Policy/Program Memorandum No. 11


Issued under the authority of the Deputy Minister of Education

Date of Issue: Revised 1982 Effective: Until revoked or modified
Subject: EARLY IDENTIFICATION OF CHILDREN'S LEARNING NEEDS
Application: Directors of education
Principals of schools
References: Memoranda 1978-79:15; 1979-80:24

Each school board is required to have approved and in operation by September, 1981, procedures to identify each child's level of development, learning abilities and needs and to ensure that educational programs are designed to accommodate these needs and to facilitate each child's growth and development. These procudures are a part of a continuous assessment and program planning process which should be initiated when a child is first enrolled in school or no later than the beginning of a program of studies immediately following Kindergarten and should continue throughout a child's school life.

It is expected that school boards having adopted procedure known to be in tune with the development characteristics of young children will continue to refine them as staff knowledge and experience increases.

Some Principles for Early Identification

  1. Language development is a major component of early identification. It is important, therefore, that procedures used be in English for an English speaking child and in French for a French speaking child. Where a child's language is other than English or French, a reasonable delay in the language based aspects of assessment should be considered.

  2. Teachers in consultation with parents must strive to know each child as soon and as thoroughly as possible in order to provide learning opportunities that will help each child. It is imperative that children and their parents do not feel that they are in an "examination-test" situation when information related to the provision of learning opportunities is obtained. Where necessary other professionals may assist in this process.

  3. A variety of strategies should be used to maintain an ongoing review of each child's emotional, social, intellectual and physical development.

  4. Continuous assessment from different perspectives should be followed up with suitable programs that reflect what is known about each child at any point in time. Such programs should be provided in an environment wherein the child feels secure.

  5. Information derived from assessment should be treated as tentative and temporary; it is not appropriate to use these data to predict children's long-term achievements.

  6. Teachers may identify some children with special needs who require further assessment. Teachers should consult with other professionals to determine appropriate learning programs.

Some Resources for Early Identification

  1. In recent years there has been much activity in the development of instruments for use in early identification procedures. Careful analysis and review of these instruments in the context of primary education is essential.

  2. Research consistently confirms that a supportive teacher who implements programs suited to children's individual needs and who provides immediate, positive reactions about developing competencies and attitudes, is a very reliable authority for deciding what a child can and cannot do.

  3. Teachers may need to reinforce their interview skills, their skills in interpreting different facets of child behaviour, and their abilities to recognize when other professional assistance is necessary.

    Inservice activities should be developed to accommodate these needs. Professional activity days could be used most effectively for this purpose.

  4. Personnel within Ontario's 43 public health units may be able to assist school boards with relevant social and health information. Contact with the local medical officers of health is encouraged.

    In jurisdictions where parents provide teachers with social and health information, parents must be assured that the information will be kept confidential, and that it will be used in establishing good educational programs for children.

  5. Within regional offices of the Ministry of Education, designated staff members have responsibility for assisting boards with matters relating to early identification.

  6. A resource guide to The Formative Years, tentatively entitled "The Beginning Years of School" is being prepared by the Ministry of Education. This guide will provide suggestions for implementing early identification procedures within the context of early childhood programs.

  7. The Ministry of Education has initiated a number of research studies designed to provide up-to-date information meeting the needs of young children. The reports are available either in microfiche or as bound copies from:

    Ontario Government Bookstore, 880 Bay Street, Toronto, Ontario M7A 1N8

    Learning abilities: identification and intervention practices (1981)
    Mr. Iain Davidson, Dr. Margaret Hughes, Dr. Harry Silverman, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. $5.00

    This study describes early identification procedures and intervention programs being used in Ontario, evaluates the reliability and validity of these techniques, and outlines criteria for choosing appropriate instruments and procedures.

    The Windsor early identification project (1976).
    Dr. K. G. O'Bryan, Ontario Educational Communications Authority

    The approach used in the Windsor Project was multi-disciplinary, involving educators, psychologists, the medical profession and the research team. The tests developed were designed for Windsor but have general applicability with some local modification. Bound copy $2.50 Microfiche (ON00565) $1.50

    Le projet de dépistage précoce de Windsor (1976)
    Dr. K. G. O'Bryan, Ontario Education communications Authority

    Bound copy $2.50 Microfiche (ON00565) $1.50

    Children's characteristics on school entry (1980)
    (Junior Kindergarten, Senior Kindergarten and Grade 1)
    Dr. G. A. V. Morgan, University of Guelph.

    The research team developed a set of instruments and used them on a representative sample of children entering school for the first time to identify the skills and abilities that they had acquired. Data was also collected on parents' expectations of the school program well as the schools' expectations of the beginning children. $5.00

    Identification of learning disabilities in Ontario: A study of thi validity of assessment instruments and procedures (1980)
    Dr. Robert B. MacIntyre - Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

    In addition to examining instruments and procedures, the researchers studied the process used in schools to generate, apply and interpret data. The report includes an annotated list of major tests with a validity summary for tests specific to the learning disability issue.

    Early childhood education: perceptions of programs and children's characteristics (1980)
    Dr. M. W. Wahlstrom, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

    Ontario programs for children aged three to eight are described and analysed. Issues relevant to Early Childhood Education are outlined and related to the delivery of services through the programs of various agencies. $5.00

    Kindergarten programs: effects of regular half day, alternate full day, and daily full day programs
    Dr. Andrew Biemiller, University of Toronto.

    The study examined the effects of the three types of program on the children's health, temperament, preferences and their skills in a variety of academic and social situations. Microfiche (ON01480) $1.50

  8. Many school boards have had early identification procedure in place for some time; they can provide valuable information to boards wishing assistance. A random sample of early identification programs around the province is presented in Curriculum Connections No. 14, October 1979, a publication available from the Ontario Association for Curriculum Development, c/o Edgewood Junior Public School, 230 Birkdale Road, Scarborough, Ontario, M1P 3S4. A reference copy is held by the:

    Information Centre
    Ontario Ministry of Education
    (416) 965-1451