The following overview of information and services for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder was provided by the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District.
The NL English School District follows an inclusive education philosophy. The vision of inclusive education is to enhance the development of value, respect and support for the learning and development of all students, as well as the relationships among all members of the school community.
The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development defines inclusive education as a philosophy that promotes:
- the right of all students to attend school with their peers, and to receive appropriate and quality programming;
- a range of supports and services in the most appropriate setting (large group, small group, individualized)
- a welcoming school culture where all members of the school community feel they belong, achieve their potential, and contribute to the life of the school;
- an atmosphere which respects and values the participation of all members of the school community;
- a school community which celebrates diversity; and
- a safe and caring school environment.
Inclusive education does not refer to a specific classroom or placement setting within each school. That is a decision of a program planning team and the Administrator. Placement decisions, made by the program planning team, are based on the programming needs of your child. For some learning outcomes a students optimal learning environment may be in the regular classroom, for others the student may require an alternate setting. Decisions related to the placement of a student are best made on an individual basis. When considering placement decisions, the program planning team will determine the most inclusive, least restrictive environment which will allow meaningful and purposeful learning to occur, while respecting your child’s dignity
These tenets apply to all members of the school community regardless of economic status, gender, sexual orientation, racial or religious background, academic ability or other facet of diversity.
Please refer to Inclusive Education Pamphlet for further information.
What are Exceptionalities?
The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development uses the term exceptionality to identify patterns of strengths and needs common to groups of students. These strengths and needs may be: cognitive, emotional, behavioural, medical, social, and physical. Students diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder will meet the exceptionality Neurodevelopmental and Related Disorders (please refer to Exceptionalities for further information). A student with an exceptionality may require student support services to meet their learning potential. A student with an exceptionality may access a range of school based services depending on his or her strengths and needs. These services are provided through the Service Delivery Team at your school.
Please refer to Important Information if Your Child has an Exceptionality, and Handbook for Parents of Children with Exceptionalities for further information.
A letter of diagnosis and, in most cases, a comprehensive (educational) assessment are required to inform program planning team decisions. These decisions may include the implementation of accommodations, modified prescribed programming, and/or an alternate program, course or curriculum.
In the case where an exceptionality is identified by a medical professional, the programming needs of the student will be determined by the program planning team after the comprehensive assessment has been completed. (Consultation with medical specialists is important in determining the students strengths and needs; however specialists outside of the program planning team do not determine a students educational plan.) Comprehensive assessments which do not require the use of psycho-educational tools can be processed more quickly, enabling the program planning team to make programming decisions in a timely manner. A comprehensive assessment report summarizing the process and the findings of the assessment will always be completed to inform programming decisions.
Please refer to Comprehensive Assessment Information for further information.
What Types of Programming Options Exist?
In an inclusive school, a continuum of supports and services is offered in the most appropriate setting (large group, small group, individualized). With this in mind, the program planning team will determine appropriate programming and required services to meet your child’s individual needs. A students individual program may include one or more of these programming options:
Adaptations to the learning environment which address particular student strengths and needs. These may include physical arrangements, assistive technology, particular instructional strategies and others. Such accommodations are available for students with exceptionalities in all areas of study whether prescribed, modified prescribed, or alternate.
Modified Prescribed Course
A course that maintains the intent of the provincially prescribed curriculum. However, specific course outcomes are changed, deleted, added or extended.
A program which is shorter in frequency and/or duration than an alternate course. An alternate program can be prerequisite (foundational skill outcomes required for current grade level curriculum) or non-curricular (outcomes that support skill-based programming).
A course that replaces a prescribed subject area or high school level course. An alternate course can be curricular (curriculum significantly different from the student’s current grade level) or non-curricular (outcomes that support student skill development).
Alternate (Functional) Curriculum
Consists of programming in the following four domains: career development, personal development, independent living and functional academics. Students who require a functional curriculum are identified as having moderate, severe or profound impairments in cognition and severe deficits in adaptive functioning as evaluated through the comprehensive assessment process.
Please refer to Handbook for Parents of Children with Exceptionalities
What Staff/ Personnel in the School Will I Meet?
One or more of the following personnel may provide service to support a studentzs program:
Classroom/subject teachers provide provincially prescribed curriculum instruction to grade level students. Classroom/subject teachers also provide accommodations for students who may or may not have a defined exceptionality.
Instructional Resource Teacher (IRT)
Instructional Resource Teachers work with students who have defined exceptionalities. IRTs provide support to students through program modifications, alternate programs, alternate courses, and/or alternate functional curriculum.
The role of a School Guidance Counselor is to work with students and parents to help guide students’ academic, behavioral and social growth. The School Counselor engages in the planning and managing of tasks to support the learning and development of students. He or she understands the diversity of human growth, development, behaviour and learning, and promotes the holistic development of the student. The School Counselor understands and administers assessments throughout the assessment process and provides reports based on completed assessments. He or she establishes and facilitates individual and group counseling and develops programs and interventions to promote the career development of all students. The School Counselor is also involved in the development and implementation of a response plan for possible crisis situations.
Student assistants are provided to school districts to support teachers in meeting severe physical, personal care and behaviour management needs of students. Schools submit applications to district offices for a group of students who may qualify for this support in addition to the instructional support from their teacher. Districts assign student assistant hours to schools based on the number of students approved and the severity of the needs. Schools assign these hours to students as required.
Educational Psychologists administer psychological and educational tests and other assessment procedures, interpret test and assessment results, and write comprehensive assessment reports or other reports describing the findings of their involvement. Educational Psychologists also obtain, integrate, and interpret information about a student’s behaviour and conditions relating to learning. This role also involves consulting with program planning teams to discuss students programming needs, in light of psychological tests, interviews, and behavioral evaluations. Educational Psychologists also consult regarding child development, parent training, and educational programs.
Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP)
Speech-Language Pathologists assess, consult, provide programming, and liaise with teachers and other program planning team members concerning students who present with communication difficulties. A student with a speech-language exceptionality may present with disorders affecting speech, oral language, dysfluency, and/or voice production. Students diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders have compromised communication systems that may affect oral language, speech production, social language, social referencing, and/or self regulation. SLPs provide programming targeting verbal communication, social communication, and/or alternative/augmentative communication systems.
Program Itinerant – Autism Spectrum Disorders
The Program Itinerant for ASD is part of a provincial network designed to enhance expertise and quality programming for students with ASD. The Program Itinerant for ASD will work closely with other district personnel to arrange and/or deliver district inservices in the area of ASD. Itinerants act as a liaison for students entering Kindergarten, as needed. They collaborate with other educators to promote effective programming in inclusive classrooms, problem solve with school teams around challenging issues relating to students with ASD and, on a priority basis, provide programming input to the school team upon request. The role of the Itinerant is also to support teachers new to students with ASD and to establish/organize ASD Learning Circles for teachers. Itinerants liaise with the ASD Consultant at the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. Itinerants are not members of the IEP/ISSP team.
Itinerant services for Students who are Blind or Visually Impaired are provided to students with a diagnosed visual impairment, meeting the criteria set out by the department of education. Children must have a best corrected visual acuity of 20/70 or a visual field of 20 degrees or less. The services provided by the itinerant teacher can be either direct or consultative, depending on the child’s individual needs. The Itinerant provides specialized instruction and services to meet the unique needs of children who have a visual impairment.
Service Delivery Team
This school team meets at least every two weeks to review and direct special education services in the school.
Program Planning Team
A program planning team may be initiated for a student with one or more exceptionalities. Parent/guardian involvement is a critical component of the program planning process. As such, parents/guardians are part of the program planning team along with classroom/subject teachers. If the student is developmentally and emotionally ready, he or she should also be invited to participate as a team member.
Other members may include:
- School Guidance Counselor
- Educational Psychologist/Itinerant Assessor/Educational Assessment Specialist
- Speech-Language Pathologist
- Instructional Resource Teacher
- other education professionals (such as Itinerants for Vision or Hearing Loss, etc.) as required
Individual Education Plan (IEP)
A document that records and tracks the educational supports and services provided to a student. An IEP is required for students with identified exceptionalities who are receiving modified prescribed courses and/or alternate programs, courses and curriculum.
Individual Service Support Plan (ISSP)
A document that records and tracks the supports and services provided to a student by team members including those from agencies outside the school system (ie: Eastern Health, Child Youth and Family Services, private therapists, etc). The IEP is included in the ISSP.
Behaviour Management Plan (BMP)
A written plan designed for students requiring tertiary intervention. It is developed based on data collected as part of a Functional Behavioural Assessment (FBA). Please refer to Behaviour Management Plan for more information.
KinderStart is a school transition program offered in the year prior to Kindergarten entry. The program consists of five to ten one-hour orientation sessions organized and promoted at the school level for children and their parents/caregivers. The sessions support children’s adjustment to the school environment, and provide parents/caregivers with information on how to support their children’s learning at home. During the first KinderStart session, children and their parents/caregivers are provided with a bag of learning resources and suggestions for home activities. Registration for KinderStart is automatic when parents/caregivers register their child for Kindergarten at their designated school. Registration takes place in the calendar year a child becomes four years of age. Parents/caregivers should watch their local newspapers and school newsletters for more details regarding Kindergarten registration in their area. Parents who have questions regarding KinderStart registration should contact their school district. School principals notify parents/caregivers of the times of all KinderStart sessions in the fall of the given school year. A parent/caregiver session is held to provide a program overview and help parents prepare for their child’s first school year.
The transition process is an ongoing process of preparing for and adapting to change. It may involve changes to relationships, roles, expectations, environments and/or routines. Transition planning helps:
- ensure required supports and programming are in place in the new environment
- students develop and realize both short-term and long-term goals
- students to engage in action oriented planning
- students prepare for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
Please refer to the pamphlet, Transition Process for further information.
Other Available Supports
While student independence is always encouraged, alternate transportation will be available to students who for medical/exceptional reasons are unable to use regular school transportation, or who reside within 1.6 km from the school and have a medical/exceptional reason preventing them from walking to school, and to Kindergarten to Grade 6 students who reside within 1.6 km of school whose parent/guardian cannot accompany their child to school due to a physical disability. This transportation mode is determined by the district and may include taxi, wheelchair equipped bus, and in some areas of the province, a regular school bus with student assistant support.
Assistive technology includes any equipment that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of a student with an exceptionality. Such technology promotes greater independence. Examples of assistive technology would include switches, communication devices, touch screens, and word prediction software. The Speech-Language Pathologist assigned to the school is involved in recommending assistive technology for students with Autism.
Alternate Format Materials
Many students with disabilities encounter barriers with traditional print materials. Students with certain disabilities (known as perceptual disabilities) may not be able to use textbooks, class handouts, and other materials in their original format and instead the materials need to be provided in an alternate format. Some examples of alternate format materials (AFM) include Braille, audio books, and digital versions of books that can be read by text to voice software. A student with Autism may or may not also present with an identified perceptual disability.
Please see NL Department of Education and Early Childhood Development website (Student Support Services) for further information.