborate with staff on effective teaching strategies, the identification, development and/or distribution of education materials, transition plans as well as the review of environmental supports and structures.

The referral process is very simple. Feel free to encourage your child’s teacher to request a consultation. Please remember that this is strictly a consultative processs between the consultant and school board staff – the Kinark consultant will not observe or interact with your child.

School Team

What is the role of the School Team? The DDSB has school-based “teams” that suggest teaching strategies to classroom teachers who have students with special needs. School teams play a significant role in helping classroom teachers address difficulties that a student may be experiencing in the classroom. This is especially true for students with ASD since they have a broad range of needs and abilities. Information and resources provided by parents, school board staff, and community professionals will enhance the effectiveness of the program planning process. Depending on the student’s needs, members of the school team might include the following:
● classroom teacher(s)
● principal or vice-principal
● the school's special education resource teacher (SERT)
● the Board's special education facilitator
● guidance teacher-counsellor (secondary level)
● speech and language pathologist
● psychologist and/or psychometrist
● social worker
● parents/guardians and other family members
● representatives from community associations/agencies
● Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care service providers (such as physical and occupational therapists)
● Ministry of Children and Youth service providers (such as regional agencies that provide IBI/ABA).

The active involvement of parents enhances the effectiveness of the School Team. Parents and students have important information to share with members of the School Team and should be invited to meet with the team when necessary and appropriate. The support of parents has positive and pervasive effects on the child’s success in school, and parents should be encouraged to feel that their contribution is a valuable part of the school-team process.

Support in the Classroom

I feel like my child needs more support than the school is providing. What are my options? The EA allocation process starts at the school. Each individual school completes their own assessment of need based on their understanding of their students. Each school is assigned a certain number of educational assistants based on the school’s population and identified needs; however, schools can submit additional requests to the EA Committee at the DDSB. The EA Committee does their best to meet the requests made by schools. If you think your child needs more support, contact your child's school first to discuss your concerns.  Click here for more details on the Durham District School Board's EA Allocation Process.

It's important to keep in mind there are a variety of ways to meet needs:
● a one-on-one educational assistant isn’t always the magic solution – children need a variety of supports at school. Later in life they will have a variety of supports, so it’s a good idea to introduce a variety early on (support should include the teacher, SERT, peer support, volunteers, mentors, interdisciplinary teams, schedules, performance aids, etc.)
● the School Team can be flexible with the available resources in its school so that support requirements can be balanced within the school.
● some students will need more support in September – others may need additional support throughout the school year (curriculum changes, home changes, school changes) – the school can be flexible with fluctuating needs.
● by recognizing that the evaluation of school resources is a dynamic and continual process, parents and School Teams can work together to ensure each student's needs are being met.

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