Currently, there are no AODA education standards. However, two AODA standards development committees have drafted recommendations of guidelines that AODA education standards should include. One committee has recommended guidelines for the kindergarten to grade twelve (K-12) education system. In contrast, the other committee has recommended guidelines for the university and college education system. In addition, some members from both committees have joined to form the Education Technical Sub-Committee. This Sub-Committee recommends guidelines to prevent and remove barriers students face during transitions. Transitions include beginning school, and from high school to work, community life, or postsecondary education. In this article, we outline the Sub-Committee’s recommendations for school transition assessments for students with disabilities.
School Transition Assessments for Students with Disabilities
Many colleges and universities require proof of students’ disabilities before they provide accommodations. Sometimes, students can prove disability using forms that their family doctor or other healthcare professional completes. However, at other times, students may need to complete specific professional assessments identifying disabilities, such as psycho-educational assessments.
Therefore, the Sub-Committee recommends that school boards should have information about all colleges or universities that require these assessments. Moreover, school principals, teachers, and guidance counsellors should also know about the assessments students need to complete before they receive accommodations in higher education. As a result, they can alert every student who will need an assessment. They can also alert students needing to update assessments they have already taken.
Students should know not only about the need for updates, but the reason for these updates. For instance, school staff should alert students in grades eleven (11) and twelve (12) during their individual education plan (IEP) meetings. Furthermore, the Ministry of Education should ensure enough funding for all students to complete any new or updated assessments they need.
Finally, school boards should inform all students with disabilities in grades seven to ten (7-10), and their families, about all forms of documentation their colleges or universities require.
Likewise, students may need assessments to determine the most appropriate technology for them to use at university or college. Therefore, the Sub-Committee recommends that transitions facilitators create and implement technology assessments for their students. The Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Colleges and Universities, should work with facilitators to develop a plan for assessing all students. This plan should ensure that every student is assessed before they begin higher education, so that they have the needed technology in a timely manner.
Identification, Placement, and Review Committee (IPRC) Assessments
Similarly, school boards should inform students about the need to update their Identification, Placement, and Review Committee (IPRC) assessments. These updates should take place in grades eleven (11) and twelve (12). Therefore, school boards should prepare students in grades seven to ten (7-10) and their families to update these assessments.
Therefore, school boards should inform these students in grades seven to ten (7-10), along with their families, that their IPRC should assess them.
Assessments and Financial Aid
In addition, school boards should inform students that they could receive some reimbursements for assessments needed to request accommodations. For instance, students may be eligible for the Bursary for Students with Disabilities (BSWD), through the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP). If students have taken a new assessment, or updated an assessment, six (6) or fewer months before they enroll in university or college, this bursary may partially reimburse assessment fees. Similarly, the BSWD or the Canada Student Grant for Services and Equipment for Students with Disabilities (CSG-PDSE) may reimburse fees for learning disability assessments taking place six (6) or fewer months before a student begins university or college.
Students can apply for both bursaries through their university or college accessibility office before the start of their first term. Therefore, students should contact their accessibility office as soon as they are accepted into the school, to learn about how to apply for this funding.
The Ministry of Colleges and Universities should increase BSWD funding to cover the whole cost of psycho-educational assessments. Moreover, the BSWD should also fund other assessments, such as occupational assessments.
If students do not qualify for OSAP, they can find other sources of funding for their psycho-educational assessments. For example, students could receive funding from sliding scale support provided by:
- Assessment resources centres, such as the:
- Regional Assessment and Resource Centre (RARC)
- Northern Ontario Assessment and Resource Centre (NOARC)
- Family health plans
Consequently, school boards should alert all students with IEPs in grades nine to twelve (9-12) that these other funding sources are available. Moreover, the Ministry of Colleges and Universities should ensure that requirements for assessments funded through resource centres remain fair.
Finally, school boards should remind all graduating students and their families about all these rules for school transition assessments.