My child has learning difficulties. Does the school have to help?

Ontario schools must provide appropriate programs and services for students who have “exceptionalities”. Exceptionalities are conditions that may affect a student's ability to learn.

There are 4 types of exceptionalities:

  1. behaviour: this includes things like attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, anxiety, or oppositional defiant disorder
  2. communication: this includes things like autism, or trouble hearing or speaking
  3. intellect: this includes things like moderate intellectual delays (MIDs), severe developmental delays (DDs), and giftedness
  4. physical: this includes things like trouble seeing or moving around

Exceptional students can get special programs or services in

  • a regular classroom
  • a separate classroom
  • another school or program

Identifying an exceptionality

Your child's exceptionality can be identified informally by a teacher or school official, or formally by an Identification, Placement, and Review Committee (IPRC). It is usually easier to access resources and special help if your child has a formal identification from an IPRC. See Steps 1 and 2 for more information.

After identifying an exceptionality

If your child has an exceptionality, the school will create an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for them. The IEP has details like:

  • the type of exceptionality and a description of how it affects your child
  • the type of class or program your child should be placed in
  • how the school can accommodate your child

You are allowed to get a copy of your child's IEP. If you are a student who is 16 years or older, you can also get your own copy of the IEP.

Get help

The school does not have to provide the best supports or services for your child. But they must provide appropriate and reasonable supports and services. What is appropriate depends on the student, and it may be affected by the school's resources.

Supports and services for most students with exceptionalities are paid for by the school board's general special education funds. The school does not get any extra funding to help your child.

But for students with very high needs, the school board may be able to get additional funds from the Ministry of Education or other sources.

A number of organizations can help you get the supports and services your child needs at school:

Autism Ontario

Canadian Hearing Society

Easter Seals Ontario

Inclusive Education Canada

Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario

Ontario Association for Families of Children with Communication Disorders

Ontario Association for the Deaf

Ontario Association of Parents in Catholic Education

Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy

Parents for Children’s Mental Health

Parent Education Network

Parents Helping Parents

People for Education

Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Association of Ontario

Tourette Canada

VOICE for Hearing Impaired Children

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