The Special Education Program works to support First Nations schools to provide students high-quality, inclusive education services. The FNSA is also active in research and in policy discussions with the federal government to continue special education support to First Nations schools.
Types of services available:
Since the 2001 announcement of the federal government’s Special Education Program (SEP), First Nations schools in BC have directed the First Nations Schools Association and First Nations Education Steering Committee to act as the Regional Management Organization (RMO) for AANDC’s SEP funding for the BC Region. In doing so, the organizations have consistently supported all First Nations schools in this province to the fullest extent possible.
The BC SEP uses an intervention-based approach to special education delivery. This service delivery model involves a systematic process that begins in the classroom, with an extensive use of informal and formative assessment techniques for the purpose of program planning and for identifying students who might need more intensive assessments and support, and/or ultimately psycho-educational diagnoses and possibly assistance from one or more specialists. First Nations schools also have placed significant emphasis on early identification of special needs, as identifying and addressing special needs as early as possible offers the best opportunity for mitigating challenges and giving students the greatest chance of long-term success.
In addition, First Nations schools in BC have consistently directed the FNSA and FNESC to maintain a program design that emphasizes funding at the school-level for direct support for students with special needs, complemented by collective initiatives to create economies-of-scale and increase access to necessary expertise and special education materials.
Accordingly, each year, all schools are provided an allocation to support their special education programming with responsibilities set out in their contribution agreements. In addition, a separate portion of the BC SEP funding is allocated through a proposal process to schools with specific students with high cost low incidence special needs who cannot be served using the annual base grant. Using these funds, First Nations schools have made great progress in terms of their special education programming.
In addition, collective activities are implemented to maximize the benefits of the SEP funding.
SEP staff share information with schools, answer questions, organize services, and provide overall management to ensure the effective operation of the SEP program.
The FNSA regularly sponsors a range of special education professional development activities, recognizing that geographic challenges and the time and expense required for attendance at distant training sessions make it necessary to support, as much as possible, community-based, or at least regionally-based, training opportunities.
SEP Managers supervise all of the people providing SEP services, and also provide coaching, training and support to promote effective special education programming in schools. Generally, the Managers support the development, delivery, implementation and evaluation of strategies and programs aimed at increasing the quality of special education services throughout BC. Continued student, school and community support is provided on an on-going basis through emails, telephone and technology.
FNSA/FNESC-sponsored Speech Language Pathologists are working in a number of First Nations schools in various regions of the province. The SLP services provide teachers with much-needed information and language development strategies, and assessment and intervention recommendations are provided for students with exceptional learning needs.
Finally, for twelve years, the FNSA has coordinated a provincial-level approach to psycho-educational assessments for students referred for potential learning and behavioural disabilities. Each year, FNSA/FNESC hire specialists and assign them to visit schools to conduct appropriate assessments.
In implementing the SEP in the BC Region, FNESC and the FNSA have been able to develop positive partnerships that have extended the programming and services available in First Nations schools. For example, in 2014/2015, FNESC and the FNSA again worked collaboratively with Special Education Technology-BC (SET-BC), which has a mission to enhance student opportunities for success by providing access to curriculum through the use of appropriate educational and communication technologies. SET-BC was able to lend assistive technologies (reading, writing, and communication tools) where required to ensure students’ access to educational programs, and assist in providing the necessary training for students and educators in the use of these techniques.