Within the world of education, I have come across a variety of students filled with a special gift. Some were young, eager new learners, entering into their classroom like a sponge waiting to receive all the information they could possibly retrieve. Others were new language learners, entering into their “Canadian” classrooms filled with the unknown of what to expect, how will I make new friends, and will I learn how to speak? Finally, through several years, and various professional surroundings, I have received the wonderful opportunity to work with children with Autism. Normally, when learning about this pervasive developmental disorder, you would come across the classic textbook definition of Autism as deficits across three developmental domains (communication, social and behavioural). I, on the other hand, view Autism as a special gift.

Yes, it may be true that these individuals struggle to learn and modify their own behaviours across these three domains, but I consider myself as an educator who has an obligation to support these individuals to reach their goals and to accomplish success. However, the process of doing so is not always as easy, and does require a lot of effort and patience.

A Brief Explanation Of The Individual Education Plan (IEP)

Individuals who receive special education must have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). For those wondering what an IEP is, my definition is this: a legal document used across various school boards in the province of Ontario that lists the student’s learning needs, strengths, weaknesses, individualized learning goals, other professionals/school support teams who will assist the student through their leaning process, and how their progress will be measured.

Success is the blueprint for this legal document, and it is important for parents to become involved throughout their child’s educational plan and progress. Prior to establishing and implementing an IEP, it is crucial that the school must provide the following information:

  • The student’s current grade level.
  • Their present level of grade performance and or current working grade level.
  • A list of their current educational goals/targets, and are they realistic and measureable.
  • Who the various support professionals are and what kind of services they will provide for the student.
  • Various accommodations and modifications that will be implemented to help the child succeed.
  • An assortment of measurements and assessments that will be used to record the student’s academic progress.
  • How often the IEP will be reviewed.
  • A suitable transition plan that will support students either into high school and or life after graduation.

Parents’ Involvement in the IEP Process

What I always reminded myself as a professional is that it is crucial to have a strong relationship not only with my students, but also with their parents. I believe that parents are key contributors to their child’s unique learning needs and their academic progress. After all…they know their children the best: what makes them tick, what their strengths and weaknesses are and most importantly how much they love them. This is why I believe parents have every right to be involved with the development of an IEP, and if they do not feel comfortable with any proposed plans, they also have the right to decline and or share their voice when advocating for what is best for their child.

Understanding Your Child’s True Academic Level

At the Lighthouse, we offer the Academic Profile Series. These are academic assessments that determine exactly what grade level a child is working at in Reading (we provide the guiding reading level), writing and math. This series was designed to assist parents with the IEP process and to ensure that children are being challenged enough to allow for academic success. Visit our website for more information.

Written by: Melissa Di Giacomo, Education Coordinator and Partner at the Lighthouse Learning and Development Centre.