To access special education supports for your child, you will need to work with your child’s teacher, principal and school boards. Special education programs and services are tailored to meet students’ individual needs. These programs support students with learning disabilities, physical disabilities, autism and more.

By law, all school boards must provide special education programs and/or services for students with special education needs. This page summarizes the processes that school boards must have in place according to the Education Act.

Where to start

If you have concerns about your child’s learning or development and think they may require special education programs and services you can:

  • speak with your child’s teacher or principal to see if an assessment would be helpful in learning more about their needs
  • familiarize yourself with the identification, placement and review committee (IPRC) process and your role in the process
  • learn about the range of supports, programs, services and placement options that are available

Stay involved and communicate regularly with your child's school.

As a parent or guardian, you play a crucial role in your child's education. You will be involved in decision-making processes and have access to regular updates on your child's progress.

Identifying your child’s needs

Your child's needs will be identified through assessments and teacher observations. This process may involve a formal IPRC meeting.

There are 5 categories and 12 definitions of exceptionalities. These are:

  • behaviour:
    • behaviour
  • intellectual:
    • giftedness
    • mild intellectual disability
    • developmental disability
  • communication:
    • autism
    • deaf and hard-of-hearing
    • language impairment
    • speech impairment
    • learning disability
  • physical:
    • physical disability
    • blind and low vision
  • multiple
    • multiple exceptionalities

These categories address the wide range of conditions that may affect a student’s ability to learn, and do not exclude any medical condition, whether diagnosed or not, that can lead to particular types of learning difficulties.

Individual education plan (IEP)

Working with staff at your child’s school, a personalized learning plan, called an Individual education plan or IEP, will be developed to address your child's specific needs, outlining accommodations, modifications, alternative programming, and support services.

Learn about IEPs, including:

  • the process to determine if an IEP is necessary
  • what an IEP must include
  • when your child’s IEP should be reviewed

Placement options

There is a range of placement options, from fully integrated classrooms to special education classes and provincial and demonstration schools.

Placement options include:

  • regular class with indirect support where the student is placed in a regular class for the entire day, and the teacher receives specialized consultative services
  • regular class with resource assistance where the student is placed in a regular class for most or all of the day and receives specialized instruction, individually or in a small group, within the regular classroom from a qualified special education teacher
  • regular class with withdrawal assistance where the student is placed in a regular class and receives instruction outside the classroom, for less than 50% of the school day, from a qualified special education teacher
  • special education class with partial integration where the student is placed in a special education class for at least 50% of the school day and is integrated with a regular class for at least one instructional period daily
  • full-time special education class for the entire school day

Contact your school board staff to explore the options.

Support services

A variety of professionals and others work together to support your child's learning and well-being. These professionals could include:

  • educational assistants
  • psychologists
  • speech therapists

Transition planning

A transition plan is a strategy to help students experience a smooth journey through different phases of school life. It is designed to support students’ individual needs and goals, and it reflects their physical, emotional and learning needs.

All students who have an IEP must also have a transition plan. If your child doesn’t have an IEP but does receive special education programs or supports, a transition plan may be developed for your child at the discretion of the school board.

Transition plans must be developed in consultation with:

  • parents or guardians
  • the student (where appropriate)
  • the postsecondary institution (where appropriate)
  • relevant community agencies and other partners (where appropriate)

Talk to your school principal to see if your child should have a transition plan.

Resources and guidelines for educators