Ontario Identification Process

Having Your Child Identified as a Special Needs Student

This information was made possible due to the generous support and by permission of the authors of: The Advocate’s Journal: A Manual and Profiling Diary for Successful Educational Advocacy, Georgina Rayner and Cora Koculym

(Information has been up-dated by Heidi Bernhardt)

The School Identification Process

Every Province in Canada has its own process of recognizing students with special learning needs. In Ontario this process legalizes a child’s rights to have their individual needs met within the school setting. It allows the child to receive the appropriate educational accommodations and/or modifications. Be aware however, that the term “modifications” means that the child’s curriculum is being modified from the grade level they are currently in. If the term “modify” is used at the secondary school level, parents and students should be aware that the credit may be in jeopardy. An “accommodation” is a change in how the student is taught or assessed which will enable them to reach their full potential.

Steps to the School Identification Process

  • The school or the parents can initiate the identification meeting called an “IPRC”; Identification, Placement and Review Committee. Parents can initiate the process by writing a letter to the school principal requesting one.
  • Once this has taken place, the family must be notified within 15 days of the school’s initiation or must be notified in 15 days that the school board has received the parent’s request for a meeting.
  • The board must also notify the family at this time approximately when the meeting will be held and ask the family if they will be attending.
  • At this point, the family should also receive the board’s “Parent’s Guide”, which outlines the procedures for the process.
  • The family may be asked to sign permission for psychological testing to be done by the board.
  • The board does not need permission to do an educational assessment
  • Once the IPRC meeting date is assigned, parents must be notified 10 days in advance. If the family is unable to attend at that time, the Ministry of Education mandates that “every effort should be made to accommodate the parents’ schedule.”
  • Parents should always attend the IPRC meeting. This is where decisions about your child’s school placement and the accommodations they will or will not receive are made. Do not forfeit your right to be involved in this decision-making.
  • Any information that the school receives has to be provided to the parents (or student if 16 years of age or older)
  • The family has the right to have a professional, or advocate, speak on their behalf.
  • The family should review all reports generated by the board prior to the IPRC to determine if they are accurate before they are formally presented to the IPRC committee.
  • The student may be interviewed by the IPRC, but if under 14 the parents must consent.
  • If 16 and over, the student might wish to attend.
  • Parents may be asked to supply reports from outside testing and should share reports if they think it will help the child receive the resources they require.

Disclosure of Reports and Medical Information

Be Aware That: Disclosure Can Bring Certain Risks

  • Anyone with access to your child’s student record will have access to these reports.
  • The intimate details of your family’s lives are not always pertinent or appropriate for a school record.
  • You have complete control of what you choose to share with the child’s school and the best way to ensure this is to personally present the documents you wish to share with the school.
  • Since most school professionals are not trained to interpret a medical or psychological report, it is best if the diagnosing professional produces a school-friendly report that gives clear diagnoses and a detailed list of recommendations for the school to action.

During the Identification Meeting

  • The committee can review information on: medical, hearing, visual, speech, psychological, psychiatric testing and school and home observations.
  • From these discussions, a list of the child’s strengths and needs should be generated.
  • These needs should be well defined, not vague and open-ended.
  • The IPRC must then decide if: the student is exceptional, the student is not exceptional, or there is not enough information to make a decision.
  • If the decision is that the student is exceptional, an exceptional category must be assigned and an appropriate placement be decided on.

Does the ADHD Diagnosis Result in a Child Receiving an Identification?

  • In many boards of education in Ontario, a diagnosis of ADHD will still not result in an IPRC designation.
  • For further information please access Ontario Ministry of Education Memorandum. This memorandum clarifies that students with ADHD, and no additional diagnosed disorder such as a Learning Disability, should  not be barred from being officially recognized through an IPRC as an exceptional student, which allows them to access an IEP and special education. However, according to the Ministry of Education each board has the right to set the bar for where a student is impaired enough to be IPRCed. This has led to total inconsistency of access to special education resources between boards and even schools within the same board.

Do you have to sign the document resulting from the IPRC?

  • If you are at all unsure of what you are being asked to sign, don’t!
  • You have the right to ask for time to go home and review any documents.
  • If you do not agree with the recommendations of the committee including the suggested placement of your child, you may refuse to sign the document.
  • Note – if a student is not identified and informal support is offered, you have no right to demand an IEP, or that any special services or accommodations be put in place. As well, you have no guarantee that the services will be maintained.
  • The IPRC must send a statement confirming its decision as well as any recommendations to the family as well as the date that the board will be notified.
  • Prior to this date, within 15 days, another IPRC meeting may be requested to further discuss recommendations.

What happens after the meeting?

If the family agrees with the decisions:

  • Written consent is required before placement.
  • An Individual Education Plan (IEP) is developed, usually by the Special Education Teacher, from the Needs Statement made at the IPRC and should be shared with the family 30 days after the placement occurs and the placement should occur 30 days after the IPRC.

If the family does not agree with the decisions:

  • They must not sign the decision sheet.
  • They must write to the board within 30 school days requesting an appeal.
  • The IPRC will be reconvened to see if differences can be resolved.
  • If differences cannot be resolved, the family may choose to initiate an appeal process.
  • The Appeal Board can overturn the IPRC decisions and reconvene another IPRC.
  • The board must convene an appeal board within 30 school days.
  • An Appeal board consists of 3 members, one nominated by the board, one nominated by the parents, and a chair that both parties agree upon.
  • Your Ministry of Education website contains extensive information on this process.
  • If there is still a disagreement the family can go to the Provincial Tribunal, which then becomes a legal process.

*The IPRC is a legal process governed by the Education Act

The IPRC Review

  • The IPRC review is held annually to review the student’s progress.
  • It is recommended that the family (or the student if over 16) attend the review.
  • The student should be encouraged to attend the review with their parents if they are old enough to understand the proceedings. The committee will be making decisions that affect their lives.
  • This is a forum to reassess and respond to the changing needs of the student.
  • The IPRC can also be recalled every 3 months to evaluate the progress.
  • The family may also ask for the IPRC to reconvene by writing a letter to the principal.