Parents of students with diverse needs, including autism, have been very concerned at the start of the new school year in British Columbia. The lack of concrete information from the Ministry of Education has contributed to the uncertainty. The pandemic has left many families confused as to how to best support their child’s learning needs while keeping them and their families healthy. ACT has gathered resources below which we hope will be of assistance to families, and the professionals who support them. You can also keep up to date with the latest news reports by following ACT’s Facebook page.
BC’s Ministry of Education’s Back to School Plan
Unfortunately, each school district is handling its response differently because BC’s Ministry of Education has set few standards. One important provision from MOE’s website is the statement that:
“School districts will contact all families in their school community to share their safety plan and confirm if they plan to have their child attend classes in September or require an other option. The Ministry has also given school districts the flexibility to find options that work for families. This includes remote options for students within their districts, as well as the tools school districts need to increase their existing programs to meet demand.”
If your child’s school is not communicating in a meaning way with you, you may advocate directly with the school district, whether their needs are best served by in-class or online instruction.
B.C.’s Back to School Plan includes information parents needs to know, such as: new health and safety requirements, supports for students with disabilities, diverse abilities, and additional needs and the “Back to School Plans” for all BC School Districts.
Note: If your child attends an Independent School, their Restart Plan is to be posted on the school website.
Knowing Your Rights and Advocacy Tips
ACT has been receiving calls from parents who have children with autism and other diverse needs and are confused about the BC Restart plan, the impact on their child’s educational rights, and how to advocate for their children when their rights are infringed.
- A great place to start is with BCEdAccess, a voluntary, not-for-profit society which helps advocate for equitable access to education for BC children with special needs. BCEdAccess’s 8 Things to Prepare your Child with Disabilities for Return to School has tips for everything from the first day of school to IEP meetings, knowing your child’s rights, advocacy and conflict resolution.
- Advocacy and Conflict Resolution for Students with Disabilities in BC Education: A Rights Based Primer from BCEDAccess outlines the rights of all students and parents to equitable access to education, provides tips for when things aren’t working and how to approach conflict resolution. Also available in French and Punjabi.
- Understanding Back to School Options from the BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils (BCCPAC) outlines the commitments made by the Ministry of Education for accessible online and distance education, flexible learning options for those in need, and requirements for district plans for students with diverse needs.
- Inclusion BC’s Back to School 2020 provides guidance for families to get informed, establish priorities, start conversations with school teams and developing collaborative plans.
- AutismBC’s Back-to-School Resources for Autism Families contains resources on COVID-19, Home Learning, IEPs and Advocacy.
For detailed information on BC’s Education System and how to advocate within it, see:
- ACT’s Autism Manual for BC:
- Autism Videos @ ACT: The Essentials of Advocacy: A Parent’s Guide to Advocating for their Child with Special Needs
BCEdAccess Exclusion Tracker Survey 2020-2021
Since 2018, BCEDAccess has been collecting data on the exclusion of students with disabilities from schools in BC. The Exclusion Tracker is an annual survey for parents and guardians intended to document exclusions of students and can be filled out as frequently as neccesary.
For a direct link to this year’s survey, click Exclusion Tracker 2020.
If you need support advocating for your child’s education, contact:
- Inclusion BC’s Advocacy Line: Phone 1-844-488-4321 or email email@example.com
- POPARD’s School and Family Liaison: Phone 604-952-4994 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Share your advocacy efforts with ACT
If you are a parent or guardian of a child with diverse needs returning to school, we invite you to share your experience by emailing email@example.com. With your permission we will post your comments, while protecting your privacy.
Great Back to School Resources
- Back to School During COVID: Tips for Families with Special Needs – Developmental Disabilities Association
- Setting Children & Youth up for a Successful Return to School in the Era of COVID-19 – Kelty Centre
- Back-to-School Anxiety: Tips for Helping Your Child – Kelty Centre
- Exploring our Children’s Stress: Tips & Tools for Adapting Teaching to Students’ Needs – Free back-to-school webinar from Social Thinking
- Social Stories for Returning to School – Autism Little Learners
- 5 Helpful Tips for Getting Your Child to Wear a Mask – Teleroo
Search ACT’s Autism Information Database (AID)
ACT’s Autism Information Database (AID) contains over 1,400 curated resources from around the world on topics related to autism and other neurological conditions, including education and advocacy. We encourage caregivers seeking resources to visit the AID, but here are a few sample resources that may be helpful this school year:
- Special Education Services: A Manual of Policies, Procedures, and Guidelines (Resource #463): This online manual of policies, procedures and guidelines for special education services from BC’s Ministry of Education outlines roles and responsibilities of school personnel, parents and students, the process of developing an individual education plan (IEP) and more.
- Everyone Belongs in our Schools: A Parent’s Handbook on Inclusive Education (Resource# 1903): This handbook from InclusionBC presents information to help parents understand how the school system works, and their roles, rights, and responsibilities within it. It also includes information on planning for your child’s needs and tips for the IEP process.
- Helping Students with Autism Make the Back-to-School Transition (Resource #2591): This online article from Autism Speaks outlines strategies for a smooth back-to-school transition, including bedtime and wake-up routines and adjustment to school demands.
- Open School B.C Educational Resources and Services (Resource #1917): This website offers a variety of free, online grades K-12 resources for public use. Many of the resources address the B.C Ministry of Education curriculum guidelines
- Autism Distance Education Parent Training (ADEPT) (Resource #3288): ADEPT is an online learning module providing parents with tools and training to more effectively teach their child with autism and other related neurodevelopmental disorders functional skills using applied behavior analysis (ABA) techniques. This course may assist parents who are online or home schooling.
Share your resources
Have you found or developed great resources? Share this with ACT at firstname.lastname@example.org