So your Child will be going to High School Next Year It can be a scary time, but also an exciting time of meeting new people, opportunities & challenges for both you & your child!
Ask your son or daughter’s school if they will be holding a ‘Transition Night’ or something similar, where parents & students are invited to hear about moving to high school. At my daughter’s school they held it in the fall & also had some representatives from a number of different high schools in the area available to speak to & answer questions. They also handed out Choices 2004-2005 Secondary School Course Selection and Planning Guide for Students and Parents, which you can get from the Toronto District School Board (TDSB)’s website: www.tdsb.on.ca Click on ‘Quick Links’ & scroll down to ‘Choices for Secondary School’. High Schools usually hold Open Houses that you & your child can attend. You may be given this list at the school’s Transition Night, but you can also get the dates from the individual Board web sites. The dates are usually from November to February. The Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB)’s website is: www.tcdsb.org If you click on the ‘Parents’ tab, & then on the ‘Admission/Registration’ tab, you will find information on their ‘Secondary School Admission Process’. Your child’s school may organize trips to the local high schools for the students, & you could go along to those. If your child did not attend the TCDSB prior to grade 9, they may apply to the Catholic Board by filling out a Waiting List Application Form which you can get from your local Catholic High School or the TCDSB Admissions Office.
Where you live will dictate which high school your son or daughter will attend. There may be more than one option for the elementary school your child is currently attending. Someone at your child’s present school will be able to provide you with this information.
If you wish your child to be included in a regular classroom when they begin high school, you should speak with the Principal of the school your son or daughter will attend to begin to ensure they are aware of your child’s support needs and can begin to plan for a successful transition. If you are looking for a Special Education program, you will need to speak with the Special Education Consultant assigned to your area who will inform you where programs are located and which have space in them. The important thing is to ensure that your child will have the support they need to have a successful high school experience. You will also want to look at ways your child can be included into the life of the school. Even if your child is in a Special Education program, they can be included into regular classrooms with support.
Community Living Toronto recommends that it is a good idea to take someone along with you when meeting with the school; it is always helpful to have someone with you so they can help you to both remember to ask your questions and the outcome of your discussions.
If your child has had an Identification Placement Review Committee (IPRC) meeting in the past, you may want to ask that the one in grade 8 be held in the fall, so that recommendations for a high school placement can be made early on, leaving you & your child more time to visit schools & consider your options. Remember the IPRC Committee only makes recommendations, which you can either agree or disagree with.
Another tool available to your child which might help with this process is the Annual Education Plan (AEP) which all children (with or without a disability) should be completing beginning in grade 7. This is a planning process which should help students set goals, review & assess their achievements and progress along the way. It has been my experience that you sometimes have to insist on having one completed if you feel it is important. Some students do in their Teacher Advisory Group (TAG) & the school’s Guidance department should be able to help with as well. You can get a copy of the AEP off the Ministry of Education’s website www.edu.gov.on.ca Click on ‘Elementary/Secondary’, then ‘Publications’, then ‘Forms & Applications’ & finally ‘Annual Education Plan, grades 7 to 12’.
School principles are required to ensure that a transition plan is prepared, as part of the Individual Education Plan, for each exceptional student who is 14 years of age or older. Again, you can get a copy of the Ministry’s Transition Planning Guide from the Ministry of Education’s website www.edu.gov.on.ca
Another issue for your consideration is the graduation recognition that your son/daughter will be working towards. The Ministry of Education has outlined 3 options:
- Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) is granted to students who meet all diploma requirements, including the literacy graduation requirement
- Ontario Secondary School Certificate (OSSC) is given, on request, to students who are leaving secondary school with a minimum of 14 credits, 7 of which are compulsory credits.
- Certificate of Accomplishment may be given to students who leave school before fulfilling the requirements for the OSSD or OSSC. This certificate may be used to recognize achievement for students who plan to take certain vocational programs or other kinds of further training or who plan to find employment after leaving school.
You may want to consider having your child complete the 40 hours of Community Service even if receiving the Certificate of Accomplishment as it could provide a volunteer experience that they could put on their resume.
Co-op placements are also an excellent way for your child to get some work experience. They usually start in grade 11. If you are interested in this, you may need to ask the appropriate school staff about involving your son or daughter.
All grade 9 students have the opportunity to be involved in ‘Take Your Child to Work Day’. If your child is in a Special Education placement, you may not hear about this. If you are interested in having your child participate, ask about it.
* The ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program) provides employment supports service to students looking for a part time job, 16 years of age & over. (Do not use term “summer job” or they will reject the application). Individuals can apply by completing the Application for Employment Supports, which you can get by calling 416-325-0693 or by going on their website: www.mcss.gov.on.ca . Caution if the person is under 18 and the family income is over $50,000 ODSP could ask the family to help pay for the service.
Apply for ODSP Income Supports 6 months before your son or daughter turns 18. The phone numbers for the different offices can be found in the blue pages of your phone book under the Disability section.
If you are not receiving support from the Special Services at Home (SSAH) program, you may want to consider applying as it gives your family respite & your child individual support services. Call 416-325-0623 for an application. There is also an SSAH Provincial Coalition whose website you may wish to visit: www.ssahcoaltion.ca
When your son or daughter starts high school is a good time to start looking. Your son or daughter’s school will help in this process. Agencies and the Guidance department of your son/daughter’s school can also be contacted for assistance with this.
A student with an intellectual disability can remain in school until age 21. If you chose that option, it means that your child will be spending 7 years in high school. The Transition Plan will help you prepare for life
after high school.
In the TCDSB, they have designated a staff person, Penny McCormick, from their Career Access Dept. who can assist with after high school transition planning. Ask to have her attend one of your meetings.
The TDSB also has a Career Advisory Committee for Students with Special Needs that hosts “Career Carousel’s” & other interesting presentations. Ask for information about at you child’s school.
It is often suggested that you & your child think about what they want to do after graduating and then work backwards to help you decide what you need to do to get there. Taking note of what your child’s gifts & strengths are and where their talents & interests lay will be help with planning.
Some students want to continue their education after graduating & one program you may want to look at is Humber College’s CICE Program, “Community Integration Through Cooperative Education”. Seneca & George Brown Colleges also offer college vocational programs. You will need to check the admission criteria as it has been reported that the student must be at a grade 5 literacy level.
There are also a number of day programs running in the city. There is a listing of “Day Activities For People who have a Developmental Disability” which is available through Community Living Toronto. (I would be willing to have one sent to you. Please email your request to me at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Competitive Employment is another option for some individuals. ODSP Employment Supports provide vocational assessments as well as support. See * on page 3 for contact information.
Some individuals choose to include some time spent doing volunteer work and/or being involved in some sort of recreational activity as part of their week’s schedule. Some have even chosen to start their own businesses!
The possibilities are endless and should be as individual as your child is. It is never too early to start planning & to build a network of support around your child & yourself that will help your family throughout your child’s life.
One last suggestion would be to become a member of a local organization that serves individuals with intellectual disabilities. It is one of the best ways to be kept abreast of all the information that is available as well as activities/workshops that you &/or your child may be interested in participating in. If you’re able to get involved, it also provides you with one way of connecting with other parents, from whom I believe you learn the most from and helps to develop a united voice.
Frequently Asked Question:
Parents often wonder when exactly their child graduates & wonder if it has to do with which month they turn 21. I just had it explained to me, & here it is: A student graduates in June of the calendar year he/she turns 21 – Eg. If someone is born Jan. 1, 1985, they graduate in June 2006. If someone is born Dec. 31, 1985, they also graduate in June, 2006. The month of birth does not matter, only the year of birth. The rationale for this is that when the call goes out for JK registration, it is for children who were born in a specific year – Eg. 2001. In September of the first school year, some children will be 3 years old, some will be 4 years old – but in the 2004 calendar year, by Dec.31 all will be 4 years old. When these students graduate in June of the year they turn 21, some will be 20 and others will be 21 – BUT they will all have had the exact same number of years in school.
Good luck. Your efforts will pay off!