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Binder Information
Table of Contents
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9

Chapter 6

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 Important?
6.5 How is an IEP written?
6.6 Transitions
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 way.
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

  1. Compile information about the student
    • Samples of work
    • Review school records
    • Discussions with parent, medical staff, previous teachers

  2. Establish a plan for the exchange of information
    • Identify potential trouble spots
    • Academic
    • Social
    • Physical

  3. Learn about the nature of the student’s injury and the implications for learning and socialization

  4. Access necessary resources (materials and personnel)

  5. Make arrangements for anticipated assessments

  6. Assess suitable placement options (consider classroom layout and location, educator and peers)

  7. Develop an IEP. (For detailed information on IEP, see Section 6.4)

(Adapted from Roberta DePompei, Youth with TBI: Cognitive and behavioral issues for reintegration to school and community)

Considerations for Re-entry to School Settings

Implication for school setting

School's awareness of injury and whether or not the school would be notified

ABI may not even be identified and school may not receive notice of an injury

School would most likely be notified and aware of the injury

School would be notified and aware of injury

Absence from school

Not a significant absence from school, if there is an absence at all

A couple to a few weeks, student should theoretically be able to catch up on missed work

A couple to a few months or more, making the amount of worked missed difficult to get caught up on

Communication between hospital and school

Little to no communication would likely occur

May be some liaison with the hospital while the child is recovering, generally handled through the parent(s)

Liaison with the hospital during the child's recovery and after discharge generally through case managers and special ed. staff

Information and training for school staff in ABI

Needs to focus on intervention techniques for cognitive issues (memory, initiation, judgement, motivation, etc.)

Focus needs 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

Teachers will need information on cognitive issues pertaining to varying modalities for learning along with the physical and socialization needs of the student

Assessment considerations

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

A full neuropsychological assessment may be performed, assessment of student's physical needs within the school may be necessary

Goals and IEP

Should focus 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, etc.)

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





The Ministry of Education for the province of Ontario defines an Individual Education Plan as a:

“written plan describing special education program and/ or services required by a particular student”

(pg.3) (Individual Education Plans Ministry Document 2000).

The 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 growth;

  • 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; and

  • A document to be used in conjunction with the provincial report card.

Individual Education Plan (IEP) resource guide 1998 Government of Ontario

How does the IEP relate to the Identification Placement Review Committee (IPRC) process?

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 review.

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 the student

  • Assessment strategies for reviewing the student's achievements and progress

  • Regular updates, showing dates, results, and recommendations

  • Transition plan (if required)












It 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 be required.

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.

Gathering information:

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 limited to:

  • 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 gathering:
  • Records of pre-injury data from previous educator can be helpful.

  • 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 was injured.

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 the student”

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 student
  • Have knowledge of the special education strategies and resources available in the district school board.” (pg.19)
The special case of ABI – setting the direction
  • A case manager may need to be assigned to coordinate between professionals.

  • 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 and needs.

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:

  • provide the student with a focus and motivation for his or her learning;
  • help educators develop learning activities that are specific to the strengths, interests, and needs of the student;
  • enhance accountability by providing everyone with a point of reference against which to measure achievement;
  • facilitate team-parent/student communication;
  • facilitate communication.
    Resource Guide for IEP 1998, pg. 13

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 the IEP:
  • 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 revisions.

It is recommended that the team:

  • review the IEP with the principal;
  • meet with appropriate staff to discuss implementing the activities described in the IEP, the responsibilities associated with the plan, and monitoring the plan;
  • meet with the parents and the student to explain and discuss the contents of the IEP and the monitoring plan, and to discuss parental involvement in support of the plan.
    Resource Guide for IEP 1998, pg. 24

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 the IEP:
  • Student may be misplaced due to lack of a Ministry of Education category for ABI (see page 6-17 for further information).

  • 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 updating:
  • 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 teacher.

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 primary school:
  • 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) where appropriate.

Transition from elementary school to high school:
  • 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 friends.

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 made.

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 disabilities, may:

  • 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 integrated,
  • 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 unchanged,
  • 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 of impairment.

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 learned.

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 Students

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

Note 1
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.

Note 2
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.”

Note 3
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.

Note 4
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 7

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