Individual Program Planning/Returning to School
6.1 Case Study
6.2 Myths and Misconceptions
6.3 Aspects of Successful Integration Back to School
6.4 What is an Individual Educational Plan (IEP) and Why is it
6.5 How is an IEP written?
6.7 Identification and Placement of Exceptional Students
6.1 - Case Study
Once again the teacher turned her head to hear the sound of singing.
Casting a quick glance at the art table, Ms. Campbell allowed
a fleeting grin to cross her face. Shifting her expression quickly,
to escape the notice of the second graders, she masked her amusement
with a sterner look of “let’s get to work.”
“Joan, could you please work more quietly so as not to disturb
the other students,” Ms. Campbell said kindly. With her usual
smile Joan nodded her head and continued with her painting.
After the accident, Ms. Campbell would remember this moment over
and over again. Joan would always sing, chatter with her friends,
and meet her tasks with enthusiasm. Always a popular child, Joan
was one of those children who brought sunshine to those around
her, making what could sometimes be a dreary day brighter.
It was on one of those dreary days, with rain pouring down in
sheets, that Joan slipped on some wet pavement and bumped her
head. At first, Joan’s parents and teachers were not concerned.
For the first few days she had seemed a little more sleepy than
usual and allowances were made by allowing her to sleep late at
home and come in after morning recess.
What was hoped to be a temporary condition persisted. Joan’s
teacher noticed that even beginning her day at 10:15, Joan seemed
tired and grumpy. After a month, with report cards looming, Joan’s
teacher confirmed what she had suspected—there had been a sharp
decline in Joan’s work.
Concerned, Ms. Campbell referred Joan to the inschool team. Over
the remainder of the year, Joan underwent a number of assessments
including teacher observation and more standardized types of measures.
What resulted was a consensus by those involved that Joan’s program
would have to be individualized to meet her particular needs.
6.2 - Myths and Misconceptions
|All acquired brain injuries result in
an absence from school.
|Brain injuries can occur
from minor falls or other accidents that do not result in
a loss of consciousness or even a trip to the emergency room.
|Acquired brain injuries are obvious when
they occur and always well documented.
|Some parents, as well as
professionals will be unaware that a brain injury has occurred.
|All brain injuries are the same and all
students with brain injuries will behave and learn the same
|Students are different and
as such their behaviour and learning as a result of a brain
injury is unique.
6.3 - Aspects of Successful
Integration Back to School
Students who have sustained an ABI will require additional support
upon returning to school. Depending on a variety of factors such
as the severity of the injury and the length of absence from school,
the preparation and response on the part of educators can facilitate
a smooth and successful transition back into a school environment.
Perspectives on our school system and returning to school
Prior to reintegration
- Compile information about the student
Establish a plan for the exchange of information
- Samples of work
- Review school records
- Discussions with parent, medical staff, previous teachers
Learn about the nature of the student’s injury and the implications
for learning and socialization
- Identify potential trouble spots
Access necessary resources (materials and personnel)
Make arrangements for anticipated assessments
Assess suitable placement options (consider classroom layout
and location, educator and peers)
Develop an IEP. (For detailed information on IEP, see Section
(Adapted from Roberta DePompei, Youth with
TBI: Cognitive and behavioral issues for reintegration to school
Considerations for Re-entry to School Settings
Implication for school
awareness of injury and whether or not the school would
ABI may not
even be identified and school may not receive notice of
most likely be notified and aware of the injury
would be notified and aware of injury
Not a significant
absence from school, if there is an absence at all
to a few weeks, student should theoretically be able to
catch up on missed work
to a few months or more, making the amount of worked missed
difficult to get caught up on
between hospital and school
no communication would likely occur
May be some
liaison with the hospital while the child is recovering,
generally handled through the parent(s)
with the hospital during the child's recovery and after
discharge generally through case managers and special ed.
and training for school staff in ABI
focus on intervention techniques for cognitive issues (memory,
initiation, judgement, motivation, etc.)
to be on cognitive issues as well as how to aid the student
in socialization and integration issues.
May include information on how to overcome
physical barriers in the environment
will need information on cognitive issues pertaining to
varying modalities for learning along with the physical
and socialization needs of the student
If ABI is
undiagnosed, changes in academic work may be subtle and
noticed by teachers
May be based
on performance and would consist of a more formal assessment
performed by a psychologist
neuropsychological assessment may be performed, assessment
of student's physical needs within the school may be necessary
on staying as close to the curriculum as possible with additional
support and monitoring
As much as
possible, curriculum should be followed, allowing modifications
to time schedule, and additional support from external sources
(e.g., physical therapist, speech and language therapist,
Program should be modified so that the focus is on the
child's strengths and capabilities
Major shift in curriculum
Academic, social, physical, and cognitive goals will
need to be generated
Ministry of Education for the province of Ontario defines
Education Plan as a:
describing special education program and/ or services required
by a particular student”
(Individual Education Plans Ministry Document 2000).
IEP is a vehicle for programming and monitoring school progress
for those students who require a differentiated program than
that which is being offered in the regular curriculum.
6.4 - What is an Individual
Educational Plan (IEP) and Why is it Important?
An IEP is:
- A summary of the student’s strengths, interests, and needs,
and of expectations for a student’s learning during a school
year that differ from the expectations defined in the appropriate
grade level of the Ontario curriculum.
- A written plan of action prepared for a student who requires
modifications of the regular school program or accommodations;
- A tool to help educators monitor and communicate the student’s
- A plan developed, implemented, and monitored by school staff;
- A flexible working document that can be adjusted as necessary;
- An accountability tool for the student, his or her parents,
and everyone who has responsibilities under the plan for helping
the student meet his or her goals and expectations;
- An ongoing record that ensures continuity of programming;
- A document to be used in conjunction with the provincial
Individual Education Plan (IEP) resource
guide 1998 Government of Ontario
For all students who have been through the IPRC process it is
a requirement that an individual
education plan be completed for the student and that parents
receive a copy. For those students who have not had an IPRC, individual
education plans may still be developed if the school feels that
the child requires special education programming or services.
Within ministry documents, it is strongly encouraged that parents
be part of the process for the development of the IEP and that
the educational plan which has been developed be reviewed on a
regular basis. (For detailed information on the IPRC process,
see Section 6.7)
When is an IEP necessary?
In Accordance with Ministry requirements:
An IEP is a working document available to educators, educational
assistants, and other resource personnel within a school who share
a common goal and work together to provide students with the environment
and opportunity to succeed. While an IEP does not define in minute
detail every aspect of a student’s day, it is a flexible document
that reflects the changing needs of the student through continuous
The Ministry of Education (MET) for the
province of Ontario states that the following information
should be included in the IEP:
- Student's strengths and needs as recorded on the statement
of decision received from the IPRC
- Relevant medical/health information
- Student's current level of educational achievement
in each program area
- Goals and specific expectations for the student
- Program modifications (changes to the grade level expectations
in the Ontario curriculum)
- Accommodations required (supports that will help students
access the curriculum and demonstate learning)
- Special education and related services provided to
- Assessment strategies for reviewing the student's achievements
- Regular updates, showing dates, results, and recommendations
- Transition plan (if required)
is important to note that a majority of educators and even special
education personnel may be unfamiliar with ABI. It is essential
that someone on the team take the lead in accessing and sharing
information that will allow for programming to be effective.
How is an IEP for a student
with ABI different?
Each IEP by its very nature will be different. In the case of
ABI there are a number of factors that need to be considered in
the development of an effective IEP. The team developing the IEP
needs to be aware of the following:
Academic history – Prior learning and academic
knowledge, while most likely intact, will not be indicative of
new learning or the student’s ability to acquire new knowledge.
New assessment information – In the case of
ABI in particular, standardized and informal testing may be misleading.
These types of testing tap previous knowledge and may fail to
access the student’s ability in dynamic, authentic situations
where learning may be severely compromised. Students with ABI
may perform well on tests that tap into one skill area but be
unable to demonstrate that skill in a classroom setting with additional
demands and distractions, etc.
Other medical concerns – Depending on the severity
of the injury, loss of school time, pain management, medication
effects, fatigue, and mobility issues may need to be considered
in terms of programming.
Physical recovery versus cognitive recovery
– Immediate physical concerns and considerations, which will have
been the focus of recovery, may mask the more subtle cognitive
concerns. A student who recovers from the physical impact of ABI
(e.g., A broken leg has healed) may continue to have cognitive
difficulties, which need to be addressed though an IEP.
The need for frequent review – Given the variability
of ABI and taking into account, recovery period, which can last
for up to 2 years, more frequent reviews of a student’s IEP may
Need to access community agencies – The team
that develops an IEP for a student with ABI may include professionals
such as neuropsychologists who are not normally part of this process.
Accessing and utilizing these professionals is essential in the
development of an effective plan.
Family, peer, and student adjustment – Following
an ABI there will need to be frequent communication and support
provided to all persons involved. ABI can result in a sudden redefinition
of a student’s place in his/her family structure, peer group,
and his/her identity as a student.
6.5 - How is an IEP Written?
The following set of steps, as outlined by the Ministry of Education
and Training, describes the process of developing an IEP.
A variety of sources are to be used in the gathering of information
for the development of an individual
education plan. Those sources of data include but are not
- A review of the student’s OSR (Ontario Student Record) which
might include information such as previous report cards and
reports by teachers and other professional staff, medical information,
previous IEP’s, and school history.
- Information from people who have different
insights and perspectives on the student such as the classroom
educator, parents, principals, special education teachers, previous
educators, other professionals, and the student (where appropriate).
- Assessment information gathered from a variety of sources
and using a variety of techniques including, observation, anecdotal
records, checklists, interviews of students and others, samples
of the student’s work portfolios, test papers, journal entries,
assignments and artwork, direct individual observation, diagnostic
tests, standardized tests, and additional consultation.
The special case of ABI – information
- Records of pre-injury data from previous educator can
- Standardized Assessment information may be invalid
due to the lack of an ABI normative group.
- Measures of performance may lead to false optimism
about future learning.
- Need for observation across a variety of contexts.
Standardized tests may not be appropriate.
- Physical injuries may mask cognitive difficulties.
- Needs influenced by recovery.
- Some cognitive difficulties may not be apparent until
the student reaches another stage of cognitive development
that requires them to utilize the part of the brain that
Setting the direction:
Ministry of Education guidelines state clearly that the in-school
team is the recommended vehicle for the development of an IEP.
“The IEP should be developed collaboratively by those who know
the student best and those who will be working directly with
Resource Guide for IEP 1998, pg. 13
While the membership of the in-school team may vary depending
on the needs of the student generally, educators, administrators,
health professionals, paraprofessionals in the school, parents,
and where appropriate, the student themselves, may all play a
role on the team.
The Ministry of Education requires that all collaboration that
took place in the development of the IEP by the school and/or
board staff be recorded. While the responsibility for the development
and dissemination of the plan rests clearly with the principal,
the principal may delegate this responsibility to the vice-principal
in elementary schools and the vice-principal or other staff member
in secondary schools. It is the Ministry’s expectation that a
team approach be taken in the development of the IEP and collectively
the team must have members on it who:
- Have knowledge of the student, and wherever possible, have
experience teaching the student
- Have knowledge of the Ontario Curriculum
- Are qualified to provide, or supervise the provision of special
education programs and services to meet the needs of the exceptional
- Have knowledge of the special education strategies and resources
available in the district school board.” (pg.19)
The special case of ABI – setting the
- A case manager may need to be assigned to coordinate
- Many members of the team may have a very limited or
even nonexistent knowledge base with regard to ABI.
- Lack of specific services and programming may severely
limit the possible directions that may be pursued.
- Because of the necessary involvement of outside agencies
(e.g. hospital staff) terminology, procedures and assumptions
will need to be explicit to allow for effective communication.
- Parents, the student themselves, and even staff will
experience a period of adjustment in reconceptualizing
this student in their school environment.
Developing the IEP: Identify and record the student’s strengths
The development of an IEP begins with the listing of the student’s
strengths and needs. It is important that, where appropriate,
the IEP clearly indicates “learning expectations” as taken from
the Ontario Curriculum. These expectations are based on the student’s
strengths, needs, and current level of achievement and to identify
the knowledge and skills that the student is expected to acquire.
Establishing goals and expectations: Goals and
expectations based directly on the strengths and needs of the
student are established by the team.
The aim of these goals is to:
Determine strategies and resources: Based on
the information gathered thus far, it is now the responsibility
of the team to discuss and decide upon strategies and resources.
These strategies and resources must be put in place with the intention
of assisting the student to reach the goals and expectations laid
out in the IEP. Strategies and resources may include human and
material resources, as well as specific accommodations/modifications
such as simplifying the language of instruction and allowing extra
time to complete assignments.
Develop a transition plan: Regulation 181/98
requires that a transition plan be written for students 14 years
of age and older. This plan must include information on the student’s
transition to appropriate postsecondary activities, such as work,
further education, and community living.
Transition plans can also be developed in those cases where a
child is moving from school to school, school board to school
board, or in or out of a school environment to a community environment.
Where appropriate, community agencies should be included in the
development of the transition plan.
Establishing a monitoring cycle:
In order for an IEP to be successfully implemented it is essential
that the implementation of that plan be carefully monitored. It
is recommended that criteria be developed for evaluating the programming
that has been developed for the student, that assessment and monitoring
occur on a regular basis, and that the IEP be adjusted accordingly.
The special case of ABI – developing
- Setting annual goals may be complicated by recovery
period or lack of professional expertise.
- Transition planning may need to be considered from
rehabilitation setting to school setting.
- Goal setting will be complicated by differing abilities
across curricular areas and settings.
- Very important to differentiate behaviour from cognition.
Do not set goals that are impossible to accomplish given
the nature of the injury (e.g. Failure to initiate).
Implementing the IEP:
Members of the school team, parents, and where appropriate, the
student as well as other personnel involved need to be informed
of the details of the IEP and communicate regularly about possible
It is recommended that the team:
Once the plan has been shared, members of
the team translate the IEP into daily learning plans that can
be carried out in the educational setting. With the plan in place,
it then becomes essential that those involved in its delivery
monitor and adjust the plan accordingly.
The special case of ABI – implementing
- Student may be misplaced due to lack of a Ministry
of Education category for ABI (see page 6-17 for further
- Missed time may cause disruption to implementation.
- Behaviour/learning may be difficult to assess across
contexts because of the inability of the student to transfer
and generalize skills.
- What may be an effective strategy for one setting,
may need to be changed for a different setting.
Reviewing and updating the IEP:
As noted, the IEP is a working document that is meant to reflect
the changing needs of students across educational settings. It
is important that an IEP is reviewed on a continual basis. At
the time of review, changes and adjustments can be made based
on the information provided as to the success or failure of the
planned interventions. It is recommended that an IEP be updated
at least once each reporting period.
The special case of ABI – reviewing and
- Initially, reviews may need to be more frequent and
responsive depending on the rate of recovery of the student
(e.g. physical injury such as broken bones).
- Reviews may need to be more frequent for students with
ABI than for other students, as recovery can extend over
many years and can happen in unpredictable spurts of progress.
6.6 - Transitions
Throughout a student’s educational career a number of transitions
take place. For those students who follow the normal course of
education these transitions occur with the entry to school at
the preschool level, the transition from elementary school to
high school, and finally, the transition from high school to postsecondary
or working lives. In the case of a student who has sustained a
head injury prior to or during his/her educational life, an additional
transition may be added: that of transition from pre- to post-injury.
Transition from pre- to post-injury may manifest itself in varying
ways. In some situations a student who has sustained a head injury
may have been temporarily absent from school and under the care
of a physician. In other situations a student may have received
a blow to the head that did not result in medical intervention
and has returned to school without any absence.
Whether the injury is mild, moderate, or severe, transitions
for students with ABI can be very difficult. It is important to
remember that once a transition has taken place, for example from
hospital to school, that the effects of the transition and the
adapting to the new setting must be monitored.
Transition from hospital to school
Prior to reintegration, communication must be established between
the school and the medical personnel involved in the case. This
is often best done through communication with the parents. It
is recommended that personnel in the school setting assign the
task of coordinating this information between participating parties
to one individual. This individual is often the special education
Within the school setting, educators can prepare for a student’s
transition back to the classroom by compiling information about
the student’s performance in school prior to the injury.
This could include information contained in
the Ontario Student Record such as report cards, testing results,
and, in the case of a student with a previously existing identifiable
condition of exceptionality, an Individual
Education Plan and/or IPRC documentation. Information about
a student’s pre-injury school performance should also be accessed
through samples of previously completed work and discussions with
previous and current teachers.
It is also essential that the school, through their inschool
team, develop an individual
education plan to address the transitional and ongoing needs
of the student returning to school (see IEP).
Some considerations for students with ABI
As described earlier, all students experience transitions throughout
their school career. For each student, certain adjustments will
be made in order to adapt to that new environment. For students
with ABI, additional care will need to be taken to help ensure
a successful transition to a new environment.
Transition from preschool or home to
- Collect information from sources: medical, family.
- Screening (preschool) to establish skill level.
- Develop IEP where appropriate.
- Set up communication system with home.
- Orient student to new environment ahead of time.
- Gradually introduce student to setting (shortened day)
Transition from elementary school to
- Update assessments where necessary.
- Meet with staff at high school ahead of time.
- Orient student to new setting.
- Consider reduction of course load.
- Look at a mobility plan for the student getting from
class to class.
- Develop IEP.
- Try to ensure that student is placed with some of his/her
Transition from high school to postsecondary
or working life:
- Begin early in high school career, where appropriate,
making community connections.
- Develop a transition plan.
- Provide supported work experiences.
- Work closely with family.
A category for ABI
Regulation 181 of the Education Act for the province of Ontario
outlines the procedures for the identification of students as
exceptional within the school system. This process, called IPRC
(Identification Placement and Review Committee), results in the
official identification of a student as exceptional. With this
identification come a number of rights within the legislation.
These rights include due process, such as specific timelines around
notification to parents, development of an individual
education plan (IEP), a mandatory requirement for review (within
12 months), as well as the parents’ right to appeal any decision
When identifying a student as exceptional through the IPRC process,
school boards must choose from 1 of 5 categories of exceptionality
outlined by the Ministry of Education for the province of Ontario.
These 5 categories are: behaviour, communication (autism, deaf,
hard of hearing, language impairment, speech impairment, learning
disabilities), physical (physical disabilities, blind/low vision),
intellectual (gifted, mild intellectual delay, developmental delay),
and multiple. No category or subcategory for ABI is currently
in use in the province of Ontario. This lack of an official category
can result in students with ABI being mislabelled as learning
disabled (LD), developmentally delayed or behavioural. Mislabelling
will lead to programming that, on the surface may seem likely
to address the students’ most pressing requirements, but very
likely will fail to meet their complex needs. In cases that are
confused with learning disabilities in particular, the assumption
that, because many of the types of strategies that are successful
with students with learning disabilities are also effective with
students who have sustained an ABI, the label of LD will suffice
in terms of identification, fails to recognize the specific needs
of children with ABI.
Students with ABI, unlike those with learning
- have a pre-injury history of successful school experience,
- have the ability to remember and utilize information learned
prior to the injury but have difficulty attaining new knowledge,
- learn well in isolation but lack success when skills are
- be difficult to assess since standardized and informal measures
of assessment provide information on previous learning, not
how students learn,
- experience pain and fatigue issues related to physical recovery,
have a constantly changing profile as the result of cognitive
development and recovery period,
- experience social difficulties reintegrating to a peer group
or even family that has expectations that the child will be
- have difficulties with anger management and levels of frustration
that did not exist pre-injury,
- lack awareness of the effect of their injury and the degree
Similar difficulties arise with the mislabelling of these students
as developmentally delayed or behavioural. The label of developmental
delay can result in a failure to recognize the intact knowledge
and uncompromised areas of cognition and thus fail to tailor a
program to tap into these vital intact abilities. For example,
a student with severe short-term memory impairment may be able
to comprehend quite well but is unable to retain what has been
The danger is that there may be an assumption
that lack of memory reflects lack of comprehension and the student
is moved to a lower level of programming. It may be the case that
with different techniques such as concretizing the experience,
repeated exposure, and discussion to contextualize the learning,
that the student can work at the appropriate cognitive level for
his or her ability. In the case where a child is mislabelled behavioural,
misinterpretation of physiological symptoms such as failure to
initiate and social inappropriateness as manifestations of willful
misbehaviour can lead to the misuse of behaviour modification
in an attempt to “cure” that which is a manifestation of the ABI.
It is important to note that this lack of an official category
does not necessarily prohibit a student with an acquired
brain injury from accessing funding or services. Students
in the province of Ontario can be placed on an individual
education plan and access Ministry funding without having
gone through the IPRC process. While it is possible for
children with ABI to receive services without a category recognized
by the Ministry of Education, many schools, school boards, and
families are left scrambling to describe and define a set of behavioural
and learning difficulties that, while similar to more recognized
educational exceptionalities, are decidedly different.
6.7 - Identification and Placement of Exceptional
This schema outlines main features of Ontario Regulation 181/98,
Identification and Placement of Exceptional Pupils, which came
into force on September 1, 1998.
Copies of the complete regulation are available at the Ontario
government bookstore (Ph: 1-800-668-9938, Website: www.gov.on.ca),
at school board offices, and at public libraries.
Obtained with permission
from “Special Education in Ontario Schools 4th Edition” (1999).
Weber K., & Bennett S., Highland Press, Thornhill, Ont.
Notes to IPRC
Each school board must prepare a guide that explains all elements
of the IPRC process, including rights of consent, rights of appeal,
how to appeal, etc. The guide must list parent organizations that
are local associations which may be of assistance, and outline
the board’s own special education services and those it purchases
from other boards. This guide is to be available at every school
in the jurisdiction. If requested, the board must make the guide
available in Braille, large print, or audio-cassette.
For students 14 years and older, a principal is responsible for
developing a Transition Plan to further education, employment,
and community living. The requirement to have a transition plan
does not apply to students whose sole identification is “gifted.”
The Special Education Tribunal is a body appointed by the province
to hear appeals from decisions of IPRC’s that are upheld by Appeal
Boards and in turn by the school board. The Tribunal hears the
cases under the Statutory Powers Procedure Act of Ontario. The
hearing is adversarial in structure and both appellant (parent)
and respondent (board) frequently retain legal counsel. The Tribunal’s
decision is final and binding. (Parties may refer to the civil
courts, although experience suggests that if proper IPRC procedure
is followed, they are reluctant to become involved.) See also
Section 57 of the Education Act.
The original IPRC regulation was No. 554, first issued in 1981.
It was slightly modified and reissued as No. 305 in 1990, then
reissued with some significant modifications as No. 181 in 1998.
Chapter 5 - Chapter