Unit 1: An Historical Overview of Special Education in Ontario
This unit provides a short historical overview of special education in the province of Ontario. It is written in chronological order with an emphasis on specific government initiatives and resulting legislation. It is intended to provide the reader with a brief history of the changes that have taken place in special education policy and legislation, and provide some context for the establishment of Special Education Advisory Committees (SEACs). It is not meant to be a thorough analysis or a full history of special education in the province.
This unit also provides an introduction to the four units that follow. These units provide more specific details on the roles and responsibilities of the partners, the legislative framework for special education, and the funding model.
This unit is designed to enable SEAC members to gain an understanding of:
- the history behind current special education legislation and policies in Ontario schools;
- the educational changes that led to current special education legislation and policies;
- the place of SEACs in this history.
In 1980, SEACs were established as part of a major revision to Ontario's education system and its support for students with special needs. That year, An Act to Amend the Education Act, which is frequently referred to as Bill 82, was passed, requiring that exceptional pupils receive special education programs and services. Bill 82 was the culmination of thirty years of royal commissions, education reform, public pressure, and political will.
During the thirty years from 1950 to 1980, students with special learning needs were largely ignored. Some drifted away from school, others managed to obtain some measure of formal education through luck, individual teacher support, and family intervention. The following story demonstrates this struggle. Click on the title and read the story.
When we think of Ruthie's experience and compare it to experiences of students in schools today, it's plain that the Ministry has moved a very long way in supporting students with special needs, although much remains to be done.
The 1950s: Beginnings
he first significant look at special education came with the Royal Commission on Education in Ontario, 1950, also known as the Hope Report.
The Hope Report was a significant Ontario milestone. Its recommendations included the following:
- compulsory school attendance from age six to age sixteen
- universal Kindergarten programs
- the abolition of Grade 13
- a significant expansion of special education programs to serve children with learning disabilities
While the report had little immediate impact on education policy, many of its recommendations were quite significant. Although it took fifty years for some of the recommendations to be implemented, it was a beginning.
The 1960s: Decade of Education Reform
The next major education reform came in 1962. The Robarts Plan completely reorganized the schools' program of studies. This educational reform initiative introduced three academic streams for students attending secondary school, including a two year course to prepare students directly for jobs, a four year course that included vocational training, and a more traditional five year program. Among the results of this significant policy change was a decrease in the dropout rate for secondary school students and an increase in the number of students who stayed in school to obtain a graduation diploma.
As a separate initiative in 1962, the Government of Ontario repealed most of its human rights laws in order to make way for the Ontario Human Rights Code, the first comprehensive human rights code in Canada. The Code affirmed the right to equal access to services, including education. However, it was not until 1982 that human rights legislation prohibiting discrimination on the basis of “handicap” was proclaimed. Over its forty-year history, the Ontario Human Rights Code has been a very important initiative in advancing the rights of students.
Education reform continued to come quickly in the 1960s. In 1968 the Hall-Dennis Report, Living and Learning: The Report of the Provincial Committee on Aims and Objectives of Education in the Schools of Ontario, was released. A key component of this report was the reinforcement of "... the right of every individual to have equal access to the learning experience best suited to his needs, and the responsibility of every school authority to provide a child centred learning continuum that invites learning by individual discovery and inquiry." This report served as a catalyst for dramatic changes in classrooms and in teaching throughout the province.
The 1970s: Implementation of Further Reforms
Through the 1970s, the major reforms initiated in the previous decade were implemented in Ontario classrooms. New program policies, credits, and diploma requirements were introduced, accompanied by new teaching techniques, often in dramatically altered classroom settings, which included the Aopen classroom@. Programs and services for students with special needs, however, were still lacking. School boards were still not required to offer special education programs and services, although some did. It was not until the end of the decade that a greater focus was directed at special education.
The 1980s: Focus on Special Education
On December 12, 1980, An Act to Amend the Education Act, often referred to as Bill 82, came into effect in Ontario. This legislation, which had a significant impact on special education in the province, was part of a world wide movement towards providing all children with the opportunity for a publicly funded education, regardless of disabilities. For example, in the United States, a landmark piece of legislation, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, was passed in 1975. This legislation has been amended over time and is now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or IDEA.
The passage of Bill 82 meant that, for the first time, school boards in Ontario were required to provide special education programs and services to exceptional pupils or to purchase these services through an agreement with another publicly funded school board. Up to this time, school boards could offer such programs and services, but were under no obligation to do so, with the result that there was significant variation in the provision of special education programs and services among boards across the province. Children with disabilities were, therefore, sometimes excluded from Ontario schools entirely. Some of these children stayed at home without attending any school, while others might have been accommodated in private school settings, often run by parents or volunteers.
Other aspects of the legislation, and subsequent regulations, included such requirements as the following:
- early and ongoing identification and assessment of learning abilities and needs of students
- establishment of Identification, Placement, and Review Committees
- involvement of parents or guardians of exceptional pupils in assessment, identification, and placement processes
- involvement of parent associations in SEACs
- the right of parents to appeal decisions related to identification or placement by an Identification, Placement, and Review Committee of the board
- extension of the right to provide programs for children with developmental disabilities to Roman Catholic School Boards, thus enabling separate schools to provide special education programs and services for all of their students
Following the enactment of the Education Amendment Act of 1980 (Bill 82), school boards were given five years to establish their special education plans, in consultation with their SEACs. Today, Regulation 306 requires that each school board prepare and approve a report on their special education programs and special education services and submit it to the Ministry of Education every two years. Any amendments to the plan in the intervening year must also be reported to the ministry. Over time, numerous regulations and policy statements, including policy/program memoranda, were issued by the ministry to support the policy framework reflected in the legislation.
Policy/Program Memorandum No. 81 (PPM 81)is one example. PPM 81 addresses interministerial responsibilities for the provision of health support services in school settings for pupils who require them in order to attend school. This policy memorandum, issued in 1984, describes how health support services such as speech language services; the provision of medication, catheterization, and lifting and positioning; and other services were to be shared among three ministries. The school boards would share responsibility for the direct provision of these services at the local level with the Home Care Program of the Ministry of Health and with agencies operating under the Ministry of Community and Social Services. The present names of the pertinent ministries are the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) and the Ministry of Community and Social Services (MCSS). The health support services formerly provided by the Home Care Program of MOHLTC are now provided by MOHLTC Community Care Access Centres (CCACs).
Regulations 554/81 and 305, which were later replaced by Regulation181/98, are further examples. These regulations required every school board to establish at least one Identification, Placement and Review Committee (IPRC)to determine if a pupil should be identified as exceptional, and, if so, what the determination of placement should be. Subsection1(1) of the Education Act defines an exceptional pupil as one Awhose behavioural, communicational, intellectual, physical or multiple exceptionalities are such that he or she is considered to need placement in a special education program by a committee ... of the board@. The regulation also requires principals to ensure that an Individual Education Plan (IEP) is developed for each student who has been identified as exceptional by an IPRC within thirty school days of the placement of the pupil in a special education program.
Regulation 181/98 also includes requirements concerning the following matters:
- the IPRC's description of a student's strengths and needs and its decision regarding whether the student should be identified as an exceptional pupil
- consideration of placement in a regular class with appropriate supports, when it meets the student's needs and is in accordance with parents' wishes
- communication to parents about IPRC procedures
- appeal procedures if parents disagree with IPRC decisions related to identification and/or placement
Bill 82 had a significant impact on parents, teachers, and other professionals associated with providing special education support to students. Active participation on SEACs meant parents and advocates became more informed about school board requirements for the provision of programs. As a result, they began to influence the range of special education programs and services provided by their boards. Many teachers had to develop new skills and take additional training in order to respond to the program needs of pupils they were not used to having in their classes.
Human rights legislation, both federal and provincial, has had a significant impact on the rights of students with disabilities and their access to special education programs and services in schools. Other initiatives, including government commissions on education, general education reform, and the publication by the Ministry of Education of policy documents and resource guides related to special education, have added to the impact of these rights on the delivery of programs and services.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which came into effect in 1982, stipulates that every individual is equal before and under the law, and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age, or mental or physical disability.
Ontario's Human Rights Code also supports equal treatment for all individuals. In 1989, the Human Rights Commission, which administers the Code, published its Guidelines on Assessing Accommodation Requirements for Persons with Disabilities, and, in 2000, it approved a revised version of its Policy and Guidelines on Disability and the Duty to Accommodate. This document sets out a broad definition of disability, from a human rights perspective, along with key policy positions on the duty to accommodate and the undue hardship standard. In 2004, the Commission published Guidelines on Accessible Education that are intended to provide guidance to support education providers and students with disabilities in the fulfilment of their duties and rights under the Code.
The Last Decade: Meeting Special Education Needs
Through legislation, regulations, and policy statements, the Ministry of Education continues to make special education a high priority. In 1991, the Minister of Education said:
“The integration of exceptional pupils into local community classrooms should be the norm in Ontario, wherever possible, when such a placement meets the pupil's needs, and when it is according to parental choice.”
A June 9, 1994, memorandum from an assistant deputy minister reinforced the ministry's commitment to integration as a first choice of placement for students. It stated:
“The Ministry of Education and Training remains committed to the principle that the integration of exceptional pupils should be the normal practice in Ontario, when such a placement meets the pupil's needs and is in accordance with parental wishes. A range of options including placement in a special class or provincial or demonstration school will continue to be available for pupils whose needs cannot be met within the regular classroom.”
The 1995 Report of the Royal Commission on Learning, For the Love of Learning, recommended the integration of students with special needs into regular classrooms, with classroom support when necessary, while acknowledging the appropriateness of other placements, including acceleration for gifted students.
The ministry's Special Education: A Guide for Educators, 2001, which replaced the Special Education Information Handbook, 1984, reflects the many changes that have taken place with regard to legislation, regulations, policy, and educational practice since the publication of the earlier document. The guide explains pertinent legislation and policy, funding for special education, program planning, programs and services, and the roles of and resources provided by other ministries. The guide will be updated periodically to reflect new legislation, policies, programs, and practices.
Special Education in Ontario Today
All students require support from teachers, classmates, family, and friends in order to benefit fully from their school experience. Some students have special needs that require additional supports beyond those ordinarily received in the school setting. In Ontario, children who have behavioural, communication, intellectual, physical, or multiple exceptionalities, or who are gifted, may require special education services or special education programs to enable them to attend school and to benefit fully from their school experience. Such students may be formally identified as exceptional pupils. Subsection 8(3) of the Education Act requires the Minister of Education to prescribe categories of exceptionalities, to define the exceptionalities, and to require school boards to use the definitions. The categories and definitions can be found in the ministry policy document Special Education: A Guide for Educators.
All students formally identified as exceptional by an Identification, Placement, and Review Committee (IPRC) must have access to an education that will enable them to develop the knowledge and skills they need in order to participate in the life of Ontario's communities. The Education Act and regulations made under the Act require school boards to provide exceptional pupils with special education programs and special education services that are appropriate for their needs. Specific procedures for the identification and placement of exceptional pupils are set out in Regulation 181/98. This regulation also provides for the regular review of the identification and placement of a student and for the appeal of identification and/or placement decisions with which parents/guardians disagree.
When the IPRC identifies a student as exceptional, the principal must ensure that an Individual Education Plan (IEP) is developed and maintained for that pupil in accordance with the ministry document: Individual Education Plans: Standards for Development, Program Planning, and Implementation, 2000. Input from parents or guardians must be included in the development of the IEP. Students sixteen years or older must also be consulted. The IEP identifies the student's particular learning expectations and outlines how the school will address these expectations through appropriate special education programs and services. It also identifies how the student's progress will be reviewed. The IEP will be modified on the basis of continuous evaluation and assessment.
Individual Education Plans
For all identified and unidentified students receiving special education programs and services, the Individual Education Plan and Provincial Report Card are essential accountability tools for monitoring and reporting on the student’s progress through the Ontario curriculum.
To assist teachers and other support professionals in developing an IEP for exceptional students, the ministry has included a section on IEPs in its resource document Special Education: A Guide for Educators, 2001.
As part of the Ministry’s continuing effort to support the development and implementation of effective IEPs and to complement those found in the IEP Resource Guide, sample IEPs have been developed by writing teams from across the province. The samples have been developed using the provincial electronic IEP template posted on the CODE website. The website contains samples that represent the ministry exceptionality categories/definitions, as well as samples for non-identified students, for both elementary and secondary panels. As of Spring 2009, there have been over 20,000 downloads. By the end of the 2008/09 school year there will be 25 English and 25 French IEP samples posted. Users are invited to provide feedback to the ministry regarding content and usefulness of the samples, as well as to pose any questions that they may have with regard to developing effective IEPs.
The ministry continues to be available to support school boards through the development and implementation of effective IEPs through in-service sessions as requested. IEP support is also being provided to the Faculties of Education through pre-service and additional qualification courses.
The IEP samples may be viewed at: www.ontariodirectors.ca/IEP-PEI/
Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders
The ministry funded and provided training in partnership with Geneva Centre for Autism to support implementation, beginning in the 2007/08 school year, of PPM No. 140, Incorporating Methods of Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) into Programs for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Training opportunities have been provided for school board teams, principals, and school teams. The ministry is continuing to provide funding to school boards to support training opportunities for school teams.
Since summer 2006 the Ministry has provided almost $19M for training, and to date more than more than 10,000 educators have been trained in ABA instructional methods to support students with ASD in our publicly funded schools.
The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Children and Youth Services supported Phase 1 of Collaborative Service Delivery Models (CSDM) for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders in seven sites involving eight school boards, relevant community agencies, and parents in 2007-08 and 2008-09. The models focused on:
- Harmonizing Transitions – transition of student information protocol (pre-school to school; primary to secondary); seamless transitions;
- Transitioning Together – grade to grade; semester to semester;
- Individual Student Support Teams for Students with ASD – to collaboratively assess, plan for, and implement strategies to enable students with ASD to be successful in school and in the community;
- Parent Engagement in Diverse Communities;
- Integrating Students with High-Functioning ASD in the Classroom;
- Transitions – primary to junior; intermediate to secondary; and
- Data Collection and Behavioural Intervention Plan – for individual students with ASD who are struggling.
CSDM Phase 2, an expansion of Phase 1 and also jointly supported by both ministries, involves 16 boards and the 9 MCYS-funded Autism Intervention Program service providers in supporting school-aged children with ASD who are ready to make the transition from Intensive Behaviour Intervention (IBI) services delivery through an MCYS-funded Autism Intervention Program to Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) instructional methods in publicly funded schools.
Phase 2 focuses on multi-disciplinary, student-specific, school-based transition teams that are established approximately six months before a child prepares to transition from intensive behavioural intervention (IBI) services provided through the MCYS funded Autism Intervention Program to applied behaviour analysis (ABA) instructional methods in school. Transition teams include the Principal or designate (Team Lead), parent/guardian, teacher(s), the School Support Program ASD Consultant and a school board person with ABA expertise as required. These teams may be supplemented by other multi-disciplinary expertise based on the child’s needs. School boards throughout the province are expected to implement the transition teams model no later than spring 2010 for all children transitioning from intensive behavioural intervention (IBI) therapy services provided through the MCYS funded Autism Intervention Program (AIP) to ABA instructional methods in our publicly funded schools in September 2010 and thereafter.
The ministry has provided funding to school boards to hire additional ABA expertise, to provide training and coordination at the school and school board level in order to build capacity in the system and to enhance collaborative cooperation between service providers and schools.
In 2009, the ministry provided funding to Geneva Centre for Autism to cover educators’ registration and materials to participate in the Geneva Centre for Autism 25th Annual Summer Training Institute on August 24-27, 2009. It is anticipated that up to 1,200 principals, teachers, teachers’ assistants and other educators will be able to access these training opportunities.
As required by PPM 140, the ministry developed an annual process to monitor school boards’ implementation of ABA instructional methods by school boards. Schools complete a snapshot self-assessment survey of 33 indicators of implementation of PPM 140 as at March 1. This snapshot survey generates a provincial profile on implementation by schools boards that is shared with MACSE and those members of the former Ministers’ Autism Spectrum Disorders Reference Group who wish to be involved, at the June MACSE meeting. MACSE and members of the ASD Reference Group will be consulted on survey process at the February MACSE meeting.
In 2006, the government invested $5 million through Geneva Centre for Autism to provide training for Teachers’ Assistants who work or may work with students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Geneva Centre for Autism has established a Project Advisory Group comprised of researchers, practitioners and key stakeholders to inform the development, implementation, evaluation and public reporting.
Learning for All
In 2005, the ministry established the Expert Panel on Literacy and Numeracy Instruction for Students with Special Education Needs to recommend practices, based on research, that would allow Ontario’s teachers to improve and reinforce effective instruction of reading, writing, oral communication, and mathematics to students from Kindergarten to Grade 6 who have special education needs. The result was the publication Education for All: The Report of the Expert Panel on Literacy and Numeracy Instruction for Students with Special Education Needs.
The ministry is currently working on a follow-up document, Learning for All K – 12/L’apprentissage pour tous: de la maternelle à la 12e année. The guide will continue to share information about research-informed educational approaches that have proven to be effective in supporting learning for all students, as well as providing tools to facilitate planning for instruction that build on students’ interests, strengths, needs, and the stages of readiness.
In 2009, the ministry implemented a recommended professional activity day dedicated to special education in order to support the resources found in Learning for All and to allow schools to help reach the ministry’s special education goals, including: improved outcomes, increased system capacity, and ensured linkages from the IEP to the Ontario Curriculum and the Provincial Report Card.
The Council of Ontario Directors of Education (CODE), with financial support from the Ministry of Education, has overseen the implementation of school based projects aimed at implementing the concepts and approaches recommended in Education for All.
The Ministry of Education provided $20 million to the Ontario Psychological Association (OPA) to reduce current waiting times for students who require assessments and to enhance teachers’ capacity to provide effective programs, based on assessment information, for students in Junior Kindergarten to Grade 4. School boards determined their professional assessment needs, along with classroom-based assessment, which may have included: psychological, speech language and occupational therapy. Although the project completion date was scheduled for August 31, 2008, projects are being extended to August 31, 2009.
The OPA established a provincial advisory group that includes: educators; psychologists; occupational therapists; speech/language pathologists; educators; and ministry staff to inform the project work and to develop recommendations to the ministry.
Project results, Summary of Key Result Areas – Critical Findings, are posted on the OPA website. Along with this report, a promising practices guide, that notes sustainable gains from all of the 75 projects, highlighting 12 in depth, was shared at a provincial conference, Sharing Promising Practices, October 15, 2008. MACSE sent four delegates to this conference. The guide is only available in hard copy and may be ordered through the OPA. Abstracts of all of the 75 projects, as well as the key results of the project are posted in English and French on the OPA website at: www.psych.on.ca/?id1=117
Supports for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students
The Canadian Hearing Society (CHS) was provided funding to assist the Ministry of Education with its goals of providing barrier-free education to deaf and hard of hearing students attending Ontario publicly funded schools.
The project, which commenced in October 2008, is intended to assist school boards in identifying access and accommodation needs of deaf and hard of hearing students, produce gaps analysis and make appropriate recommendations to ensure that students are provided with the tools they need to succeed in classroom. CHS will also deliver professional development opportunities for educators and administrative professionals to enable them to better communicate with students who are deaf or hard of hearing and identify resources and information pertaining to anti-ableism and anti-audism education and strategies. A final report will be provided to the Ministry and will include research findings and recommendations that will assist the Ministry’s goal of providing barrier-free education available to all publicly funded schools.
The project will be completed in March 2010.
Funding has been provided to VOICE for Hearing Impaired Children to deliver an Auditory-Verbal Mentorship Training Program for school boards who have requested support to train teachers of the Deaf in the auditory-verbal approach.
The objective of the VOICE Ontario School Board Training and Mentorship Program is to increase the capacity of qualified professionals and broaden the understanding of decision-makers in Ontario school boards to meet the needs of oral Deaf and hard of hearing students.
The mentorship program will provide professional learning opportunities for teachers, administrators and support staff to ensure that students with hearing loss who have learned to communicate through spoken language will have access to appropriate expertise that will help to ensure that their ongoing language, literacy and learning needs are met. The mentorship program will also increase school board capacity to offer the option of auditory-verbal intervention to Deaf and Hard of Hearing students within their Board.
The project commenced in October 2008 and will be completed by January 2012.
Web Based Teaching Tool
The Web Based Teaching Tool (WBTT) is administered by the Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario (LDAO), with funding from the Ministry of Education. The WBTT provides teachers with early screening tools and intervention strategies to help detect students in JK through Grade 2 who may be struggling with learning and thus may be at risk for later school difficulties.
During the 2007-08 school year, the WBTT was used by 1453 teachers in English language schools and 1021 teachers in French language schools across 51 Ontario school boards and 25 school authorities. During 2007-08, approximately 30,000 students were screened using WBTT leading to the initiation of about 12,000 (remedial) interventions of which about 6000 were reported as completed.
Data from annual evaluations demonstrated a strong link between WBTT use by a teacher and the activation of supports for students who are struggling. Students in JK and SK were twice as likely to receive extra support/resources when compared to students who have not been screened through the WBTT program.
A WBTT School Administrator Site (SAS) has been developed and is being implemented provincially. At the request of participating school boards, WBTT staff and the ministry are continuing to explore ways of integrating WBTT data with other student data (e.g. OnSIS, EQAO, report cards, etc).
The Working Table on Special Education was established in May 2005 to reform how students with special needs receive support in school. The Working Table brought together representatives from the education community including educators, administrators, parents, special education support staff and students. This work and recommendations are contained are within the report Special Education Transformation: The Report of the Co-chairs with the Recommendations of the Working Table on Special Education. The Ministry’s commitment is to implement the recommendations in the report. As this report provides the current framework for special education.
Following recommendations made by the Working Table on Special Education, the resource guide entitled Shared Solutions: A Guide to Preventing and Resolving Conflicts Regarding Programs and Services for Students With Special Education Needs was released in October 2007 after extensive consultation with stakeholders. To support the release of the guide, professional development sessions were held throughout the province. Educators, administrators, SEAC members and representatives from the Parent Involvement School Board Committees as well as representatives from community agencies attended the professional development sessions. Shared Solutions can be accessed at: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/general/elemsec/speced/shared.html and is also available to be ordered in hard copy from Publications Ontario at www.publications.serviceontario.ca Additional actions are being explored to further support the release of the guide.
To assist school board officials, principals, teachers, students and their families and health care workers, community workers, and others who support students before and after they leave school, the ministry has developed Transition Planning: A Resource Guide, 2002. This guide provides detailed examples of steps for implementing policy set out in Regulation 181/98 and elaborated in the ministry’s policy document Individual Education Plans: Standards for Development, Program Planning, and Implementation, 2000, in order to assist all those involved in the transition-planning process.
In order to assist school boards to work with parents and community partners as they plan students’ entry to school, the ministry developed Planning Entry to School- A Resource Guide, 2005. This resource guide represents an effort to identify and build on existing effective practices and translates evidence-based research into practical ideas and processes.
In June, 2007, Bill 212—The Education Amendment Act (Progressive Discipline and School Safety) was passed, amending the sections of the Education Act dealing with behaviour, discipline and safety. Several Policy and Program Memoranda, related to a provincial code of conduct and school board codes of conduct, bullying prevention and intervention, progressive discipline, school board programs for students on long term suspension and expulsion followed. The Special Education Policy and Programs Branch was consulted during the development of these amendments and policy program memoranda.
Additional information can be found in the section on Special Education in Ontario in the Ministry of Education’s website.
Ontario's schools have come a long way in the years since Ruthie was a student.
a. Dateline 1957 B The Case of Ruthie
It was not until she was almost eight years old that Ruthie began attending school. To begin with, her parents knew she was, in her father's words, "something behind other young ones". Then there was the long walk down the concession and across the side road to the one room school. She'd have to do it alone and well, everybody knew Ruthie had this habit of wandering off.
Even at age eight, Ruthie's future as a student was uncertain at best.
"We don't have to take this child in if you don't want," the chairman of S.S.#12 school board had said to the brand new teacher in August. "It's going to be hard enough in your first year without having a child (with special needs) to look after. The regulations are clear. We don't have to take her. It's up to you."
But the teacher welcomed Ruthie and made her feel part of the tiny student body. Two girls in grade eight readily agreed to take her outside to the toilet every day just before recess. One of the older boys built her an extended desktop so she could more easily enjoy her favourite activity: colouring big murals on the back of discarded rolls of wallpaper. The younger children, a bit perplexed at first because Ruthie didn't speak, soon learned to ignore her strange noises. And every day after lunch, Ruthie crawled happily into the teacher's lap for the reading of the next sequence in 'the afternoon story'. By the end of the school year, Ruthie could recognize her own name in print; she understood and followed routines; could count up to ten blocks, and, most important in the teacher's view, she no longer wandered at will.
The next year of her schooling might have shown even more development, but Ruthie got caught in a swirl of events that even her parents didn't quite follow. S.S.#12 was closed in June, along with all the other one room schools in the township. Students were now to be bused to a brand new central school. Ruthie's teacher got married that summer and moved to the other end of the province. At 'Central', the school inspector told the staff in primary/junior that no one was obligated to take in Ruthie but if anyone volunteered, she would be admitted. There were no takers. Ruthie never went to school again.
From K. Weber and S. Bennett, Special Education in Ontario Schools, 5th ed. (Palgrave, ON: Highland Press, 2004).