Toronto District School Board
Skip to main content

Special Education & Inclusion in French Language Programs

Accommodations and modifications are both possible in French programs and must be put in place if the student’s learning needs require those steps. Please seek support from your school's Special Education team if needed.

Students in French programs may experience learning challenges or demonstrate the need for some additional support in meeting the curriculum expectations for their grade level. Those learning needs can and will be supported within the program of their parent/guardian's choice (English program with Core French, French Immersion or Extended French). The most frequent and most effect supports will be delivered by the classroom teacher in an inclusive classroom setting.

Including students with special education needs in French as a second language programsThe Ministry of Education policy document entitled Including Students with Special Education Needs in French As A Second Language Programs, 2015 states that “The foundational belief that all students can learn applies to students across all subjects and program areas.” (page 3).

Including Students with Special Education Needs in French As A Second Language Programs

Fact Sheet - Special Education & Inclusion in French Programs

This document also recognizes the need to provide appropriate programs and services to exceptional students that have been identified by an IPRC. TDSB's French Dept has adapted the following document from Ontario's Modern Language Council to help our teachers program adaptations for students with special education needs.

In the past, it may have been thought that students with Special Education needs should not participate (or would not thrive if they did) in French programs, particularly French Immersion and Extended French. Research on these programs and students with Special Education needs confronts that assumption and we know that students with Special Education needs can indeed benefit from, and thrive in French programs of all kinds. All efforts should be made to design and deliver a program that supports a wide range of learning styles and needs.

Teachers in French programs can and shall use assessment strategies to identify strengths and learning needs for all students and design a differentiated program to meet them. Learning experiences may be differentiated by content, process, product, environment or language complexity based on the strengths and needs of the students. Teachers in French programs can and shall develop an IEP (Individual Education Plan) if it is deemed necessary.

Inclusion in Core French Programs

Core French is a mandatory part of the Elementary and Secondary school program. For the majority of students, there will be no exemption from Core French. Please refer to the Operational Procedure PR597 for more information.

As a parent, you may receive an invitation to attend an IST meeting or an SST meeting. These are team meetings designed to discuss the needs of the child and identify particular strategies and a course of action to best meet those needs.

IST and SST - A Team Approach

In-School Support Team (IST)

The IST plays a significant role in helping the classroom teacher coordinate efforts and share information regarding students who require additional support in order to be successful in learning or to reach their potential for achievement. Valuable insights from the IST into possible interventions will help support the existing program strategies.

While parental permission and/or attendance at the IST meeting is not required for IST consultation to take place, teachers should have already communicated their concerns to parents/guardians and consulted with them about the student’s perceived needs and kinds of instructional interventions being used. If they are not participants in the IST consultation, parents/guardians should be informed about the recommended plan of action decided at the IST meeting.

School Support Team (SST)

When the IST has done all it can to understand and address the student’s needs, but determines that more support is required, the student should be referred to the SST.

Referral to the SST enables the concerns about the student to be discussed by a broader team of representatives from Special Education, Psychology, Social Work, Attendance Counselling, Speech-Language Pathology, Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy, parents/guardians/caregiver/students over 16 years of age, outside agencies and others as required.

There are stronger requirements around permission from parents for SST to discuss a student. Parents must be invited to, and are strongly encouraged to attend, the SST meeting.

Adapted from the TDSB IST and SST Manual 2019-2020

What to expect at IST/SST

It is important to note that the outcomes of these meetings, particularly in the early stages, are often to provide insight and strategies for the classroom teacher to implement in the regular classroom in order to differentiate the class program to meet particular learning needs. In some cases, further recommendations can be made such as consultation with professionals beyond the school staff, formal assessment and/or referral for possible formal identification of Special Education Needs (ie. IPRC). In most cases, however, the outcome is to provide the classroom teacher with support in the form of recommended accommodations and strategies or additional support from the Special Education Resources teacher, either integrated in the classroom or in a withdrawal setting.

The TDSB employs a tiered approach to Special Education interventions as well as an inclusive model of delivery of those interventions. The needs of most students are most effectively met with the first and second tier of support, in an environment that includes the student in the community of his or her class and school while supporting their particular needs.

Tiered Support

Accessible text-alternative document for this image

Questions to ask at School Support Team

Some questions you may ask at an SST meeting:

  • What are my child’s areas of strength?
  • Where does my child experience particular difficulty?
  • What is the assessment data/what assessment tools did you use to arrive at this description of my child’s achievement?
  • Are the assessment tools from among the tools suggested by the board?
  • Is my child able to access other parts of the curriculum?
  • Are there a variety of ways available to my child to demonstrate his or her understanding?
  • What strategies have you used already that are different for my child, in light of the needs highlighted in this meeting?
  • How long have those strategies been in place? How consistently? What is the evidence that they are working or not working?
  • I choose for my child to remain in the French program we have chosen. What strategies will be put in place to support and improve my child's achievement?

SST/IST and French Programs

  • Special education supports of all kinds are most suited to students who are in danger of not meeting the curriculum expectations of their current grade level (ie. assessments indicate they may achieve or are achieving below level 1)
  • Not all students with an identified learning need will struggle to meet the expectations of the grade level
  • The parent/guardian has ultimate decision making authority over the child’s educational placement (ie. if you choose for your child to be in an optional French program, he or she can and will be supported there)
  • At some levels of support intensity, parents may face a choice between an optional French program and a Special Education class (ie. Gifted or Intensive Support Programs)
  • All students are welcome, encouraged and supported in Core French, Extended French and French Immersion
  • Students with a range of learning needs, learning styles and linguistic backgrounds are currently participating and thriving in French programs
  • The full range of achievement levels appears in all French programs as they might in the regular English program
  • Classroom teachers of French programs are equipped with a similar range of strategies to differentiate for different learning styles, provide instructional accommodations or curriculum modifications where necessary as they would in the English program
  • If interventions outside the classroom prove necessary, they can be effectively delivered in French
  • Interventions delivered in English (during instructional time already dedicated to English instruction) may benefit the student in both languages
  • The additional language focus in an French class may indeed improve outcomes for students with learning disabilities specific to language

Universal Screening for Grade 3 Students

  • All students in Grade 3 participate in the Universal Screening process, including students in French Immersion programs
  • Students in French Immersion write the test in English
  • If a student's results indicate a gifted learner, the parent may choose to go through the IPRC process to obtain the Gifted identification
  • If a parent opts for specialized programming (i.e., a contained classroom for students identified with the exceptionality of giftedness), that will represent a choice between French Immersion placement and Gifted placement
  • For more information about this process please visit the Universal Screening site