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					Education Today
By Janet Casswell-Beckmann, Director of Education, Sun West School

Special Education (for publication during or after the week of November 10-
14, 2008)
While it is still common to identify students with physical or learning challenges
as having special needs or even disabilities, in professional circles, diverse
needs is now becoming the preferred term. Up to the 1980s, the accepted
educational practice was to isolate students with diverse needs from the school
environment, either through separate classrooms or even by removing these
students from schools entirely. This included students with both physical and
learning challenges. In the 1980s and 1990s this model of education delivery
shifted dramatically as students with diverse needs were fully integrated into
schools directly along-side students without diverse needs. The reason for this
shift was the realization that segregating diverse need students was detrimental
to their self-esteem and educational development and created life-long barriers to
their inclusion in society.

Integrating diverse need students into schools and classrooms required the
student service professionals working within schools to develop a whole range of
skills, practices and resources to facilitate this process. In the Sun West School
Division, these professionals are under the supervision of Lynne Dressler, the
Superintendent of Education responsible for Special Education. Working with
Lynne are two full-time and one half-time Special Education Consultants, support
personnel including Educational Psychologists, Speech and Language
Pathologists, a special education Resource Teacher in most Sun West schools
(not including Hutterite Colony Schools) and over 150 Educational Assistants,
who work with diverse need students. The school-based resource teachers, in
consultation with the Special Education consultants, work as part of a team that
assesses both the physical and learning needs of students and develop
specialized learning programs that adapt the curricula and learning requirements
to accommodate each student’s specific needs. These programs encourage the

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students to learn as independently as possible and to meet the educational
objectives established each school year. The Resource Teachers work with the
other teachers in the school, who teach the diverse needs students, to implement
programming in their classes. Diverse needs students are taught by the same
teachers in the same classrooms as their peers. Their programming is adapted to
their needs in the same environment, as other students.

Educational Assistants work under the direction of classroom teachers and may
be assigned to specific students or work with a number of students. Educational
Assistants do not teach students but rather assist students in their learning that
relate to their physical and/or learning needs. For example, Educational
Assistants may assist students with mobility challenges or may provide
assistance with particular assignments or tasks.

In the last few years, another shift has occurred in the model of service delivery
to diverse need students in Saskatchewan schools. Until recently, the
assessment of student needs has largely depended on a diagnostic model,
based on medical and psychological evaluations of the student. While this
information is still an important part of any assessment, much greater emphasis
is now being placed on the impact the student’s needs have on his or her ability
to learn the curriculum. This shift places much more emphasis on the student’s
needs and his/her requirements for support than previous delivery models. This
change in approach is more consistent with recent legal and human rights
rulings, which are intended to provide greater flexibility for professionals involved
in the identification of students with diverse needs.

If you have any questions about special education or education in general in Sun
West, please contact me at or go to our website at for more information.

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