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BCTF Advantage

Students with special needs 

One of the challenges teachers continue to deal with is how to meet the diverse needs of students in today’s classrooms.

The BCTF supports the principles of equity and opportunity for all learners, and the concept of inclusion, while recognizing that inclusion may not be appropriate for all students some, or all, of the time.

Careful planning is necessary for a student with special needs to be placed appropriately, and with the required resources available. The assessment of a student with special needs must be an ongoing process of consultation between the teacher or teachers, the parents, the administrative officer, paraprofessional personnel, and the student (where applicable).

Most likely you will have one or more students with special needs in your class(es). You should expect to be consulted in planning for this student.

An Individual Education Plan (IEP) must be prepared for each student with a designated category of special needs. The IEP documents the resources, goals/objectives, and strategies that are needed to help the student meet her/his full potential. The IEP is usually jointly written by the school-based team (SBT). Be clear about the resources and the help you will need in order to provide a successful experience for the child, and review progress at regular intervals. It is the classroom teacher’s responsibility to ensure that the IEP program is followed.

Ask your staff rep for specific integration policies and procedures. Other sources of assistance are school-based resource teachers (learning assistance, special education teachers), district resource staff, consultants, your administrative officer, and community resource people.

Often district workshops and/or in-service funds are available for classroom teachers to support them in this area.


BCTF Teaching to Diversity web project

This website is designed to provide access to information, resources, and contacts for teachers and all those who support the needs of learners in the BC public school system.

The focus is on information relevant to meeting the needs of students who receive Special Education, Learning Assistance or ELL services but who are for the most part included in mainstream classrooms.

We strongly recommend beginning teachers and teachers teaching on call visit this website, especially the resource inventory.

Ministry of Education publications

Through the Ministry of Education, there are a variety of resource materials to help classroom teachers understand and work with students who have special needs. They are as follows:



- Auditory Training Equipment (ATE)

- Cochlear Implantation Support

- Provincial Resource Centre for the Visually Impaired (PRCVI)

- Braille Instructional Program (PRCVI)

- Special Education Technology-BC (SET-BC)

- Provincial Outreach Program for Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Acquired brain injury

Adaptations and modifications

Adjudications/Grade 12 exams

Assistive computer technology

Attention deficit

Autism Spectrum Disorder


Resource guides


Guidelines—Special needs categories

Resource guides

Child abuse prevention

Children and youth in care

Ministry of Education/Ministry of Children and Family Development

Deaf/Hard hearing—Auditory Training Equipment (ATE)


Resource Guide

Dependent/Multiple needs


Special Needs Categories (see section E.6 Physically Dependent)

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)

Resource Guide




Resource guide

Individual Education Plan (IEP)


Resource guides

Intellectual disabilities


Resource Guides

Inter-Ministry protocols


Learning disabilities


Resource Guides

Mental health

Resource guides



Physical disabilities/Chronic health


Provincial resource programs


Sexual health

Resource Guides

Special education



Speech language pathology


Students with diverse learning needs

Guidelines and Resources

Teachers’ assistants


Roles and Responsibilities—Teachers’ Assistants (see page 10)

Transition planning


Inter-ministerial protocol

Resource guide



Resource Guides

Many of these documents can be found online at:

Ministry of Education special education services

Policy framework

The Ministry of Education Special Education policy framework articulates the principle of inclusion. Inclusion supports equitable access to learning, achievement, and the pursuit of excellence—for all students—in all aspects of their educational programs.


The School Act articulates the purpose of the British Columbia school system: to enable all learners to develop their individual potential and to acquire the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to contribute to a healthy, democratic, and pluralistic society and a prosperous and sustainable economy.

To achieve this purpose, the school system must strive to ensure that differences among learners do not impede their participation in school, their mastery of learning outcomes, or their ability to become contributing members of society.

The school system is expected to promote values expressed in the Constitution Act, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Official Languages Act, the Multiculturalism Act, the BC Human Rights Code, the Employment Equity Act and the School Act, respecting the rights of all individuals in accordance with the law.

The school system therefore strives to create and maintain conditions that foster success for all students and that promote fair and equitable treatment for all.


Special needs Students Order M150/89:

2. (1) A board must ensure that a principal, vice principal or director of instruction offers to consult with a parent of a student with special needs regarding the placement of that student in an educational program.

(2) A board must provide a student with special needs with an educational program in a classroom where that student is integrated with other students who do not have special needs, unless the educational needs of the student with special needs or other students indicate that the educational program for the student with special needs should be provided otherwise.

Individual Education Plan Order M638/95: sets out the requirements for school boards to design and implement individual education plans for students with special needs

Student Progress Report Order M191/94: describes reporting requirements for students who have special needs.

Additional definitions

Student with special needs: a student who has a disability of an intellectual, physical, sensory, emotional, or behavioral nature, has a learning disability or has exceptional gifts or talents.

Individual education plan (IEP): an individual education plan designed for a student that includes one or more of the following:

  • learning outcomes that are different from, or in addition to, expected learning outcomes set out in the applicable educational program guide,
  • a list of support services,
  • a list of adapted materials, instruction, or assessment methods.

Educational program guide: a document specified as an educational program guide in Ministerial Order 333/99, the Educational Program Guide Order (

Funding special needs policy

Policy statement

Students with special needs may require additional support and accommodations to enable them to access and participate in educational programs. The basic allocation, a standard amount of money provided per school age student enrolled in a school district, includes funds to support the learning needs of students who are identified as having learning disabilities, mild intellectual disabilities, students requiring moderate behaviour supports and students who are gifted. Additional supplementary funding recognizes the additional cost of providing programs for students with special needs in the following categories: dependent handicapped, deaf/blind, moderate to profound intellectual disabled, physically disabled/chronic health impaired, visually impaired, deaf/hard of hearing, autism spectrum disorder, and intensive behaviour interventions/serious mental illness.


In order to provide an inclusive education system in which students with special needs are fully participating members of a community of learners, additional support may be required by means of additional staff, specialized learning materials, physical accommodations or equipment, and assessments to enable them to meet their educational and social needs.


Section 106.3 (5) of the School Act provides the legal authority for special needs funding. See also Ministerial Order M150/89, the Special Needs Students Order.

Levels and categories:


                         Level 1 Level 2 Level 3
Dependent handicapped (A) Deaf/Blind (B) Moderate to profound Intellectual disabilities (C) Physically disabled or chronic health impairment (D) Visually impairment (E) Deaf or hard of hearing impairment (F) Autism Spectrum Disorder (G) Intensive behaviour Interventions or serious mental illness (H)


The basic allocation provided for all students includes funds to support students with other special needs, including students with Mild Intellectual Disability, Learning Disability, Moderate Behaviour Support/Mental Illness, and students who are gifted. The Basic Allocation also includes funds to support Boards of Education in providing learning assistance, speech-language pathology services, hospital homebound services, and assessment services. A student with special needs may also be eligible to receive funding for Aboriginal Education or English as a Second Language if the requirements of these programs are also met. Students with special needs may be enrolled in Distributed Electronic Learning (DEL) programs. To qualify for funding, Boards of Education must adhere to program requirements and procedures as outlined in Requirements and Guidelines for Students with Special Needs Taking and Distributed Learning Program.



  • A school board must ensure that a principal offers to consult with a parent of a child who has special needs regarding the student’s placement in an educational program.
  • A school board must provide a student who has special needs with an educational program in a classroom where the student is integrated with other students who do not have special needs, unless the educational needs of the student with special needs or other students indicate that the educational program for the student with special needs should be provided otherwise.


  • A school board must ensure that an IEP is designed for a student with special needs as soon as practical after the board identifies the student as having special needs, unless
    • the student requires little or no adaptations to materials, instruction or assessment methods.
    • the expected learning outcomes have not been modified.
    • the student requires 25 or fewer hours of remedial instruction by someone other than the classroom teacher, in a school year.
  • A school board must ensure that the IEP is reviewed at least once each school year, and where necessary, is revised or cancelled.

C.         A school board must offer the parent of the student, and where appropriate the student, the opportunity to be consulted about the preparation of the IEP.

Note: The School Act [section 7(2)] requires a parent of a student to consult with the student’s teacher or an administrative officer about the student’s educational program, when requested to do so.

D.         A school board must offer each student who has special needs learning activities in accordance with the IEP designed for that student.


Student progress reports for students with special needs should be provided on the same schedule as used for all students in the school. When necessary, additional informal reporting may include other procedures such as daily logs.

Where a student with special needs is expected to achieve or surpass the learning outcomes, performance scales, letter grades and regular reporting procedures will be used to indicate progress. Where it is determined that a student with special needs is not capable of achieving the learning outcomes of provincial or board/authority authorized curriculum, and substantial course or program modification is necessary, specific individual goals and objectives will be established for the student in his or her IEP. Performance scales, letter grades, and structured written comments may be used to report the level of the student’s success in achieving these modified goals and objectives. It may not be appropriate to provide letter grades to all students with special needs. Considering the potential impact on the student, whether or not to use letter grades should be made in consultation with the school-based team.

Where a professional support person other than the classroom teacher is responsible for providing some portion of the student's educational program (e.g., speech pathologist, orientation, and mobility instructors), those persons should provide written reports on the student's progress for inclusion with the report of the classroom teacher.

Grades on reports to parents should identify whether courses have been modified, although adaptations (e.g., oral exam) need not be identified. With written consent, such information should be communicated to post-secondary institutions or community agencies providing adult services in a manner consistent with legislation affecting freedom of information and protection of privacy.

Reference: Ministerial Order 191/94, the Student Progress Report Order


An Individual Education Plan (IEP) is a documented plan developed for a student with special needs that describes individualized goals, adaptations, modifications, the services to be provided, and includes measures for tracking achievement. An IEP must have one or more of the following:

  • the goals or outcomes set for that student for that school year where they are different from the learning outcomes set out in an applicable educational program guide
  • a list of the support services required to achieve goals established for the student
  • a list of the adaptations to educational materials, instructional strategies or assessment methods.

An IEP should also include the following:

  • the present levels of educational performance of the student
  • the setting where the educational program is to be provided
  • the names of all personnel who will be providing the educational program and the support services for the student during the school year
  • the period of time and process for review of the IEP
  • evidence of evaluation or review, which could include revisions made to the plan and the tracking of achievement in relation to goals
  • plans for the next transition point in the student’s education (including transitions beyond school completion).


Special Education Services: A Manual of Policies, Procedures and Guidelines (September 2013)

Individual Education Planning for Students with Special Needs: A Resource Guide to Support Teachers (2009)

Parents’ Guide to Individual Education Planning


If you have any questions relating to this policy, please contact the Diversity and Equity Unit at

Special Education References

Special Education Services: A Manual of Policies, Procedures and Guidelines

Every Principal’s Guide to Special Education in British Columbia

Roles and Responsibilities of Teachers and Teacher Assistants: A BCTF/CUPE Joint Paper

Useful websites for additional information and resources

Special Education resource documents from the Ministry. Includes instructional planning tools for ASD, PDCH, Behaviour

Teaching to Diversity website. Of particular note, the Resource Inventory page

Provincial Outreach Program for Autism Spectrum Disorders

Provincial Integration Support Program

Provincial Outreach Program for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

Special Education Technology—BC

CEC New Teachers Blog: Reality 101 for New Teachers—Resources, information and current issues discussions

Center for Applied Special Technology. Includes UDL resources and Lesson builders

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