Date of Issue: February 6, 1990

Effective: Until revoked or modified

Subject: The residential demonstration schools for students with learning disabilities: general information and details of the referral process

Application: Directors of Education
Principals of Schools

Reference: This memorandum replaces Policy/Program Memorandum No. 89, March 31, 1988.

General information

It is the responsibility of school boards to provide appropriate educational programs for pupils with learning disabilities. There exists, however, a small group of pupils with severe learning disabilities who require the facilities of a residential school.

The Ministry of Education provides the services of three demonstration schools in Ontario for English-speaking pupils with severe learning disabilities. These are the Robarts School in London, the Sagonaska School in Belleville, and the Trillium School in Milton. The catchment area for the Robarts School includes the following:

  • Western Ontario Region
  • Northwestern Ontario Region
  • Brant, Haldimand, and Norfolk counties of the Central Ontario Region

The catchment of the Sagonaska School includes the following:

  • Eastern Ontario Region
  • Northeastern Ontario Region
  • Durham, Haliburton, Hastings, Northumberland and Newcastle, Peterborough, Prince Edward, and Victoria counties of the Central Ontario region

The catchment area of the Trillium School includes the following:

  • Midnorthern Ontario Region
  • Dufferin, Halton, Hamilton-Wentworth, Niagara, Peel, Simcoe, Waterloo, Wellington, and York counties of the Central Ontario Region, and Metropolitan Toronto

The Centre Jules-Léger in Ottawa provides services in Ontario for French-speaking pupils with severe learning disabilities. Its catchment area is the entire province.

The Provincial Committee on Learning Disabilities may determine that in certain cases a demonstration school may admit a student from outside its catchment area.

Definition of a learning disability

A learning disability is defined in the Special Education Information Handbook, 1984 (page 16) as:

  • a learning disorder evident in both academic and social situations that involves one or more of the processes necessary for the proper use of spoken language or the symbols of communication, and that is characterized by a condition that:
    1. is not primarily the result of:
      • impairment of vision
      • impairment of hearing
      • physical handicap
      • mental retardation
      • primary emotional disturbance
      • cultural difference
    2. results in a significant discrepancy between academic achievement and assessed intellectual ability, with deficits in one or more of the following:
      • receptive language (listening, reading)
      • language processing (thinking, conceptualizing, integrating)
      • expressive language (talking, spelling, writing)
      • mathematical computations
    3. may be associated with one or more conditions diagnosed as:
      • a perceptual handicap
      • a brain injury
      • minimal brain dysfunction
      • dyslexia
      • developmental aphasia

The demonstration schools: goals and objectives

The demonstration schools were established to meet the needs of pupils with severe learning disabilities who require a residential setting, and to make available resource services for the learning disabled, including on-site professional development programs for qualified teachers.

The program objectives of the demonstration schools are as follows:

  1. to provide residential education programs for pupils with severe learning disabilities
  2. to assist enrolled pupils to develop personal life and learning strategies which will enable them to return to programs within local school boards, other educational jurisdictions, or the community
  3. to provide in-service teacher education
  4. to provide resource services for school boards as required, including pupil assessment and/or programming assistance

Admission procedures for demonstration schools

A. Criteria for admission
In order to be eligible for admission to a demonstration school, a candidate must satisfy the following criteria:

  • the applicant must qualify as a resident pupil of the school board (as in section 32 of the Education Act)
  • because of the nature of the learning disability and/or other factors, the applicant must be in need of a residential education program
  • the applicant must have a severe learning disability, according to the definition cited above
  • a psychologist or other mental health professional must have determined recently that the applicant is not in need of treatment for emotional or behavioural disorders
  • an Identification, Placement, and Review Committee (IPRC) must have recommended to the school board that the applicant be placed in a demonstration school
  • the applicant must have been assessed by a resource services consultant from a demonstration school.

B. Referrals
School boards may make referrals to the demonstration schools, upon the recommendation of an Identification, Placement, and Review Committee. Such referrals shall be directed to the appropriate regional office of the Ministry of Education.

The school board should ensure that the following are submitted to the regional office:

  • assessment information
  • school history
  • personal and family data
  • a list of alternative placements in order of priority, prepared by the IPRC

Full details of application requirements are outlined in the 1988 memorandum entitled "Application Procedures for Admission to Demonstration Schools", issued by and available from regional directors of education. Applications must be received by the regional offices before November 1 (for admission February 1), and before March 1 (for admission September 1).

C. The provincial committee on learning disabilities
Decisions regarding admission to demonstration schools will be made by the Provincial Committee on Learning Disabilities, which consists of:

  • an official from the Special Education and Provincial Schools Branch, who will call and chair meetings
  • the demonstration school program directors
  • one representative of the Children's Services Division of the Ministry of Community and Social Services
  • a registered psychologist
  • one or more additional representatives

The Provincial Committee may request additional information from the regional offices in order to determine the priority of candidates for the available places in the demonstration schools. In addition, the Committee will interview the applicants, the parents or guardians, and the school board representatives. Meetings will take place in the appropriate regional office of the Ministry of Education.

The Committee will communicate its decisions and recommendations to the school board; copies will be sent to the parent(s) and the regional office.

D. Appeals
In the event of disagreement with the decision of the Committee, the Director of the Special Education and Provincial Schools Branch shall appoint a review committee to hear appeals, upon the request of a school board, the parent of an applicant, or an applicant who is eighteen years of age or over.