Defining Special Education

As many as 270,000 students receive special education support in Ontario. That's about 12.5 per cent of the students in the province's publicly funded schools.

An exceptional pupil is one, according to the Education Act, "whose behavioural, communicational, intellectual, physical or multiple exceptionalities are such that he or she is considered to need placement in a special education program."

Each school's Identification, Placement and Review Committee (IPRC) decides if a child should be identified as exceptional, identifies the areas of exceptionality, decides on an appropriate placement, and reviews each child's identification and placement at least once a year.

An Individual Education Plan (IEP) is developed for each child, in consultation with parents. It includes specific educational expectations, an outline of the program and services to be received, a statement about the methods for reviewing progress and, for students 14 and older (except those identified only as gifted), a plan for transition to postsecondary school activities.


Behaviour: Learning disorder characterized by specific behaviour problems that, over time, adversely affect educational performance.

Communication: Autism, deaf, hard-of-hearing, language impairment, speech impairment or a learning disability that is defined as a significant discrepancy between academic achievement and assessed intellectual ability.

Intellectual: Giftedness, mild intellectual disability or developmental disability.

Physical: Physical disability or blind or low-vision .

Multiple: May include a combination of learning disability and other disorders, impairments or physical disabilities

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