All students, including students with special education needs, in schools across Ontario require programs that provide them with the best possible opportunities to learn and to maximize their potential. They require knowledge and skills that will help them to succeed in school and in life. This part of the guide outlines the steps normally taken to ensure effective program planning for students who require special education programs and services. It includes information about early identification, continuous assessment, the integrated process of assessment and instruction, and the key transitions in a student's schooling. It also describes how to ensure that a student's transitions are as smooth as possible and identifies potential areas of overlap among all the plans a student may have.

In their program planning, educators of students with special education needs, like all educators, should consider the shared beliefs outlined in Learning for All: A Guide to Effective Assessment and Instruction for All Students, Kindergarten to Grade 12 (2013) and reproduced in the Introduction of this guide. These beliefs, which drive the integrated process of assessment and instruction, are designed to help all students improve their achievement and well-being.