Ontario Coalition for Inclusive Education
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What the DH Label Means

The Ministry of Education is intent on writing "Program Standards" for each exceptionality. The Ontario Coalition for Inclusive Education is alarmed that this project misuses resources and harms students by:

  • promoting labeling
  • misinterpreting "program"
  • increasing standardization

We see great harm when disability labels are assigned to students. The label on a tin can tells us what is inside; a label on a person may prevent us from getting to know that person - as a person. Students want to be known by their names and for their strengths, not their disabilities. What their teachers need is the best possible practical information about how each of their individual students learns best.

So what does "program" mean? TheOntario Education Act defines "special education program" in terms of individual students - as "the plan containing specific objectives and an outline of educational services that meets the needs of the exceptional pupil".Regulation 181 entitles every exceptional student to an IndividualEducation Plan. It is helpful that the Ministry has recently set standards about the "how" of program - the ways IEPsrespond to individual differences by creating appropriate supports.We think more work on IEPs is warranted.

But nothing is gained, and much may be lost, when the"what" of program is standardized. To establish expectations for whole groups of exceptional students encourages people to forget that every student is different. It is better that the law now requires planning to be done one student at a time.

The Ministry of Education did indeed start its work on"Program Standards" by talking about labels. It asked some of the Coalition's member organizations to define"developmental disability". Of course, if you are going to use such words, you should know what they mean. So we asked thievery people who have been given the label "developmental disability" - People First members - what this has meant to them.

Here is what they said the label "developmental disability" means:

  • I was called stupid and it really hurt
  • being cruel to kids
  • thinking we can't do things
  • lumping us together
  • punishing us for what we can't do
  • making school about "competition"
  • sending us to segregated schools and classes which feel like institutions
  • taking children away on buses from friends and family
  • teachers didn't want to teach me
  • forcing parents to say what is wrong with their children
  • teachers were mean
  • being segregated, pushed around and called names
  • people have been locked up in institutions
  • it made me feel different from everybody else
  • when I found out I was really angry. I rebelled. I acted out.
  • I felt like an outcast
  • I felt different. I only had a couple of friends. Most of the kids were "higher up" than I was.
  • I was upset. Why couldn't I go to the regular school? Why couldn't I go to high school? It hurt.
  • It did a lot of damage. Why couldn't I go on the regular bus? Why was I different? What was "special" about it?
  • I  felt very lonely. I felt isolated. I felt ashamed because I wasn't good enough for all the other schools.

People First members provide the following suggestions to improve education:

  • see what I CAN do
  • be patient - we don't all learn at the same pace
  • help us when we need it
  • help us help each other
  • believe we CAN
  • help us learn at our own pace
  • give us choices
  • don't make us all have to do the same things in the same way
  • don't call me "handicapped"; call me friend
  • teach teachers to treat us with respect
  • teach teachers that nothing is impossible
  • It takes parents and teachers believing that we have the right to be included.
  • It takes people helping us to believe in ourselves.
  • we are PEOPLE first
  • we have knowledge
  • we need to learn how to read and write. We need to learn different things.
  • every child has the right to dream of a future - a world of possibilities
  • we can get a job
  • it is important to get a good education so I won't be known as the kid who doesn't know anything.
  • every child has a right to learn  as much as possible - in the regular class with all the other kids.
  • every child has a right to a REAL EDUCATION



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