Advocating in School for Your Child with Special Needs by Dr. Norm Forman

Do you or a friend have a child with unmet special needs in school?

Are you frustrated? You’ll be pleased to know there are action steps to take towards getting those needs met!

As a Psychologist of thirty years I have learned a great deal about human behavior. As I have concentrated on schools and how they (mal)-function for the past twenty years, my insights have grown to include a knowledge of how bureaucracies behave with their personnel hierarchy in their dealings with parents and families.

Typically my dealings with the schools start with parents consulting me about how to get a class change, an Educational Assistant (EA), an IPRC started (Identification, Placement, Review, Committee), fulfillment of a child’s IEP – Individual Education Plan, or to deal with bullying issues, to name a few concerns.

Parents have come to see me because they find themselves greatly frustrated, somewhat down, and significantly discouraged in their efforts to meaningfully resolve obstacles and “red tape” in order to bring about positive learning conditions for their children.

In the largest school board in Canada, the Toronto District School Board, which has more than 200,000 children, over 17% of the students have special needs. For many reasons, including, inconsistencies among schools, lack of following regulations, claims of insufficient funding, and the absence of meaningful conflict resolution practices, among others, many of these young people are not getting what they require. I have found these conditions to prevail at a number of Ontario school boards.

My efforts to advocate for parents have included training, workshop presentations, and online instruction based on my book: Exceptional Children—Ordinary Schools: Getting the Education You Want for Your Special Needs Child. To meet the resistances and obstacles in the schools I have turned to activism practices in my work.

Here are Ten Action Steps you can take.

1- You may file a complaint with the Human Rights Commission.
2- You may file a formal complaint with the College of Teachers re: a teacher or principal.
3- In certain cases, especially involving bullying, you may call the Children’s Aid Society to investigate.
4- You may contact a legal resource center such as Justice for Children to discuss
your child’s rights.
5- You may lodge a complaint with the Ontario Ombudsman’s Office concerning
failures on the part of your school board.
6- Consider using petitions by gaining the support of other parents experiencing similar issues.
7- Contacting the media with your story of unresolved conflicts with the school.
8- Employing social media resources to to get your word out and to encourage others to network with you.
9- Exploring the idea of filing a request for information about your child’s activities and behaviors in school by using the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act (FIPPA).
10- Learning how to begin a letter writing “campaign” to share your concerns and get support for your dealings with the school.

If you have questions or would like to contact me send an email: or call: 416-429-8511

Dr. Forman is a Registered Psychologist, Parent Advocate / Consultant and has taught in schools at the primary, secondary and university levels. He has also worked as a school psychologist, a director of student services, a consultant to Bloorview Children’s Hospital, and as an advisor to Children’s Services in the Ministry of Health. For almost twenty years he has been deeply involved in supporting, promoting and furthering the cause of parents advocating for their children with special needs. A few years ago he was invited to create an Advocacy  Training  Program curriculum to be offered on the website of the Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario and  more recently he developed a special curriculum for the Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada as their E-Advocacy Project Consultant. Similar Programs are being explored with other groups.

Leave a Reply


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.