Edward Mahony, Licensed Paralegal

Educational Advocacy

To Identify Or Not Identify…   This article explores the identification question in the ASD context.  Spoiler alert.   There is no question.

 Let’s assume that the school was in someway reticent to schedule an IPRC.

 Emily’ mother , after consideration, requests an  IPRC meeting in writing to the principal of the school

Sample IPRC request letter.

Below you will find a sample IPRC request letter. This letter is sent to the principal directly. It is a good practice to bring the letter in yourself but you must remember to remain positive in your interactions. I suggest a paper copy be give , though an email copy could also be sent. If this is not an initial IPRC make any changes appropriate. The letter is brief and to the point.  Be sure to individualize the template and make it yours.

The Principal

Name of School

Address of School


Dear Mr. or Ms (Name of Principal)

Re: (Name of Child) (Date of Birth)

The purpose of this letter is to request that you refer my daughter/son to the school board’s Identification, Placement and Review Committee for the purpose of identifying her/himas an exceptional child and of determining the most enabling educational placement with appropriate programs and Services for her/him.

I do want to thank you for your consideration for and support of my son/daughter. The school has been very embracing and accommodating of Emily and her needs.

Emily father, Mr. O’Neil, has a visual impairment and will require materials written in Braille.

Thank you for processing this request promptly. I am looking forward to hearing from you soon.

Yours sincerely

(your name)

cc (Superintendent of your Family of Schools)

It would be rare that a child like Emily would be denied access to a school and/or at least some level of programs and services. However, schools could conceivably respond in a variety of less productive ways including:
 Providing for no support.
 Providing a limited support.
 Allowing for unsafe situations to occur.
 Denying entry/registration until some future meeting.
 Denying entry into the school 
We will explore strategies based on regulations and law to encourage schools to comply with their obligations later on.

 Two weeks later.


Emily’s mother, though pleased with the support and engagement from the school asks Ms. Patel, the Resource Teacher, if they could identify Emily through through a Individual Placement  and Review  Committee. (IPRC).

 Possible Responses

 The School promptly begins to schedule and I PRC.
 The special education teacher/principal/other staff respond with some combination of the following…
 They do not IPRC children until grade ?
 They do not IPRC children unless they are to be moved into a special ed class/get educational assistant support/etc…
 They can provide the child with appropriate support without having an IPRC.

 To Identify Or Not Identify…   This article explores the identification question in the ASD context.  Spoiler alert.   There is no question.

 Let’s’ assume that the school was in someway reticent to schedule an IPRC.

The principal, Ms. Smith, responded by arranging to speak to the mother that morning. She immediately spoke to the school’s special education resource teacher as well as the classroom teacher to talk to them about Emily and her needs. The school also allocated an educational assistant for part of the day to provide support.

 Comment: The principal and the school acted appropriately by taking immediate action to provide initial programs and services and to collaborate with the parent.

 Relevant legislation and legal principles.

30. 9. (1) In accordance with requirements under the Education Act, no pupil is to be denied an education program pending a meeting or decision under this Regulation. O. Reg. 181/98, s. 9 (1).

 The concreteness of the visual impairment makes it obvious and  self evident  that Emily should be in school.  It is also always clear that a child with a visual impairment should and could be identified with an exceptionality. The above regulation states that programming and services must not wait until the child is identified.

 The Education Act states that all children have a right to be school.

33. (1) A person has the right, without payment of a fee, to attend a school in a school section, separate school zone or secondary school district, as the case may be, in which the person is qualified to be a resident pupil.  1997, c. 31, s. 13.

Ontarios human rights regimen would also come into play if the school in any way either denied or limited access to school or denied or limited appropriate accommodations for Emily to have meaningful access to education.

Under the Code, education providers in both the publicly funded system and in private schools have a legal duty to accommodate students with disabilities up to the point of undue hardship. Ontario Human Rights Commission – Elementary and Secondary Education

In Emily’s case if you were a dispute her right to be registered in school. However, children with other needs help at times encounter difficulties registering their children. We will explore this possibility in the next post.

The case of Emily

 Emily Green is six years old and is of  grade one age .

 She has moved from another province.

 She is visually impaired. She blindness is profound.

 Emily has a medical diagnosis of profound vison impairment.

 There is no concern about or evidence of any other limitation or condition.

 There are no behavioural or safety issues.

 Emily has no system in place to allow her to access the curriculum. The other children can look at pictures and learn to read and print and draw but Emily cannot.

 In September her mother, Ms. Green, walked into the neighbourhood community school on the first day to register her daughter.  She also asked to meet immediately with the principal to talk about her daughter.

Let’s explore the rights and responsibilities of both parents and schools with regard to Emily. In that her visual impairment is fairly straightforward, The way forward, entrenched in legislation and law will seem intuitively obvious and born of commonsense.


The need to understand fundamental special education regulations is an essential component of solid advocacy.

In 2007, the Ontario Ministry of Education released the resource document Shared Solutions – A Guide to Preventing and Resolving Conflicts Regarding Programs and Services for Students With Special Education Needs

Shared Solutions points to a remedy to the power imbalance felt by parents..


“Conflicts may also arise if parents and/or educators are not fully informed about

ministry regulations and policy documents with respect to regular and special

education. As well, it is important for all parties – educators, other professionals,

students, and parents – to be aware of their roles and responsibilities in

the planning, implementation, and monitoring of special education programs

and services.”  Shared Solutions, p.14


Shared Solutions also points toward a key plank of the special education platform in the second paragraph of its Overview of Special Education. (Page 6)

“The children and youth who require special education programs and services are a diverse group. Some students with special education needs are formally identified by an Identification, Placement, and Review Committee (IPRC);”


The center piece of Special Education in Ontario Schools is the Individual Placement and Review Process.  When the special education regimen in Ontario was created, the legislature  made the IPRC the pivotal process where the parental common law rights of procedural fairness were found.


Therefore, our initial work here will be to understand the IPRC thoroughly. Doing that, however, we will look at many concepts that are intertwined and flow through the IPRC.


As we progress through a series of scenarios I will identify what I believe are pivotal, important aspects of the process as well as areas and concepts that often can, although mandated in legislation and cited in tribunal decisions, be less than familiar to some educators.

Parents, however, may have to strongly advocate to ensure that their child’s rights are met at school. It is the parent’s right and responsibility to see that their child has an appropriate educational program, and it is certainly acceptable for parents to advocate for their child.A parent’s relationship with the school/ school board is not a social relationship. It is a business/legal relationship with the goal of getting the most appropriate education for your child.

Most effective parent advocates share a combination of important knowledge and skills:

• An understanding of special education regulations and rules

• An understanding of special education law

• A sense of what I call procedural advocacy – how to act and conduct yourself in your interactions with schools.

• A realistic sense of what they want and how to work with staff to achieve their goals.

In the course of the next months we will explore all four of these skills in some detail. We will start with basic regulatory right all children with learning needs have in Ontario.

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