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Education | Local Politics & Policy

Manitoba Education’s SSP Handbook Needs An Upgrade

Individual Educaiton Plans are now called Student-Specific Plans here in Manitoba.

Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash

Despite the name change, the guidelines are out of date.

Manitoba Education’s SSP handbook, last updated in 2010, leaves much to be desired.

This may be hard to believe, but 2010 was 11 years ago.

I know, that makes me feel old too.

The biggest issue with our province’s student planning handbook is the lack of specific, concrete direction for school staff when implementing the goals outlined in a student’s plan.

If a school staff member has never written an SSP before, they unfortunately will not find much help in Manitoba Education’s handbook.

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The biggest issue is that the handbook outlines how to write S.M.A.R.T. goals for the student, but says very little about accountability and direction for staff in terms of supporting the student to achieve those goals.

Goals will not be effective if there are not concrete, practical steps that the school staff will take in order to meet the student’s needs and precise, detailed steps that the school staff and student will take together in order to achieve the goals outlined in the SSP.

That portion is missing from the handbook, and without incorporation of those necessary steps, the plan will be of little use to staff or the student.

Here is what is included in the current handbook:

S.M.A.R.T SSOs

Student-Specific Outcomes

Specific: written in clear, unambiguous language

Measurable: allow student achievement to be described, assessed, and evaluated

Achievable: realistic for the student

Relevant: meaningful for the student

Time-related: able to be accomplished within a specific time period, typically one school year

What’s Missing

Specific

Practical, detailed direction for the staff regarding what works best for this individual student and what school staff roles will be in helping to meet the student’s needs.

Oftentimes these goals are written with what the school wishes the student would/could do, rather than what would be in the student’s best interest, and that is not okay.

Measurable

Yes, we need to be able to measure whether the accommodations and supports are achieving their desired outcome, which should be to meet the student’s needs and help the student to achieve their goals.

However, there should not be pressure on the school staff, nor on the student, to perform for standardized testing or assessments. The focus must, first and foremost, be on meeting the student’s needs, regardless of what that looks like on an evaluation.

What does success look like for that individual? What does that particular student want out of their school year, and how would they like the school to support them in doing reaching their personal goals?

If the student’s needs are not being met, then their goals are useless, and cannot realistically be achieved.

To be clear: the primary purpose of the SSP is to outline what supports a student needs in order to be on a level playing field with their peers, not what goals the student should meet in order to make life easier for school staff.

Achievable

An SSP should include supports and accommodations that are realistic for the staff to provide as well. If an accommodation is required and staff do not know how to meet this need, then they must seek support from their supervisor, and their administrator must ensure they receive the necessary support from their division.

Accommodations for students’ disabilities are not optional, and if the school or division lacks the resources to provide them, then it is their obligation to apply for funding from the province in order to meet the student’s need.

The Supreme Court decision in the Moore case (Moore vs B.C., 2012) states that students with disabilities are entitled to receive the accommodation measures they need to access and benefit from the service of public education.

Meaningful

This point is incredibly important. We will not get buy-in from the student if they don’t care about their goals, and if they are not involved in the process of creating their own goals.

In whatever way is developmentally appropriate, the student should be consulted and have input into their SSP. They should be given an opportunity to express their wishes, and describe how they feel they can be best supported at school.

Time-Related

SSP goals should be short-term as well as long-term. If there is a goal for the end of the school year then smaller, achievable goals should be made for the interim in order to help the student progress toward that year-end goal. If you have a year-end goal in September, then that goal is too broad, and it needs to be broken up into smaller steps that can be re-visited quarterly.

Ideally, the SSP team is meeting each term, but also communicating very regularly, almost daily if needed. This daily communication can be in the form of a staff log/communication book or short emails, but they team needs to collaborate and keep everybody up to date.

At absolute minimum, student plans must be updated at least once each year, per the Appropriate Education Act. This is to ensure that accommodations and supports are adjusted as the student’s needs and goals change.

Roles and Responsibilities

The most glaringly inadequate portion of Manitoba Education’s SSP handbook is reference to staff roles and responsibilities when it comes to supporting the student and meeting the student’s needs.

In particular, when supporting younger students with SSPs, there needs to be increased focus on what school staff will do in order to support the student to meet their goals. As students grow, these skills can be scaffolded, and gradually more responsibility should be placed on the student as appropriate.

That said, all students should be given access to the supports and accommodations they need, regardless of their age or grade level.

This is their current framework for developing SSOs:

This is what it should look like (with an example included):

Manitoba Education’s Roles and Responsibilities for Staff focus primarily on the tasks involved in actually writing the SSP and evaluating the goals, not on how the staff will actually implement the steps outlined within, nor on how they will specifically support the student along the way:

That is a huge oversight, and one that can make the difference between an SSP that will actually help the student succeed, and a student plan that wastes a whole lot of time and paper.

One document that is potentially quite helpful is the (appendix F), yet I’ve never seen it actually given to a parent. I made a couple of notes that I feel are important to include — you can visit our website to download your own PDF copy:

Schools should be required to provide this to each and every parent and caregiver that will be attending their first SSP/IEP meeting.

There should also be a student and parent “bill of rights” that every family receives. Currently there is not adequate legislation in Manitoba regarding the rights of students with disabilities, which I discussed in another article.

© Jillian Enright, Neurodiversity MB

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References

Manitoba Education (2010). Student-Specific Planning: A Handbook for Developing and Implementing Individual Education Plans.

Moore v. British Columbia (Education), 2012 SCC 61, [2012] 3 S.C.R. 360.

The Public Schools Act 2015 (MB). C.C.S.M. c. P250, Appropriate Educational Regulation (Can.).

About the Author

If you need assistance advocating for your child, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Jillian is an Neurodiversity Coach and Advocate in Manitoba, Canada.

Jillian has a diploma in Child & Youth Work and a Degree in Psychology, as well as being the parent of an amazing 2e/ADHD child.

Visit and Facebook.com/NeurodiversityMB to learn more.

facebook.com/NeurodiversityMB

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Jillian Enright

Jillian Enright

She/they. Neurodivergent, 20+ yrs SW & Psych. experience. I write about mental health, neurodiversity, education, and parenting. Founder of Neurodiversity MB.