Is the increase in special needs labelling a scam?

While I don’t have individual percentages for the number of special needs children in Canadian schools,  the link that Maria S. (Dodo Can Spell) gave me is a real eye opener.  Check out this “Biased BBC site, for instance, which is referring to a U.K. report from Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education) regarding the claim that one in five U.K. children has a special need.

Now, the key question to ask is whether or not the term “special need” is referring to children at risk, children who are vulnerable for some reason (maybe English is their second language) versus children with a diagnosed disability. If it is the former, then they should NOT be labelled as “special needs” and school boards and school districts should not get extra funding.  

Because, what they are, in fact, are just regular children or teens who simply need more time to learn a skill or content, which they can do with a teacher or tutor after school — or dare I say it, simply by being exposed to good teaching.  

But, in terms of the refrain: “all we need is more money,” we hear the same claims and arguments in Canada, too. As though money will solve everything. Yet, the exact amount that goes towards special needs is actually quite staggering. For example, the Ontario Liberal government has increased special needs grants to school boards from $14.4 Billion per year (when they came to power in 2003) to this year’s projection of $20.2 Billion. (Note: stay on the Ontario government link for a couple of seconds and the table will come up.)

Now, think about that 20 billion amount times ten provinces and three territories and you begin to see why I say the amount designated towards special needs is staggering. Yet, how come we read that some boards, like the District School Board of Niagara, do not get enough for special education? Are some school boards getting more than others? And, is the amount of money spent on special education the same in every Canadian province and territory?

Clearly, something is not adding up. So, do I think the one in five numbers in the U.K. indicate a scam and is the same thing going on in Canada? I don’t know, but I sure would like to find out. Perhaps a trustee or classroom teacher can answer the following questions, anonymously if necessary: (1) Are children being labelled special needs just so school boards can get more grant money; and (2) once received, is the grant money being designated to help them?

In Ontario at least, I can say for sure that we need a change in government so that we can get answers.

7 thoughts on “Is the increase in special needs labelling a scam?

  1. Years ago when my youngest son entered school he had a problem being understood. he talked too fast.
    When he was in grade one I was called in and told they were going to put in his file that he was slightly retarded.
    I told the principal that he was not and to give me a month and he would be reading. He laughed but agreed.
    One month later he was reading. While I was volunteering at the school to help my son I taught 4 other young children in the same class to read.
    They were not retarded by any means they simply could not catch on to the phonetic way they were being taught.
    My son is now a university teacher with his own free lance writing business.
    One other of my students is still in town working as a mechanic.
    Teachers are too quick to label when they can’t teach someone.
    The school board also spent money hiring a speech therapist because lots of the new children had speech problems.
    The problem was they had very strong Newfoundland accents but it was said to be speech problems.
    There again labels by ill informed professionals.


  2. Thanks for sharing Lynda. I agree that too often kids are labelled when all they need is a bit of extra help. As far as I know teachers don’t stay after school to help the slower kids, like we used to. And, parents are reluctant to pay for tutors or are just too busy with extra activities like music lessons and sports. It’s a dilemma that needs to be dealt with.


  3. Boy can I relate to this as I was born tongue tied and also bit the tip of my tongue off. Plus, I was the biggest kid in class. Regardless, I was a top student.

    The categorizing is just a way out for the teachers to blame the students when they perform poorly. It’s never their [the teachers’] fault.


  4. Sandy in our small town in northern Ontario the teachers are at the post office getting their mail by 3:20 pm.
    The children are left at the school outside waiting for buses.
    So to comment on that “No they do not do anything after school.”
    If your child does perform in the cookie cutter routine for learning he is labeled as slow, or uncooperative and treated like a 2nd class citizen.
    If a parent does not have the resources to get help for their child the child is lost.
    If a parent speaks out they are called loud mouth and uninformed. In a small town this puts them at odds with people and they are left out of many things going on.
    I was in one class helping out and I heard the teacher call one student stupid. She actually told the rest of the class that this young boy was too stupid to work in a group and she put him in a corner desk all by himself.
    I pulled the teacher into the hall and told her if I ever heard her say something like that again I would have her fired.
    The child was in grade 1. She laughed at me and said I could not do that and I told her that she would not like what I would do if I couldn’t get her fired.
    As far as I know she never called a student stupid again.
    Parents have got to speak out to improve the system.
    Vote the government that gives teachers so much power out of office and let one that understands life take over.
    I got involved in politics when Mike Harris was running and won. It was due to the gun control issue and education.
    Still involved for those same issues federally and provincially. Still a lot of work to do and now I can be more vocal because I do not have children in the education system with only one school to attend.
    Let’s hope the Tories get in this time so some of my work can be accomplished. John Snobelin listened to me and accomplished some of the things I wanted. Then McGuinty came to power and we are right back to too much money being wasted on things we don’t want or need.


  5. Re your link, yes I did catch it. Will have to find a minute to write about it. It’s good news. Any discovery about the causes of autism are good news. Of course, what we will eventually know is that there are many causes. But, a cure can only be developed if they know some of the causes at least. In my son’s case, I believe it was both genetic and a brain injury at birth — a very tough delivery that should have been a C section. Wouldn’t likely happen today.


  6. My son has been labelled intelectually disabled so he had to go to special school
    I have talked to his teacher and she says he is most capeble in the class.
    I do not believe he has any disability.He is very smart in fact.He loves going on train.He can remmember and say all the stations to city which is more than what I can do.
    its all politics
    If the government dosent want a certain child to succeed for what ever reason they label him and send him to special school.


  7. Maryam Ansari — Parents who have such doubts should have their child tested privately. I know it can be expensive but you need proof one way or the other because this type of label is for life. However, if he is borderline intellectually disabled, he may need to be at the special school to prepare him to live and work independently later in life.


Comments are closed.