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School related issues continue to be the number one reason families in Ontario reach out for support from Autism Ontario Chapters and Autism Ontario Family Support Coordinators. Parents often report feeling overwhelmed, intimidated, and helpless when they are left to advocate for their child’s rights in school.

Our Autism Ontario Chapters hear all kinds of school-related questions from parents including how to support transitioning a student on the spectrum into their very first classroom setting, or into the secondary school’s rotation schedule. Parents wonder if they should identify their child through the Individual Placement and Review Committee (IPRC) process, or if writing effective Individual Educational Plans (IEP) is the way to go. Families are often left on their own to navigate issues like soft suspensions and school exclusions. It can leave parents feeling like there is a struggle, barrier and fight at every corner. One parent shared that it wasn't the chronicity of her children’s disabilities that was taxing but the chronicity of the fight.

Autism Ontario, in partnership with Mahony Advocacy and in collaboration with parents, professionals, educators and Autism Ontario SEAC representatives have put together helpful educational resources, supports and services and combined them with Autism Ontario’s Educational Position Statements to help empower parents and guide them in their advocacy process.

Our Educational Position Statements are designed to help parents resolve school issues, obtain needed educational supports or services and help promote a change in the practices, policies and/or behaviours in our educational system in a respectful, positive and effective way.

For support for your school related issues, please contact your local Autism Ontario Chapter, or your regional Family Support Coordinator. They can help to guide you through these resources, direct you to your local school board Special Education policies, procedures and resources, connect you with local advocates and workshops to help fine tune your advocacy skills.

What do you need to know as a parent?

Advocacy is about securing, protecting and advancing the rights of one’s self or others. Students on the autism spectrum have rights. The Ministry of Education has enacted legislation and regulations to support the education of students with special needs. School boards are responsible for implementing programs in compliance with current legislation and regulations.

Our Position

Autism Ontario believes parents and students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (where possible) must be actively engaged throughout the education process as full partners in their education to promote optimal learning across home and school.

This means that parents and students (where possible) play an active role, together with educators in all educational decisions.

Parents may have to strongly advocate to ensure that their child’s rights are met at school. It is the parent’s right and responsibility to see that their child has an appropriate educational program, and it is certainly acceptable for parents to advocate for their child. A parent’s relationship with the school/school board is not a social relationship. It is a business/legal relationship with the goal of getting the most appropriate education for your child.

Autism Ontario Resource: Negotiating the Maze: Strategies for Effective Advocacy in Schools outlines how to advocate effectively and establish positive working relationships with your child’s school. It is filled with tips, templates, and links to important Ministry of Education information.

Ministry of Education Resource: Shared Solutions
A resource currently being used in school boards across Ontario, to help parents, educators, and students with special education needs work together to prevent conflicts, resolve them quickly, and allow students to develop their full potential and succeed in school.

Autism Ontario Webinar: How to do Educational Advocacy Right
Autism Ontario hosts Lynn Ziraldo, Ed Mahony and Pat Kearns, experts in the field of education advocacy who explore various formal and informal methods of building positive relationships with school personnel.

Face-to-face Support: Ed Mahony of Mahony Advocacy offers parent workshops with practical strategies to get you feeling empowered and confident working with your child’s school. To find out where and when the next Positive Advocacy Workshop will be held, please contact your local Autism Ontario Chapter or Autism Ontario Community Event Coordinator.

The Individual Education Plan (IEP)

Education for students with ASD includes not only programming for an academic curriculum, but also programming developed collaboratively that speaks to the individual learner profile; including the communication, social skills and behavioural challenges associated with ASD.

Our Position

Autism Ontario believes that curriculum must be flexible enough to allow for individual education programming for the diverse needs of students with ASD throughout their education and transition process. This process must be assessment based, using tools and/or strategies specific to the learning needs of students with ASD with an emphasis on evidence-based practices. These plans must include appropriate supports and classroom/curriculum adaptations to ensure maintenance of previously acquired skills and continuity of learning.

The IEP outlines the learning expectations that are modified from or are an alternative to the expectations in the curriculum standards guide. The IEP will also outline the any accommodations and special education services needed to assist the student in achieving their learning expectations. The IEPs of students who have no modified or alternative expectations will focus only on accommodations and services.

The IEP is intended to ensure that the student’s needs are linked to appropriate services and to ensure that needed resources/services are being provided. To learn more about the Individual Education Plan, visit the links below.

Autism Ontario Webinar: Individual Education Plans – The Basics and Transition and Safety Plans
Autism Ontario hosts Patricia O’Connor who uses her knowledge as an educator in Special Education to address the necessity, the process, and the role of the parent in the development of the IEP. Pat also discusses transition and safety plans and examples of when, why, and how these documents are implemented in the school setting is reviewed.

Autism Ontario Resource: The Individual Education Plan (IEP)

Examples of well-written IEPs

Do you have a well-written IEP you would like to share to assist other parents? Please email to submit your copies (all personal and identifying information will be removed).

Transitions into school and then from school to community

The transition process is a key component to every student on the spectrum’s educational journey. Below are key resources to help ensure that every student’s plan includes appropriate supports and classroom/curriculum adaptations to ensure maintenance of previously acquired skills and continuity of learning.

Autism Ontario Webinar: Transitioning to Adulthood: Employment Strategies and Life Skills for Teens and Young Adults with ASD
This webinar featured practical strategies geared to adolescents and young adults with high functioning ASD and preparing for summer employment or volunteer work including: how to get started on identifying skills/ interests, resume/interview tips, establishing regular routines, and where to job search.

Autism Ontario Resource: Model for an ASD Centre

Community Resource: Pilot Project: Strengthening Transitions For Students With Autism Spectrum Disorder
York University

Community Resource: Transition Support Centre for Students with ASD
Algonquin College

Community Program: Transition to Life
The intent of this program is to respond to the increasing needs of young adults with ASD who require specific preparation programs and direct support to ensure a successful transition experience to the world of enhanced education, employment and independence.

Autism Ontario Program: PEERS Program
The Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS) is a 14-week evidence-based social skills intervention for motivated teens in the 7th-12th grade who are interested in learning ways to help them make and keep friends.

Should you identify your child through the IPRC process?

Often, our Chapters and staff are asked if students on the spectrum should be identified through the Identification, Placement and Review Committee.

Our Position

Autism Ontario recognizes the Identification, Placement and Review Committee (IPRC) as the current, binding path towards the identification and placement for all students with ASD. We encourage parents, service providers and educators to use this process to develop tools collaboratively.

There are several processes parents and caregivers can access to ensure their children are getting the educational services and supports they need. The IPRC process is the legal, binding process families can access. To learn more about navigating your way through the IPRC process, visit the links below:

Autism Ontario Resource : To Identify or not to identify – Ed Mahony, AM Winter 2013 (pg 17)

Autism Ontario Webinar: Postive Advocacy Strategies: The Identification Placement Review Committee Process
Autism Ontario hosts Ed Mahony who explores the important skills parent advocates need to develop in order to be successful, as well as how to make the Identification, Placement and Review Committee (IPRC) process work for you.

Mahony Advocacy Resource: Your IPRC – Make it REAL!

Our Position

All students with ASD must have access to a range of placement options based on individualized student needs, regardless of geographical location. This must include all ranges from full inclusion to full self-contained in all school boards.

Autism Ontario Resource: The School System FAQ

Where does Autism Ontario stand on Educators, Administrators, and Educational Assistants Training?

Our Position

Autism Ontario supports the ongoing training and coaching of our Ontario school teachers, administrators and assistants. Educators and practitioners play an invaluable role in the realization of the best educational outcomes for each student with ASD.

Autism Ontario advocates and assists in the on–going professional development of all educators, administrators, assistants and parents/guardians on issues of education for students with ASD in Ontario.

Are you stuck, lost or need help with school issues? Please visit here to connect with your local Family Support Coordinator for help with this process.

Our Voice Is Being Heard

Autism Ontario is part of the reference group to provide strategic advice to the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Children and Youth Services on the most effective ways to meet the needs of students with Autism Spectrum Disorders in Ontario.

Autism Ontario continues to listen and advocate on behalf of people and families affected by autism in the Ontario education system and knows that school issues continue to remain one of the most significant areas of challenge to families affected by ASD.

Autism Ontario participated in a consultation process held by the Ministry of Education to help build the “Next Phase in Ontario’s Education Strategy”. Our recommendations were delivered to the Ministry and asked to be given strong consideration. Please read: Autism Ontario’s Response to From Great to Excellent: Building the Next Phase in Ontario’s Education Strategy. (November 2013)

Autism Ontario’s Response to Special Education Transformation: The Report of the Co-Chairs with the Recommendations of the Working Table on Special Education (December 2006)

Find out about the latest education initiatives in Ontario
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