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April 1, 2009 - Special Education Advisory Committee Minutes
Special Education Advisory Committee
April 1, 2009

A meeting of the Special Education Advisory Committee was held in the Board Room at the Limestone Education Centre, 220 Portsmouth Avenue, Kingston, on Wednesday, April 1, 2009, at 7:00 p.m.

Present Trustees:
Elaine Crawford, Co-Chair
Helen Brown
Present Staff:
Marg Akey, Supervising Principal
Kristin Check, School-to-Community Coordinator
Scot Gillam, Principal, Educational Services
Darlene Kirkpatrick, Recording Secretary
Kathy McVety-Kavanagh, Special Education Program Coordinator
Steve Ward, Vice-Principal, Educational Srvices

Present Other:
Nadine Carson, Epilepsy Kingston
Pat LaLonde, Autism Society
Brad Shoniker, Member-at-Large
Charlene Whalen, Family & Children’s Services, Lennox and Addington
David Williams, Learning Disabilities Association of Kingston
Kathy Bennett, Community Living Kingston
John Freeman, Member-at-Large (Queen’s University)

Liz Bates

The meeting was chaired by Trustee Crawford, who welcomed those present to the meeting.  

Approval of the Agenda

        MOVED BY Trustee Brown, seconded by Trustee Brad Shoniker, that the agenda, as distributed, be approved.–Carried

Approval of Minutes

        MOVED BY Brad Shoniker, seconded by Trustee Brown, that the minutes of the February 18, 2009 meeting, as distributed, be approved.–Carried

“Roots of Empathy”

        Supervising Principal Akey introduced Liz Bates, a retired kindergarten teacher, who has organized the “Roots of Empathy” program for the Limestone District School Board.  She advised that the “Roots of Empathy” program became operational in the LDSB.

        Ms. Bates thanked the Committee for providing her with an opportunity to talk about “Roots of Empathy”.  She said that it is an award-winning program, evidence-based and well researched, created by Mary Gordon.  They are uncompromising in assuring their standards are met.
        Ms. Bates indicated that Roots of Empathy has been well researched by the University of British Columbia, OISE, the University of Missouri and others.  The story is that the first research, done by the University of British Columbia, showed Roots of Empathy to be so successful in lowering aggressive behaviour and raising levels of pro-social behaviour, that they did not trust the results and waited for the second round to get confirmation.

        Ms. Bates reported that “Roots of Empathy’s” mission is to build caring, peaceful, and civil societies through the development of empathy in children and adults.  The goals are:

•       to foster the development of empathy;
•       to develop emotional literacy;
•       to reduce levels of bullying, aggression and violence, and promote children’s pro-social behaviours
•       to increase knowledge of human development, learning, and infant safety; and
•       to prepare students for responsible citizenship and responsive parenting.

        Ms. Bates stated that in the Limestone District School Board, nine classrooms are being run, seven grade 1 or grade 1/2, and two grade 8 classrooms.  The instructors in the grade 8 classrooms are staff from Pathways and Youth Diversion.  The other instructors are volunteer community members and two Early Years Centre staff.  The schools where the program is running are: Sharbot Lake Public School, The Prince Charles School, Amherstview Public School, Central Public School, Frontenac Public School, First Avenue Public School and Rideau Heights Public School.  Ms. Bates said that First Avenue and Rideau Heights Public Schools are the two schools where the program is being run in both grades 1 and 8.  She said that everyone involved in this program believes that through this program, we are changing who these children will be – what kind of members of society and what kind of parents.

        Ms. Bates outlined the values of the program, as follows:

•       empathy;
•       culture of caring;
•       power of parenting;
•       participatory democracy
•       inclusion
•       diversity
•       infant safety
•       non-violence/anti-bullying

        Ms. Bates reported that “Roots of Empathy” has curriculum for Kindergarten, Primary, Junior and Intermediate levels.  Part of every curriculum is learning about personality traits and using that knowledge to help make sense of who we all are.

        Ms. Bates commented that in “Roots of Empathy” classes, a lot of time is spent on observing and reflecting.  Children learn that we are born with nine personality traits that determine our temperament and influence how we behave and how we respond to things.  Ms. Bates stated that in classes, she often links what she sees the baby doing to his temperament and then later relates that to the students themselves.  This constant acknowledgment of our diversity creates a foundation for acceptance, respect and tolerance.

        Ms. Bates stated that the “Roots of Empathy Program” is designed to be offered to regular classes, not targeted groups of students, partly because we all need to develop emotional intelligence, even those of us who do not present any obvious problems within the classroom.  Ms. Bates indicated that the baby is absolutely the key to the success of the program.  When the baby is the focus, everyone’s defenses are down and they are open to really looking honestly at feelings.

        Ms. Bates commented that it is an unthreatening situation when you first talk about the baby and other’s feelings, then generalize those ideas, and then apply them to yourself.  She said that in discussions in “Roots of Empathy” classes, we are often amazed at how willing the students are to open up and tell about their own feelings.

        Ms. Bates reported that for the “Roots of Empathy” program, a mother and new baby (aged 2 to 4 months) are assigned to one classroom for the school year, and a “Roots of Empathy” curriculum is taught to that class, by a trained instructor.  There are three lessons each month, for nine months, with nine themes.  The curriculum and the support materials needed are provided by “Roots of Empathy”.  Ms. Bates said that the curriculum is linked to observations of the relationship between the mother and baby, and the baby’s developmental milestones during that first year of life.

        Ms. Bates advised that the highlight of the program each month is the mother and baby visit.  The children develop a real bond with their baby, celebrating new skills, talking about issues around sleep, safety, dreams and feeding.  When the baby smiles at them as only babies can do, the students are hooked.
        Ms. Bates stated that as the children following the development of “their” “Roots of Empathy” baby, they develop new awareness and skills to last a lifetime:

•       Emotional Literacy
•       Perspective Taking
•       Neuroscience
•       Prevention of Teen Pregnancy
•       Temperament
•       Violence Prevention
•       Attachment/Attunement
•       Male Nurturance
•       Participatory Democracy
•       Inclusion
•       Infant Development
•       Infant Safety

        Ms. Bates stated that the children learn the names for the emotions the baby exhibits, the needs of the baby and how to meet those needs.  They learn to reflect and identify similar feelings in their own experiences.  Self-knowledge serves as a bridge to understanding and respecting the feeling of others (empathy).  As levels of empathy rise, bullying, aggression and violence falls.

        Ms. Bates said that “Roots of Empathy” is a program designed to teach children emotional intelligence, to develop an understanding of their own and other people’s feelings, to give them a vocabulary for that, and a comfort level in talking openly about it.  It tells them to be aware of how they make other people feel.  It tells them that they have a responsibility if they see someone else being put down or bullied, or just feeling sad.  She said that they talk about when a baby smiles and how that makes them feel.  It gives them the idea that they have the power to make other people feel good just by smiling.

        Ms. Bates remarked that “Roots of Empathy” teaches a model of social responsibility that creates more pro-social behaviour and less negative and aggressive interaction.  On a large scale, it creates a more civil society, and at a very practical level, it creates classes with more focus on teaching and less on managing behaviour.

        Supervising Principal Akey stated that the Board worked with Educational Services staff and with Ms. Bates to put the program into place.

        Chair Crawford thanked Ms. Bates for providing information about the “Roots of Empathy” program.

Collaborative Services Delivery Model Connections for Students

        Supervising Principal Akey stated that the Collaborative Services Delivery Model document was released by the Deputy Ministers of Education and Children and Youth Services.  She said that the program that was developed looks to improve the continuity of supports for children and youth with autism as they move into and through school.  The program focuses on achieving seamless transitions from the Autism Intervention Program to school.  Ms. Akey said that the LDSB is one of 12 boards in the province participating in this initiative.  She said that it is working nicely for us because the Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic District School Board was in phase 1 of this model.

        Ms. Akey stated that the Ministers’ ASD Reference Group recommended improved supports for students with ASD, including at key transition points such as entry to school.  She said that there will be more coordinated and seamless transitions for students who are ready to make the transition from the Autism Intervention Program (AIP) to school.  

        Ms. Akey said that staff will work with mental health service providers, speech and language pathologists, occupational therapist and physiotherapists before the child is discharged from the AIP.  She said that Transition teams will draw on the ABA and ASD expertise of both board level staff and ASD Consultants in the School Support Program in the planning and delivery of ABA instructional methods.

        Ms. Akey advised that the Ministry is providing support to hire and provide services for the ABA team, noting that person will support just children from the IBI therapy.

        Ms. Akey stated that she will keep Committee members updated about this initiative as details become available.  She said that we will be hiring staff part way through this year, and the support will continue to roll out next year.  However, we will be expected to sustain the program.

        In response to a question from Pat LaLonde regarding the qualifications of staff being hired having ABA expertise, Ms. Akey said that the criteria talks about post secondary training. Ms. LaLonde stated the Autism Society is in the process of talks with the Minister regarding board certified ABA analysts.

        Chair Crawford thanked Ms. Akey for providing the above-noted information.

Educational Services Update

        Principal Gillam provided an Educational Services update, as follows:


•       Permanent EA hiring – shortlisting (beginning of April); interviews (beginning of May)


•       “Building Bridges” continues
•       Transition Planning – pre-school, programs, secondary, out of school
•       ABA – administration, teachers, EAs – April 2 and 3, 2009; approximately 50 participants
•       Geneva Core Curriculum (2 day training) being offered to EAs during April 27 PA Day and April 28.  Positive Behaviour Supports also being offered to EAs who have completed Curriculum during April 27 PA Day
•       April is Autism Awareness Month – Staff meeting – speaker; April 2 is World Autism Day

School-to-Community Services

•       School-to-Community Curriculum Council Meetings continue.  The next meeting is April 14, 2009 at 4 p.m. at Collins Bay Public School.

•       Transition planning continues.  Our partnerships with community partners in assisting students and families with developing transition plans have been essential.

•       The District School-to-Community Team is busy with referrals from schools and assisting with program consultation, goal setting, updating of plans and meeting with schools and families.

Accessibility and Delegated Procedures

•       Kristin Check is consulting with schools, CCAC staff and Facility Services to ensure that we are aware of equipment and accessibility needs for students in September through the transition process.

•       Kristin Check will be meeting with Case Managers at the Community Care Access Centre this month to review our students that receive Delegated Medical Tasks while at school (e.g. catheterization, ostomy, g-tube feeding, glucose monitoring).  This ensure that the Case Managers are aware of where the students will be in the fall, key contact at the school and that nurse training on the procedure can be in place for the beginning of September.

Section 23 Learning Opportunities

•       On March 31, 2009, several of our LDSB Section 23 teachers took part in a regional learning opportunity put on by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Child and Youth Services.  The participants were teachers and staff who work in youth justice facilities.  The conference took place in Kingston and involved several boards from Eastern Ontario.  The them of this learning initiative was Championing Student Success for Youth Justice Clients.

IEP Information

•       Phase 2 continues – focus on annual goals, writing measurable learning expectations
•       Continue focus on Differentiated Instruction
•       May 11, 2009 SST/LPS training (tentative) – focus on interventions and Differentiated Instruction, writing annual goals and writing measurable learning expectations

Essential Elements

•       Document will inform the delivery of Ministry Section 23 programs – focus on four main areas – Assessment, Evaluation and Reporting on Student Achievement, Instruction & Intervention, Transition Planning, and Information Management and Reporting t the Ministry of Education
•       Inform Partner Agencies
•       Implementation and Sharing with Section 23 teachers
•       Use and Development of Resource Compendium

PD and Other Learning Opportunities

•       Stage 2 and 3 of the Networking Pathways continues.  Educational Services teachers have been included for all sessions.  The focus of these sessions is enhancing our students’ ability to make connections to text, teacher moderation and using baseline assessment information to determine next steps for literacy programming.

•       Differentiated Instruction (DI) – in partnership with Student Success.  Eighty teachers (grades 7-10) have ben participating in full-day sessions to enhance their use/understanding of DI.  One secondary school has conducted action research on DI..

•       Educational Assistant Course – #2 ended this evening.  Over 40 EAs, including a large group from Sharbot Lake and NAEC, participated via video conferencing.

•       ETFO Professional Development – a representative of the ETFO provincial PD committee will be spending two evenings with LDSB teachers (April 7 and 28th).  The focus will be on the ETFO Special Education Handbook.  Forty teachers have registered.  The speaker is a Special Education Consultant from another board.

•       Elementary and Secondary NTIP sessions – focus on Learning Disabilities and DI.

•       PECS (Picture Exchange Communications System) – Educational Services staff provided this training in March for 30 participants.

Assistive Technology

•       Hazel MacDonald – Computer Consultant
•       Training sessions for staff – Premier (Cataraqui Woods ES, Land O’Lakes PS, Hinchinbrooke PS and Sharbot Lake PS) in April
•       Clicker 5 in-service (First Avenue PS0
•       PA Day, April 27 – Educational Assistants’ workshop – Premier and Smart Ideas

Section 23 Learning Opportunity

•       A joint venture between the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Child and Youth Services took place on March 31 in Kingston.  The theme of this learning initiative was Championing Student Success for Youth Justice Clients.
•       Several LDSB secondary and elementary Section 23 teachers were involved as well as Steve Ward, Vice-Principal of Educational Services.

March 26 – Vice-Principal/Assistant Vice-Principal Secondary Meeting

•       The March 26, 2009 Secondary VP/AVP meeting was held at the Fairfield Sharing Centre.
•       Members of the Educational Services Leadership Team joined the AVP/VP group for lunch.
•       PD Sessions included: Integrated Service Delivery Mode/Multi-Disciplinary Approach, Differentiated Instruction, BMS Training Overview and Curriculum Modifications.

Behaviour Learning Centre Advisory Committee Review

•       Members include Educational Services personnel, BLC teachers, administrators, community partners
•       Purpose – to review current practice and discuss possible changes to service delivery
•       A forum to discuss the issues pertinent to BLD classrooms

        Mr. Gillam advised that on Sunday, April 5, 2009, LDSB will have 26 panelists participating in the Easter Seals telethon, from 11 a.m. until 12 noon.

        Mr. Williams advised that the Learning Disabilities Association of Kingston will also be participating in the telethon.

        Chair Crawford thanked Mr. Gillam for providing an Educational Services update.


(a)     From Donna Wright, President, Down Syndrome Association of Ontario, a copy of a letter addressed to The Honourable David Caplan, Minister of Health & Long Term Care, and to The Honourable Kathleen Wynne, Minister of Education, indicating that Policy/Program Memorandum No. 81 (“PPM81"), which defines School Health Support Services, is over 20 years old, as are the Interministerial Guidelines for the Provision of Speech and Language Services (“Guidelines”).  She asks that all ministries recognize the importance of parental engagement in the development and implementation of supports that affect their children, and to take into consideration parent engagement as outlined in the Parent Engagement: A Shared World [2007] document presented at the 2008 Ontario Education Research Symposium.

(b)     From Leanne Kirk, President, Halton Down Syndrome Association, a copy of a letter dated February 13, 2009, addressed to The Honourable David Caplan, Minister of Health & Long Term Care, and to The Honourable Kathleen Wynne, Minister of Education, requesting that they consider the recommendations of the Down Syndrome Association of Ontario and ensure that appropriate School Health Support Services are available to their children.

(c)     From Donna Edwards, Chair, SEAC, Durham District School Board, a copy of a letter dated January 9, 2009, addressed to John Wilhelm, Vice-Chair, Minister’s Advisory Council on Special Education, regarding funding for psychological and speech and language assessments, Bill 29 (Occupational Health and Safety Amendment Act [Harassment and Violence], 2007), and the implementation of the proposed standard for Accessible Information and Communication.

Association Updates

Learning Disabilities Association of Kingston

        Mr. Williams advised that the Learning Disabilities Association of Kingston’s new web site is now operational, and it can be accessed at

        Mr. Williams reported that the LDAK Annual General Meeting is being held on Monday, April 27, 2009, at 7 p.m.  He further reported that applications for the Tristin Memorial Scholarship are due May 15, 2009, noting that the scholarships are worth $500 each.

        Mr. Williams advised that a mini Bluegrass Concert is being held on Wednesday, April 22, 2009 at Christ Church Cataraqui, from 7 p.m. until 10 p.m.

        Mr. Williams indicated that Executive Director position is now a volunteer position as funds for the position are no longer available at this time.

        Ms. Akey advised that Janice Barling had dropped off new brochures regarding Learning Disabilities Association of Kingston.

Epilepsy Kingston

        Ms. Carson advised that Epilepsy Kingston’s new web site is now operational, and it can be accessed at

Autism Society

        Ms. LaLonde reported that April is Autism Awareness Month and April 2 is World Autism Day.  She indicated that the LCBO has chosen autism for their coins this month.

        Ms. LaLonde reported  that the Kingston Chapter is holding a hockey tournament Easter weekend with the proceeds supporting the Kingston Chapter and the Autism Foundation.

        Ms. LaLonde stated that the Autism Society of Kingston is creating new brochures that will outline what they do and their upcoming events.

        Ms. LaLonde advised that the AGM will be held on June 10, 2009, noting that the location has yet to be confirmed.

        Ms. LaLonde indicated that she and her daughter have been invited to visit the Legislature in Toronto on April 2, and that they will be travelling by train.

Family & Children’s Services, Lennox and Addington

        Charlene Whalen reported that the construction of their new building has started.

Next Meeting Date

        The next meeting of the Special Education Advisory Committee is scheduled for Wednesday, April 15, 2009, at 7:00 p.m., at Calvin Park Public School, 153 VanOrder Drive, Kingston.  Committee members will tour the LEAP and Challenge programs, that will start at 7:00 p.m.  A representative from the SEEDS project at Queen’s University will be in attendance to speak to enriched programming.  She said that an update about the Collaborative Services Delivery Model should be provided at that meeting, and hopefully a representative from Pathways will be in attendance.

        Ms. Akey reported that the SEACs from the Hastings Prince Edward District School Board and the Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic District School Board confirmed their attendance at the May 20, 2009 SEAC meeting, which is to be held at the Limestone Education Centre, 220 Portsmouth Avenue, Kingston.  The topic will be “Effects of Deployment on Children”.  After the guest speaker is done, the SEACs will hold their meetings.  Items on the agenda will include: Special Education Plan Review, and Student Success Leadership Initiative Update.


        MOVED BY Nadine Carson, seconded by David Williams, that the meeting adjourn at  7:55 p.m.–Carried