Guiding Principles of the Special Education Department

Developed in collaboration with the Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) of the Niagara Catholic District School Board.

The guiding principles for services to students are rooted in the belief that the Special Education Department advocates for all students.

  • All staff will make programming decisions from a Christ-centered perspective.
  • Students and their successes are the focus of all decision making.
  • The foundation of programming and delivery is early ongoing assessment and intervention.
  • Inclusion of students into their home school and age appropriate class is the preferred practice.
  • A range of services are provided from Early Years to graduation.
  • All programming decisions will be collaborative and consultative.

What is the philosophy of the Special Education Department?

The Niagara Catholic District School Board is committed to the inclusion of pupils with exceptional needs within their home schools and in their age appropriate classes.  The Board is also committed to the philosophy that all students within its jurisdiction be provided with the opportunity to access programs and services that will maximize their potential and receive an education commensurate with their identified needs.

Philosophy of the Special Education Department

  • All special education programs and services provided by the Board will be within the atmosphere of a Catholic school community.
  • Special Education programs and services will be provided in an atmosphere that cherishes and celebrates the uniqueness of each individual.
  • Education is of paramount importance to the physical, intellectual, social-emotional and spiritual growth of all children.
  • Each student is entitled to the best educational programs, services and personnel that can be provided.
  • Special Education will utilise all resources to determine the educational needs of students and will provide programs, services and personnel to support the development of students with exceptional needs to their maximum potential.
  • The needs of exceptional students shall be met in the most enabling setting.
  • On-going communication and co-operation with the parents of exceptional students is vital for success in all special education programs and services.
  • The education of exceptional students is the shared responsibility of the students, teachers, parents and the Board.
  • The Special Education will co-operate with, and will seek the assistance of all other appropriate agencies in meeting the needs of our exceptional students.

What programs and placements are available in the Niagara Catholic District School Board for students with exceptional needs?

Regular Class

  • It is the preferred practice of the NCDSB to  accommodate  students within their home school and in their age appropriate class.
  • In some cases, consultation with the Educational Resource Teacher and/or central office support staff may be required to assist the student in maximizing their potential.
  • For students requiring more extensive assistance additional resources may be used within the class to assist the student.  Resource may take the form of the Educational Resource Teacher (ERT), a Paraprofessional, Co-op Students, Peer Tutors, and/or volunteers.

Individual Education Plan (IEP) is:

  • A written plan describing the special education program and/or services required by a particular student, based on a thorough assessment of the student’s strengths and needs—that is, the strengths and needs that affect the student’s ability to learn and to demonstrate learning;
  • A record of the particular accommodations needed to help the student achieve his or her learning expectations, given the student’s identified learning strengths and needs;
  • A working document that identifies learning expectations that are modified from the expectations for the age-appropriate grade level in a particular subject or course, as outlined in the Ministry of Education’s curriculum policy documents;
  • A working document that identifies alternative expectations, if required, in program areas not represented in the Ontario curriculum;
  • A record of the specific knowledge and skills to be assessed and evaluated for the purpose of reporting student achievement of modified and/or alternative expectations;
  • An accountability tool for the student, the student’s parents, and everyone who has responsibilities under the plan for helping the student meet the stated goals and learning expectations as the student progresses through the Ontario curriculum.
  • Once developed, the IEP must be shared with parents within 30 instructional days.

Learning Strategies Class

  • Learning Strategies Classes are provided to students who require programming of a highly intensive nature in low-ratio settings.
  • Integration opportunities are structured within the school day for students who attend Learning Strategies Classes.

How are decisions made regarding programming for my child?
“All problem-solving efforts begin at school and end with student success!”

The Niagara Catholic District School Board utilises a problem-solving approach that is consistent with Ministry of Education expectations regarding early identification and intervention.  In this approach, the strengths and needs of the student are central to all discussions and decisions relating to educational programs and services.  This process promotes active and on-going dialogue between all partners in the student’s education, and, it emphasises the need for the shared responsibility for the education of the student with exceptional needs.

Parents and School Staff

  • Initial discussions may take the form of a meeting (formal or informal) between the classroom teacher and the parent to discuss student strengths and needs.
Educational Resource Teacher (ERT) and the Classroom Teacher
  • Consultation takes place between the classroom teacher who identifies concerns and the Educational Resource Teacher.

Case Conference

  • Case Conferences are collaborative activities and may include the teacher, Educational Resource Teacher, parents, community workers and/or other support personnel.
  • These meetings may be held to share assessment findings from board assessments or assessments from community resources.
  • Decisions regarding program changes and/or additional referrals may be initiated at a Case Conference.

School Based Teams (SBT)

  • School Based Teams are comprised of a Principal, an Educational Resource Teacher, other teachers from staff.  They may also include other staff members such as Educational Assistants, Child and Youth Workers, and Central Office support staff.
  • In some cases parent involvement may be required.
  • The SBT promotes a shared responsibility for all students in the learning community.
  • The SBT acts as an in-school resource to classroom teachers.
  • The SBT provides suggestions and recommendations for programming strategies and modifications, and may recommend referral to outside agencies and other professionals from the Central Office staff.

Identification, Placement and Review Committee (IPRC)

  • This committee determines whether or not to identify a student as exceptional as defined by legislation and in what placement the students’ needs may best be met.
  • The committee involves parents, school and Board personnel (where appropriate) in the decision making process.
  • A detailed guide to the IPRC is available to parents in every school.

Who provides the necessary services?
School Based Personnel

Educational Resource Teacher (ERT)

  • An Educational Resource Teacher is assigned to each school to assist classroom teachers in the identification of student needs, to provide assistance with strategies to address identified needs and to act as a member of the SBT.
  • ERT provides in-depth academic assessments to determine student strengths and needs that will assist with programming.
  • ERT as part of the IEP team, offers assistance to teachers in the development of the IEP.

Educational Assistant (EA)

  • Educational Assistants are assigned by the Special Education Department in response to the needs identified through an extensive needs assessment process.
  • Educational Assistants are assigned to schools and work under the direction of the principal in order to provide supports to students who have extensive multiple needs.  These needs may include: physical supports, personal care supports, lifting, personal safety issues, and life skills needs.
  • Educational Assistants are not assigned to individual students.

Central Office Based Supports

Program Resource Teachers (PRT)

  • The PRT offers programming strategies and modifications to teachers of students who have been referred to Central Office through the school based team.
  • The PRT offers  assistance to school based IEP teams as IEPs are developed for students with exceptional needs.
  • The PRT provides in-depth psycho-educational assessments for students who have been referred through the school based team process.  These assessments are completed under the supervision of the Board Psychologist.  All assessments conducted by the PRT are done with the written consent of parents/guardians.
  • The PRT plans and supervises varied modules designed to support the gifted students in the system.
  • The PRT under the direction of the Superintendent of Special Education, assists in the planning and implementation of Special Education projects designed to build student achievement.

Behaviour Resource Teachers (BRT)

  • The BRT offers consultation and recommendations to parents and teachers regarding programs for students with social, emotional or behavioural needs.
  • The BRT also acts as the liaison between the NCDSB and appropriate social services agencies.
  • The BRT co-operatively plans and implements programs to assist students with social, emotional or behavioural needs.
  • The BRT may provide in-depth behavioural assessments for students who have been referred through the school based team process.  These assessments are completed under the supervision of the Board Psychologist.  All assessment conducted by the BRT are done with the written consent of parents/guardians.

Special Needs Facilitators

  • Special Needs Facilitators provide on-going support to classroom teachers, Educational Resource Teachers, Educational Assistants and Principals relating to programming, strategies and techniques for students with complex, multiple needs.
  • Special Needs Facilitators facilitate the transition of children with complex needs from pre-school settings to school settings.
  • Special Needs Facilitators ensure that specialized equipment necessary for students with complex needs to fully participate in educational experiences is purchased and in place.

Speech-Language Pathologists

  • Speech-Language Pathologists provide speech and language assessments with the written consent of parents/legal guardians.
  • Speech-Language Pathologists develop programs to meet the needs of children with speech/language disorders.
  • Speech-Language Pathologists may provide short-term, direct intervention and consultation for teachers and parents.

Itinerant Teachers of the Deaf & Hard of Hearing

  • Teachers who provide support for classroom teachers working with students who are deaf and hard of hearing in their development and delivery of appropriate programming.
  • Qualified teachers who support students directly with their individual needs at elementary and secondary schools.
  • Liaison with Audiologists and equipment manufacturers to ensure that technology serves the child.
  • Assists with establishing a strong link between the deaf community and school communities.

Educational Audiologist

  • Supports students with permanent hearing loss and central auditory processing disorders.
  • Liaison between the audiological clinic and the school.
  • Resource to the student, parents, classroom teacher, and school support personnel.
  • Ensures that student has access to FM equipment that will facilitate instruction in the classroom.

Itinerant Teachers of the Blind & Low Vision

  • Provides support for students who are blind or with low vision through the support of school personnel.
  • While some time is spent directly with students the Teacher of the Blind and Low Vision supports staffs in their development and delivery of appropriate programming.
  • Liaison with agencies to support students and their families.
  • Assists with establishing a strong program for the application of technology to assist students.


  • The Psychologist may provide consultation to teachers and parents regarding programming for children with exceptional needs.
  • The Psychologist provides supervision to the PRTs when they conduct psycho-educational assessments.
  • The Psychologist acts as a liaison between the NCDSB and doctors, other psychologists, and other professionals in developing plans to meet the needs of exceptional students.
  • The Psychologist may provide in-depth psycho-educational assessments with the written consent of parents/legal guardians.

Superintendent of Special Education

  • The Superintendent of Special Education supervises and evaluates Special Education personnel.
  • The Superintendent of Special Education makes recommendations to the NCDSB with regards to programs and services for students with special education needs.
  • The Superintendent of Special Education oversees the implementation and review of special education programs and services.
  • The Superintendent of Special Education acts as a representative on regional and provincial committees which address student’s issues and needs.


  • Coordinate the work of Special Education staff in a designated area.
  • Provide support to schools regarding the programming for students with special education needs.
  • Oversee the implementation of in-service for staff.
  • Liaise with appropriate community agencies and treatment centres where necessary.
  • Oversee the implementation and review of special education programs and services.

What other services are available to assist my child?

Specialized Equipment Purchases

  • Specialized equipment is made available through Ministry of Education grants for students who qualify.

Regional Services

  • Contact Niagara
    • Niagara Children’s Mental Health Services
    • Pathstone Mental Health
    • Child Parent Resources Institute (CPRI – London)
  • Niagara Children’s Centre
  • Niagara Developmental Services
    • Bethesda
      • Autism Spectrum Disorder Respite Services
      • Children’s Developmental Assessment Services (CDAS)
      • Hamilton-Niagara Regional Autism Program
      • Children’s Behaviour Services (CBS)
    • Community Living
    • Niagara Support Services (NSS)
    • Niagara Training & Employment Agency (NTEC)
  • Speech Services Niagara (SSN)
  • Local Health Integration Network (LHIN)