Planning For Independence


This document replaces Children With Moderate and Severe Intellectual Handicaps (1981) and has been designed to:

  • help classroom and special education teachers, paraprofessionals, support staff, and school board personnel develop individual programs for students with moderate and severe intellectual disabilities;
  • assist teachers in adapting curriculum and teaching strategies to meet the needs of students with moderate and severe intellectual disabilities;
  • assist teachers in evaluating the progress of students and the effectiveness of their programs;
  • provide information and direction for curriculum development in subject areas;
  • facilitate the process of integrating students with intellectual disabilities into school and community.

Steady progress has been made in the education of exceptional students since the passage of Bill 82, which requires that school boards provide programs for all students, exceptionality notwithstanding. Providing equal educational opportunities through individualized programs and integrating students with learning problems are accepted practices today. Across a range of placement options, a variety of learning environments are provided in which students can develop feelings of acceptance, belonging, and self-worth.

There are problems inherent in attempts to define or describe accurately any group of students. Descriptions can lead to labelling, which in turn obscures individual differences and can lead to misperceptions about students' learning potential. Furthermore, labels can erect barriers between students and their home and school communities. Because, in the past, labelling served to stigmatize intellectually disabled students, it is important to proceed cautiously and with sensitivity when describing these individuals and their needs. Accordingly, in this document, pupils with moderate and severe intellectual disabilities shall be referred to simply as students.

Each student is a unique individual who has the potential to learn and develop with the help of a carefully planned and judiciously executed program. Each faces intellectual challenges that result in slower learning of academic, communicative, and social skills.

These students are a highly heterogeneous group with a wide range of learning strengths, needs, and abilities. Some students face, in addition to intellectual handicaps, physical and sensory disabilities that further challenge their ability to learn and to gain control over their environment.

Society must accommodate persons who differ from the norm. Schools have a responsibility to provide students with learning experiences that will prepare them for effective participation in the community, because everyone has the right to a full and rewarding life. For these students, such a life includes opportunities to:

  • live as independently as possible, in a home rather than an institution;
  • be productive through independent or supported employment, volunteer work, and participation in home life;
  • use all community facilities and services;
  • interact with others and make friends;
  • enrol in continuing education programs, including literacy programs and a wide range of interest courses;
  • enjoy leisure activities.

To ensure the eventual full participation of students in the life of the community, schools should endeavour to provide comprehensive programs aimed at long-term goals. Such programs:

  • are personalized to suit individual abilities and needs;
  • use an experiential, multisensory, concrete approach;
  • help each student become as independent as possible;
  • provide students with whatever supports they require to learn a skill or to participate in an activity, but recognize the value of phasing out such supports when they are no longer needed;
  • develop fully students' communicative, cognitive, personal-life-management, and academic abilities;
  • provide regular opportunities for students to interact with their non-disabled peers;
  • provide regular opportunities for students to move around in the community;
  • allow students to learn and practise skills in the appropriate contexts and environments;
  • encourage students to develop leisure skills through personalized assessment and instruction;
  • prepare students for transition to other learning, community, and work settings;
  • provide students with career-education programs with their peers;
  • assist students and their families in the transition to adult community programs following completion of the secondary school program.

Legislative Background

The legislative background relevant to this document includes both the educational guidelines that have been established for exceptional students and the educational goals that have been specified for all students.

According to the Education Act, 1986, school boards must provide education programs for all students residing in their jurisdictions.

The act specifies that each Ontario school-age student is entitled to access to publicly supported education in his or her preferred language (English or French), regardless of the student's special needs; students who are exceptional are entitled to appropriate special education programs and services. The act also states that the parents and guardians of exceptional students must have the opportunity to be involved in the identification and placement of these students.

The goals of education apply equally to all students in Ontario schools and consist of helping each student to:

  1. develop a responsiveness to the dynamic processes oflearning;
  2. develop resourcefulness, adaptability, and creativity in learning and living;
  3. acquire the basic knowledge and skills needed to comprehend and express ideas through words, numbers, and other symbols;
  4. develop physical fitness and good health;
  5. gain satisfaction from participating and from sharing the participation of others in various forms of artistic expression;
  6. develop a feeling of self-worth;
  7. develop an understanding of the role of the individual within the family and the role of the family within society;
  8. acquire skills that contribute to self-reliance in solving practical problems in everyday life;
  9. develop a sense of personal responsibility in society at the local, national, and international levels;
  10. develop esteem for the customs, cultures, and beliefs of a wide variety of societal groups;
  11. acquire skills and attitudes that will lead to satisfaction and productivity in the world of work;
  12. develop respect for the environment and a commitment to the wise use of resources;
  13. develop values related to personal, ethical, or religious beliefs and to the common welfare of society.*

The Organization of This Document

In Part 1, "The Planning Cycle", a model of program planning is introduced, and the four phases of planning represented in the model are described in detail. The school board's role is discussed in "Support From the School Board". Then suggestions are provided for assessing students' learning needs by determining their levels of development in various areas. A subsequent section, "Changing Inappropriate Behaviour", shows how to use the planning cycle to change inappropriate behaviour that has been uncovered by the assessment process. Sections on selecting and making the most of a learning environment are followed by a section entitled "Accommodating Students in a Regular School", which presents strategies and practices for integrating students in a regular school. Finally, a variety of approaches to program design are discussed.

In Part 2, "Suggestions for Specific Program Areas", the model of program planning is applied to thirteen program areas. For each area, a general overview, a list of elements in the planning cycle, and two case studies (one at the elementary and one at the secondary level) are provided.

* Ministry of Education, Ontario, Ontario Schools, Intermediate and Senior Divisions (Grades 7-12/OACs): Program and Diploma Requirements, rev, ed. (Toronto: Ministry of Education, Ontario, 1989), pp. 3-4.

Next: Part 1: The Planning Cycle - Introduction   Return to: Table of Contents