Applewood Academy for Progressive Learning is a school for kids who’ve struggled in a public school setting. The program we create for every student isn’t just something we believe in; it’s something that, as a “therapeutic boarding school”, we need to do.
Under the Education Act for Ontario, Applewood has to meet certain requirements – like following a program that’s based on ongoing review, with a specific education plan for each student. To meet that requirement, and to help make sure the needs of every student are met, we create an Individual Education Plan (IEP).
Creating an education plan at the start of the school year
Within the first 30 days of the school year, each student and his or her parent(s) goes through a process with our staff to create an IEP.
“This is a collaborative process,” explained Jeffrey Waplak, clinical director for Stevenson, Waplak & Associates, Quinte Children’s Homes and Applewood Academy. “Working from different perspectives, we identify both strengths and needs to create a plan that accommodates both.”
Waplak notes that an individual education plan isn’t a daily lesson plan and it may not list all learning expectations or teaching strategies. But it’s an important reference for everyone to follow.
“We often refer back to this document, and parents can check to ensure that our teaching strategies play to a student’s strengths,” Waplak explained. “The only thing worse than having no information to create a plan, is to have that information and not use it.”
For most students, an IEP will be in place for a semester or even a year. Some students need more regular check-ins, in which case Applewood will aim for monthly meetings to review and make any changes.
We have to work together for everything to fit
Relevant information from professional assessments is included in the IEP to support the plan, and it’s important everybody understand what it includes.
Students may face a range of challenges. For example, Jeff noted, a student may be identified with a nonverbal learning disorder that causes him to have problems with math.
“A teacher may have some experience with similar students in recent years; a special education teacher may have recently learned new teaching strategies for such a disability,” he continued. “A parent will arrive with online research, and a psychologist may have seen 100 such clients but never taught a single one.”
“It’s their combined knowledge that makes an IEP succeed – so we can better identify the student’s needs and accommodate them. Maybe it means looking at the classroom setting, considering what aspects might interfere with his or her ability to take in information or process it.”
Educational plan under constant review
Waplak noted that sometimes an overall IEP is adequate, and sometimes it needs adjustments. That’s why these plans are under constant review.
“Children often seem frustrated by learning – the question is why? They can be disruptive, which then leads to parental stress at home when the teacher makes note of it,” he explained. “A solid clinical interview can help identify what’s causing the initial frustration, and then we can do something about it.”