The Special Education Department works with school staff, support staff and the Special Education Advisory Council (SEAC) in implementing instructional and assessment strategies, along with assistive technology in all Niagara Catholic elementary and secondary schools.
In addition, we have adopted the following philosophy from a 2005 Ministry of Education report entitled, Education for All – The Report of the Expert Panel on Literacy and Numeracy Instruction for Students with Special Education Needs, Kindergarten to Grade 6.

Inclusive Model

The Niagara Catholic District School Board is committed to the inclusion of students with special education needs within their home schools and in their age-appropriate classes. Inclusion is the students feeling of belonging, in a community of learning that honours equality, student diversity and spiritual respect. This commitment is shared with the Special Education Advisory Committee of the Niagara Catholic District School Board.

As a result of this philosophy, the model of program delivery is rooted in a seamless approach to serving students with special education needs from Early Years to graduation. The Niagara Catholic District School Board is also committed to the philosophy that all students within its jurisdiction are provided with the opportunity to access programs, services and supports that will maximize their potential and receive an education commensurate with their identified needs. A Parent Guide to Special Education is also available.

Special Education Plan

Parent Guide for Special Education

SEAC Committee

The SEAC of the Niagara Catholic District School Board holds monthly public meetings during the school year, usually the first Wednesday of each month at 6:30 pm at the Catholic Education Centre. Meeting dates, agendas and minutes can be found here.

In keeping with the legislation set out in Regulation 464/97, 11, 12(1), (2) of the Education Act, the roles and responsibilities of the SEAC of the Niagara Catholic District School Board include:

  1. To ensure that the rights of students with special needs within the Board are being met;
  2. To provide specific information, assistance and advice to parents and guardians whose children may require additional support;
  3. To make recommendations to the Board concerning the establishment and development of special education programs and services;
  4. To participate in the Board’s annual budget process as it relates to special education; and
  5. To participate in the Board’s annual review of the Special Education Plan.

The list below includes those names of the SEAC members for the 2020-2021 school year, and their affiliations:

SEAC Members

Resource Personnel

  • Gino Pizzoferrato – Superintendent of Education
  • Adele Filice/Kelly Majka – Secondary Principal/Vice-Principal Representative
  • Chris Kerho – Elementary Principal Representative
  • Jennifer Lanese  – Administrative Assistant



Guiding Principles

The guiding principles for services to students are rooted in the belief that the Special Education Department advocates for all students.

  • All staff will make programming decisions from a Christ-centered perspective.
  • Students and their successes are the focus of all decision making.
  • The foundation of programming and delivery is early ongoing assessment and intervention.
  • Inclusion of students into their home school and age appropriate class is the preferred practice.
  • A range of services are provided from Early Years to graduation.
  • All programming decisions will be collaborative and consultative.

What is the philosophy of the Special Education Department?

The Niagara Catholic District School Board is committed to the inclusion of pupils with exceptional needs within their home schools and in their age appropriate classes.  The Board is also committed to the philosophy that all students within its jurisdiction be provided with the opportunity to access programs and services that will maximize their potential and receive an education commensurate with their identified needs.

Philosophy of the Special Education Department

  • All special education programs and services provided by the Board will be within the atmosphere of a Catholic school community.
  • Special Education programs and services will be provided in an atmosphere that cherishes and celebrates the uniqueness of each individual.
  • Education is of paramount importance to the physical, intellectual, social-emotional and spiritual growth of all children.
  • Each student is entitled to the best educational programs, services and personnel that can be provided.
  • Special Education will utilise all resources to determine the educational needs of students and will provide programs, services and personnel to support the development of students with exceptional needs to their maximum potential.
  • The needs of exceptional students shall be met in the most enabling setting.
  • On-going communication and co-operation with the parents of exceptional students is vital for success in all special education programs and services.
  • The education of exceptional students is the shared responsibility of the students, teachers, parents and the Board.
  • The Special Education will co-operate with, and will seek the assistance of all other appropriate agencies in meeting the needs of our exceptional students.

What programs and placements are available in the Niagara Catholic District School Board for students with exceptional needs?

Regular Class

  • It is the preferred practice of the Niagara Catholic District School Board to  accommodate  students within their home school and in their age appropriate class.
  • In some cases, consultation with the Educational Resource Teacher and/or central office support staff may be required to assist the student in maximizing their potential.
  • For students requiring more extensive assistance additional resources may be used within the class to assist the student.  Resource may take the form of the Educational Resource Teacher (ERT), a Paraprofessional, Co-op Students, Peer Tutors, and/or volunteers.

Individual Education Plan (IEP) is:

  • A written plan describing the special education program and/or services required by a particular student, based on a thorough assessment of the student’s strengths and needs—that is, the strengths and needs that affect the student’s ability to learn and to demonstrate learning;
  • A record of the particular accommodations needed to help the student achieve his or her learning expectations, given the student’s identified learning strengths and needs;
  • A working document that identifies learning expectations that are modified from the expectations for the age-appropriate grade level in a particular subject or course, as outlined in the Ministry of Education’s curriculum policy documents;
  • A working document that identifies alternative expectations, if required, in program areas not represented in the Ontario curriculum;
  • A record of the specific knowledge and skills to be assessed and evaluated for the purpose of reporting student achievement of modified and/or alternative expectations;
  • An accountability tool for the student, the student’s parents, and everyone who has responsibilities under the plan for helping the student meet the stated goals and learning expectations as the student progresses through the Ontario curriculum.
  • Once developed, the IEP must be shared with parents within 30 instructional days.

Learning Strategies Class

  • Learning Strategies Classes are provided to students who require programming of a highly intensive nature in low-ratio settings.
  • Integration opportunities are structured within the school day for students who attend Learning Strategies Classes.

How are decisions made regarding programming for my child?
“All problem-solving efforts begin at school and end with student success!”

The Niagara Catholic District School Board utilises a problem-solving approach that is consistent with Ministry of Education expectations regarding early identification and intervention.  In this approach, the strengths and needs of the student are central to all discussions and decisions relating to educational programs and services.  This process promotes active and on-going dialogue between all partners in the student’s education, and, it emphasises the need for the shared responsibility for the education of the student with exceptional needs.

Parents and School Staff

  • Initial discussions may take the form of a meeting (formal or informal) between the classroom teacher and the parent to discuss student strengths and needs.
Educational Resource Teacher (ERT) and the Classroom Teacher
  • Consultation takes place between the classroom teacher who identifies concerns and the Educational Resource Teacher.

Case Conference

  • Case Conferences are collaborative activities and may include the teacher, Educational Resource Teacher, parents, community workers and/or other support personnel.
  • These meetings may be held to share assessment findings from board assessments or assessments from community resources.
  • Decisions regarding program changes and/or additional referrals may be initiated at a Case Conference.

School Based Teams (SBT)

  • School Based Teams are comprised of a Principal, an Educational Resource Teacher, other teachers from staff.  They may also include other staff members such as Educational Assistants, Child and Youth Workers, and Central Office support staff.
  • In some cases parent involvement may be required.
  • The SBT promotes a shared responsibility for all students in the learning community.
  • The SBT acts as an in-school resource to classroom teachers.
  • The SBT provides suggestions and recommendations for programming strategies and modifications, and may recommend referral to outside agencies and other professionals from the Central Office staff.

Identification, Placement and Review Committee (IPRC)

  • This committee determines whether or not to identify a student as exceptional as defined by legislation and in what placement the students’ needs may best be met.
  • The committee involves parents, school and Board personnel (where appropriate) in the decision making process.
  • A detailed guide to the IPRC is available to parents in every school.

Who provides the necessary services?
School Based Personnel

Educational Resource Teacher (ERT)

  • An Educational Resource Teacher is assigned to each school to assist classroom teachers in the identification of student needs, to provide assistance with strategies to address identified needs and to act as a member of the SBT.
  • ERT provides in-depth academic assessments to determine student strengths and needs that will assist with programming.
  • ERT as part of the IEP team, offers assistance to teachers in the development of the IEP.

Educational Assistant (EA)

  • Educational Assistants are assigned by the Special Education Department in response to the needs identified through an extensive needs assessment process.
  • Educational Assistants are assigned to schools and work under the direction of the principal in order to provide supports to students who have extensive multiple needs.  These needs may include: physical supports, personal care supports, lifting, personal safety issues, and life skills needs.
  • Educational Assistants are not assigned to individual students.

Central Office Based Supports

Program Resource Teachers (PRT)

  • The PRT offers programming strategies and modifications to teachers of students who have been referred to Central Office through the school based team.
  • The PRT offers  assistance to school based IEP teams as IEPs are developed for students with exceptional needs.
  • The PRT provides in-depth psycho-educational assessments for students who have been referred through the school based team process.  These assessments are completed under the supervision of the Board Psychologist.  All assessments conducted by the PRT are done with the written consent of parents/guardians.
  • The PRT plans and supervises varied modules designed to support the gifted students in the system.
  • The PRT under the direction of the Superintendent of Special Education, assists in the planning and implementation of Special Education projects designed to build student achievement.

Behaviour Resource Teachers (BRT)

  • The BRT offers consultation and recommendations to parents and teachers regarding programs for students with social, emotional or behavioural needs.
  • The BRT also acts as the liaison between the Niagara Catholic District School Board and appropriate social services agencies.
  • The BRT co-operatively plans and implements programs to assist students with social, emotional or behavioural needs.
  • The BRT may provide in-depth behavioural assessments for students who have been referred through the school based team process.  These assessments are completed under the supervision of the Board Psychologist.  All assessment conducted by the BRT are done with the written consent of parents/guardians.

Special Needs Facilitators

  • Special Needs Facilitators provide on-going support to classroom teachers, Educational Resource Teachers, Educational Assistants and Principals relating to programming, strategies and techniques for students with complex, multiple needs.
  • Special Needs Facilitators facilitate the transition of children with complex needs from pre-school settings to school settings.
  • Special Needs Facilitators ensure that specialized equipment necessary for students with complex needs to fully participate in educational experiences is purchased and in place.

Speech-Language Pathologists

  • Speech-Language Pathologists provide speech and language assessments with the written consent of parents/legal guardians.
  • Speech-Language Pathologists develop programs to meet the needs of children with speech/language disorders.
  • Speech-Language Pathologists may provide short-term, direct intervention and consultation for teachers and parents.

Itinerant Teachers of the Deaf & Hard of Hearing

  • Teachers who provide support for classroom teachers working with students who are deaf and hard of hearing in their development and delivery of appropriate programming.
  • Qualified teachers who support students directly with their individual needs at elementary and secondary schools.
  • Liaison with Audiologists and equipment manufacturers to ensure that technology serves the child.
  • Assists with establishing a strong link between the deaf community and school communities.

Educational Audiologist

  • Supports students with permanent hearing loss and central auditory processing disorders.
  • Liaison between the audiological clinic and the school.
  • Resource to the student, parents, classroom teacher, and school support personnel.
  • Ensures that student has access to FM equipment that will facilitate instruction in the classroom.

Itinerant Teachers of the Blind & Low Vision

  • Provides support for students who are blind or with low vision through the support of school personnel.
  • While some time is spent directly with students the Teacher of the Blind and Low Vision supports staffs in their development and delivery of appropriate programming.
  • Liaison with agencies to support students and their families.
  • Assists with establishing a strong program for the application of technology to assist students.


  • The Psychologist may provide consultation to teachers and parents regarding programming for children with exceptional needs.
  • The Psychologist provides supervision to the PRTs when they conduct psycho-educational assessments.
  • The Psychologist acts as a liaison between the Niagara Catholic District School Board and doctors, other psychologists, and other professionals in developing plans to meet the needs of exceptional students.
  • The Psychologist may provide in-depth psycho-educational assessments with the written consent of parents/legal guardians.

Superintendent of Special Education

  • The Superintendent of Special Education supervises and evaluates Special Education personnel.
  • The Superintendent of Special Education makes recommendations to the Niagara Catholic District School Board with regards to programs and services for students with special education needs.
  • The Superintendent of Special Education oversees the implementation and review of special education programs and services.
  • The Superintendent of Special Education acts as a representative on regional and provincial committees which address student’s issues and needs.


  • Coordinate the work of Special Education staff in a designated area.
  • Provide support to schools regarding the programming for students with special education needs.
  • Oversee the implementation of in-service for staff.
  • Liaise with appropriate community agencies and treatment centres where necessary.
  • Oversee the implementation and review of special education programs and services.

What other services are available to assist my child?

Specialized Equipment Purchases

  • Specialized equipment is made available through Ministry of Education grants for students who qualify.

Regional Services

  • Contact Niagara
    • Niagara Children’s Mental Health Services
    • Pathstone Mental Health
    • Child Parent Resources Institute (CPRI – London)
  • Niagara Children’s Centre
  • Niagara Developmental Services
    • Bethesda
      • Autism Spectrum Disorder Respite Services
      • Children’s Developmental Assessment Services (CDAS)
      • Hamilton-Niagara Regional Autism Program
      • Children’s Behaviour Services (CBS)
    • Community Living
    • Niagara Support Services (NSS)
    • Niagara Training & Employment Agency (NTEC)
  • Speech Services Niagara (SSN)
  • Local Health Integration Network (LHIN)

Exceptional Students

Who is identified as an exceptional student?

The Education Act defines an exceptional student as “a student whose behavioural, communicational, intellectual, physical or multiple exceptionalities are such that he or she is considered to need placement in a special education program …” Students are identified according to the categories and definitions of exceptionalities provided by the Ministry of Education and Training.


A learning disorder characterised by specific behaviour problems over such a period of time, and to such a marked degree, and of such a nature, as to adversely affect educational performance, and that may be accompanied by one or more of the following:

  1. an inability to build or to maintain interpersonal relationships;
  2. excessive fears or anxieties;
  3. a tendency to compulsive reaction;
  4. an inability to learn that cannot be traced to intellectual, sensory, or other health factors, or any combination thereof.



  1. Autism
    A severe learning disorder that is characterized by:

    1. disturbances in
      • rate of educational development;
      • ability to relate to the environment;
      • mobility;
      • perception, speech, and language
    2. lack of the representational-symbolic behaviour that precedes language
  2. Deaf and Hard of Hearing
    An impairment characterised by deficits in language and speech development because of diminished or non-existent auditory response to sound.
  3. Language Impairment
    A learning disorder characterized by impairment in comprehension and/or use of verbal communication or the written or other symbol system of communication, which may be associated with neurological, psychological, physical, or sensory factors, and which may:

    1. involve one or more of the form, content, and function of language in communication;
    2. include one or more of the following:
      • language delay;
      • dysfluency;
      • voice and articulation development, which may or may not be organically or functionally based.
  4. Speech Impairment
    A disorder in language formulation that may be associated with neurological, psychological, physical, or sensory factors; that involves perceptual motor aspects of transmitting oral messages; and that may be characterised by impairment in articulation, rhythm, and stress.
  5. Learning Disability
    One of a number of neurodevelopmental disorders that persistently and significantly has an impact on the ability to learn and use academic and other skills and that:

    • affects the ability to perceive or process verbal or non-verbal information in an effective and accurate manner in students who have assessed intellectual abilities that are at least in the average range;
    • results in (a) academic underachievement that is inconsistent with the intellectual abilities of the student (which are at least in the average range) and/or (b) academic achievement that can be maintained by the student only with extremely high levels of effort and/or with additional support;
    • results in difficulties in the development and use of skills in one or more of the following areas: reading, writing, mathematics, and work habits and learning skills;
    • may typically be associated with difficulties in one or more cognitive processes, such as phonological processing; memory and attention, processing speed, perceptual-motor processing, visual-spatial processing, executive functions, (e.g., self-regulation of behaviour and emotions, planning, organizing of thoughts and activities, prioritizing, decision making);
    • may be associated with difficulties in social interaction (e.g., difficulty in understanding social norms or the point of view of others); with various other conditions or disorders, diagnosed or undiagnosed; or with other exceptionalities;
    • is not the result of a lack of acuity in hearing and/or vision that has not been corrected; intellectual disabilities; socio-economic factors; cultural differences; lack of proficiency in the language of instruction; lack of motivation or effort; gaps in school attendance or inadequate opportunity to benefit from instruction



  1. Giftedness
    An unusually advanced degree of general intellectual ability that requires differentiated learning experiences of a depth and breadth beyond those normally provided in the regular school program to satisfy the level of educational potential indicated.
  2. Mild Intellectual Disability
    A learning disorder characterized by:

    1. an ability to profit educationally within a regular class with the aid of considerable curriculum modification and supportive services;
    2. an inability to profit educationally within a regular class because of slow intellectual development;
    3. a potential for academic learning, independent social adjustment, and economic self-support.
  3. Developmental Disability
    A severe learning disorder characterised by:

    1. an inability to profit from special education program for the mild intellectual disabled because of slow intellectual development;
    2. an ability to profit from a special education program that is designed to accommodate slow intellectual development;
    3. a limited potential for academic learning, independent social adjustment, and economic self-support.


  • Contact Niagara  CONTACT NIAGARA is your first link to information and services in Niagara.
  • Ontario Ministry of Education
  • Bethesda  Since 1937, Bethesda has provided a wide range of supports and services to individuals in Niagara, Hamilton, Brant, and Haldimand/Norfolk regions who have special needs.


  1. Physical
    A condition of such severe physical limitation or deficiency as to require special assistance in learning situations to provide the opportunity for educational achievement equivalent to that of students without exceptionalities who are of the same age or developmental level.
  2. Blind/Low Vision
    A condition of partial or total impairment of sight or vision that even with correction affects educational performance adversely. Where necessary, arrangements and/or consultation with Provincial schools are made.



  1. Multiple Exceptionalities
    A combination of learning or other disorders, impairments, or physical handicaps, that is of such nature as to require, for educational achievement, the services of one or more teachers holding qualifications in special education and the provision of support services appropriate for such disorders, impairments, or disabilities.


Assistive Technology

Niagara Catholic continuously strives to improve access to technology for all students in elementary and secondary schools.

School Connect, is a network management system used by elementary schools in Niagara Catholic that allows software availability and access for all users. All elementary schools have network accessibility to all Ministry of Education and Board purchased network licenses.

At the secondary level, assistive technology is available in all special education classes, and resource rooms. In addition, one Computer on Wheels (COWs) mobile computer lab, has been purchased for each high school. This mobile lab consists of one cart and 8 laptops. All assistive technology listed is available on the COWs.

The following is a list of assistive technology available to students to support their learning and their ability to access curriculum.

What is the difference between OSAPAC and OESS?

  • OSAPAC is the committee that advises the Ministry on software titles to negotiate for provincial licensing.
  • OESS (Ontario Educational Software Service) is the distribution mechanism whereby the software is sent to School Boards, Faculties of Education and Native Band Schools.

Clicker 5 (OESS)

  • Clicker 5 is more advanced than Clicker 4, taking advantage of the latest technologies, yet it’s even easier to use.
  • There is a huge range of free, ready-made materials on the Crick Software Learning Grids website.
  • Writing support and multimedia tool that enables children to write with whole words, phrases or pictures
  • Comes with a large picture library with 1,000 educationally related images.
  • Subjects: Cross Curricular, English/Language Arts and Special Education
  • Grades: 1-8

Co-Writer Solo (OESS) A tool that is a word prediction software.

  • Provides writing and typing support, which helps students focus on conveying ideas.
  • From the first letters a student types, Co-Writer generates possibilities for the word.
  • For struggling writers – FLEX SPELL allows students to use phonetic spelling – predicts words consistent with the sounds of the letters.
  • Correct spellings are predicted and reinforced as students see, hear and use the words.
  • Speaks predicted words and completed sentences.
  • Grammar support fosters better sentences and includes dozens of topic dictionaries – ranging in size from 150 to 2200 words.
  • Teachers can also create new individualized Topic Dictionaries.
  • Subjects: Cross Curricular, English/Language Arts and Special Education
  • Grades: 1-8
  • Co:Writer website

Write: Outloud (OESS)

  • Write: Outloud\Write: Outloud Solo is the easy-to-use word processor that gives immediate speech feedback as students type words, sentences and paragraphs.
  • As students draft their assignment, they see and hear if their writing makes sense and if it is what they wanted to say.
  • Students can listen for proper word usage, tense inflections, omitted words and misspellings.
  • Subjects: Cross Curricular, English/Language Arts and Special Education
  • Grades: 1-8
  • Write:Outloud website

Smart Ideas 5.0: (OESS) A tool that gives students the power to brainstorm, think visually and turn complex ideas into colorful concept maps quickly and easily.

  • SMART Ideas concept-mapping software enables teachers and students to create multilevel concept maps using colourful symbols, arrows and clip art to reinforce concepts from all subjects.
  • An unlimited number of levels can be added to any symbol in the map, along with links to video files, audio clips, documents, photos, presentations and websites.
  • Subjects: Environmental Studies, French/Language Arts, French, Geography, History, Mathematics, Social Studies, Special Education and Visual Arts
  • Grades: K-12
  • SMART Tech website

Kurzweil 3000 (Version 10.04: Network) A tool that is text reader software.

  • Technology that is used by people with a learning disability – reading difficulties, ADHD etc.
  • May be used by individuals of all ages.
  • Provides the tools needed to improve reading speed and comprehension.
  • Helps students learn and study independently.
  • Allows students to type or record answers directly on text that is scanned.
  • Can also be used to complete tests, including the Grade 10 Literacy Test and EQAO
  • A Board purchased license.
  • Currently, all elementary schools have 1 black and white scan and read version.
  • Larger schools have an additional ‘Read Only’ version.
  • All secondary schools have 1 black and white scan and read version plus an additional 4 ‘Read Only’ versions.
  • View DEMO – www.kurzweiledu.com

Dragon Naturally Speaking (OESS) –  not available on school connect

  • A tool that turns speech into text.
  • Users can dictate into virtually any windows-based application.
  • Training is needed to create voice files.
  • The standard version is now Ministry licensed for all schools.
  • www.scansoft.com/naturallyspeaking

Discrete Trial Analysis DT Trainer (individual license in each secondary Special Education class) A tool that is beneficial for learners that have the following characteristics:

  • Developmentally between the ages 2-9 years
  • Easily distracted or overloaded
  • Not self directed or motivated
  • Have difficulty following directions
  • Require moderate to substantial repetition
    • Designed for independent use.
    • Accommodates the needs of the individual user and the preferences of the teacher.
    • Collects data and provides reports.
    • Contains a broad range of content programs – over 125 areas, covering skills like matching, identification, counting, classification, phonics, sequencing, math, word recognition, ‘wh’ questions, time, money, and word analysis.
    • Includes interactive reinforcers that reward and motivate the student.
    • Breaks learning into small steps.
    • Board purchased software
    • Currently there is 1 standard bundle for each high school and targeted for use in the Learning Strategies classes.
    • View DEMO – www.dttrainer.com/trainingvideos.html

Addition to Next School Connect Image
Accessibility Suite – Premier Assistive

  • PDF Equalizer
  • Universal Reader Plus
  • Premier Predictor Pro
  • Scan and Read Pro
  • Talking Calculator Text-to-Audio
  • Talking Word Processor
  • PDF Magic Pro
  • E-Text Reader

This will allow us to use it for Literacy, ESL, ELL, Low Vision and Tools for Blind

Writing with Symbols (individual licenses purchased for each school) A tool that is a word processor that automatically illustrates the words as you type. Writing with Symbols provides support to written language, helping writers see the meaning of words.
It can help to explain the differences between

  • words that look the same (saw saw, spell spell)
  • words that sound the same (hair hare, pear pair)
  • as well as giving language support (drink drink, run ran, loud loudest)
  • It can also help many other aspects of language development where images can assist understanding.
  • Board-purchased software

Kidspiration/Inspiration – no longer on the image (individual licenses purchased for each elementary and secondary school) A tool that helps organize and plan for the writing process.

  • Kidspiration for students K-3.
  • Inspiration for students grade 4 through to adult.
  • Depending on the student there may be overlap in the junior grades.
  • May be used by individuals of all ages and abilities.
  • Board purchased software
  • Currently all elementary schools have 5 copies of Kidspiration and 5 copies of Inspiration.
  • In K-3 schools, there are 10 copies of Kidspiration.
  • All secondary schools have 5 copies of Inspiration. www.strategictransitions.com
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