Toronto Star's View: What’s the plan for kids with...
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Mar 07, 2016  |  Vote 0    0

Toronto Star's View: What’s the plan for kids with learning disabilities if schools are closed?

Ontario Education Minister Liz Sandals is consulting over whether to close four schools for the learning disabled. What’s the backup plan to meet their needs?


Katrina Elchami’s son Omar couldn’t read by Grade 5. Then the 13-year-old was enrolled in a provincially run “demonstration” school for children with severe learning disabilities. He’s now reading at a Grade 7 level.

Lesley Lehman’s son Josh didn’t speak until he was six. His parents spent $11,000 on speech therapy. When he was 12, Josh was placed in another provincially run school for kids with special needs. His work has improved three grade levels.

With results like this you’d think the Ontario government would be bragging about these schools. But that’s not the case. Rather, Education Minister Liz Sandals is reviewing the future of four publicly funded schools for kids with severe learning disabilities and parents worry that they’ll be closed. Her review comes in the wake of the 2012 Drummond report on cutting provincial costs, which recommended the schools be shuttered.

There’s also a broader case to be made that learning-disabled kids are better off attending regular schools – provided that there are adequate supports in place for them.

But whatever the outcome of the review, Sandals should let families in on her plan for ensuring these kids get the help they need if she does indeed close the schools. She hasn’t yet, and that’s not right. Families shouldn’t be kept hanging. Parents worry that the kids will be forced into schools that aren’t equipped to meet their special needs.

For now, Sandals insists she is just consulting. But the application process for new students next fall has been put on hold. That has left parents worried that the decision has already been made.

All the more reason for Sandals to let families know what an alternative plan might look like. Surely she doesn’t want the public to believe the province is balancing its budget “on the backs of the most vulnerable,” as New Democrat MPP Lisa Gretzky puts it.

Their numbers are small — just 153 students attend the four schools under review. But their needs are great. They must be met.

Toronto Star

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(2) Comment

By Iain | MARCH 10, 2016 08:07 PM
As for low enrolment, these schools are at the cap placed on them by the province who is then arguing that they don't help enough children. This still isn't true as the methods developed and perfected in these schools are taught to other teachers for children in regular schools who have learning disabilities but not quite in the severe category.
By Iain | MARCH 10, 2016 07:58 PM
There is no case to be made that children with severe disabilities would be better in regular schools. They came from regular schools that were unable to help them and therefore refered them to the demonstration school. Furthermore, it would be too expensive to put all the supports in place in every school across the province. For students who truly have broad and severe learning disabilities, integration amounts to nothing more then daily reminders of their limitations and often intense bullying and isolation. It amounts to emotional abuse for a severely disabled child to be left lost in a class of peers 5 to 7 grade levels ahead of them. There is no argument that can show that to be a good thing for any child. Iain MacLean
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