My Experience

Welcome to my e-portfolio

Special Education Part 1

Read on to learn more about my educational journey and how it has shaped my practice.

Michelle Pagliaro

A little about me...

To truly understand my learnings from this course, we must first get to know me a little more! My name is Michelle and I am currently a teacher in Burnaby, BC. I am currently on my third year teaching and I am so fortunate to have taught a grade 3/4 class this past year. I have previously taught grade 4/5 and grade 5/6. I did my undergraduate degree in Psychology and throughout my degree I volunteered for Mental Health agencies consistently. I am passionate about Mental Health awareness and have found myself growing more and more passionate about Special Education as I gain more experience teaching.

Throughout my three years I have had numerous IEP's within my classes and have gained experience with multiple designation categories. I believe my role as an educator is to advocate on behalf of my students in order to provide them the best education and opportunities they can get. Throughout this course I have learned so much that I will take forward with me and I am so excited to share all that I have learned with you.

I have been working on this assignment throughout the duration of this course!

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"All students should have equitable access to learning, opportunities for achievement, and the pursuit of excellence in all aspects of their educational programs."

(BC Ministry of Education, 2016)

Module one

Key Points:

-Special Education Laws and Policies which ensure equitable opportunities to all students.

-BC promotes inclusion and meaningful participation amongst Special Needs students through IEP's, Adaptations and Modifications.

-The lack of funding that is being allocated to each district and the massive funding gaps that have been arising.

-Low incidence vs high incidence designations.

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What did I know before?

What do I know now?

The knowledge I had before was limited to things I learned while in PDP and while I was teaching. I was familiar with adaptations, IEP's and modifications because I have had very heavy IEP classes since I started teaching. I also knew about the designation categories because I am had such a diverse set of designations throughout my short three years.

I was very surprised to learn about the funding allocations and gaps from district to district. I always wondered how much funding my District received and I am shocked to learn we only get $17, 378 and we actually spend $31, 884. It blows my mind to think that we spend almost double the funding we are allocated. This shows you how important funding is and how big of a role Special Education plays in each district.

What and how will I implement what I learned?

Learning about the funding gap makes me wonder if there is a way to do in-school fundraising. There are so many times I have wanted one of my designated students to have something that I knew would help them succeed, and was told we could not get it. Something I would like to do is have school fundraisers where we can raise money for our school to buy learning tools such as, wiggle seats, fidgets, quiet corner supplies and so on. I think this could be a really positive way I can take what I have learned and put it into action.

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Lingering questions and directions for the future

Some questions I have and some things I would like to continue learning about are...

-Why are Special Education budgets so low? Is there a way we can prompt the government to raise educational funding?

-What are some ways we can adapt/modify for a designation R?

-What did the first IEP look like?

-Special Education (Section 15) was put into The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1981

-Universal Designs for Learning (UDL) can benefit all students, not just those with special needs.

-Main ways to include UDL are: Multiple means of representation, action, expression and engagement ,

-Inclusion benefits all learners

-Attribution theory: "perceived causes of outcomes". The teachers attempts to make senses of student struggles is the essence of attribution theory. This can help us understand why students do what they do.

What did I know before?

UDL is something I am very passionate about learning and implementing within my classroom. Throughout the years I have seen firsthand how beneficial it is to ALL students who receive it. Education isn't meant to make student struggle, it's meant to help students learn. UDL does just that! Within my classroom I always provided body breaks, choice of seating and assessments, as well as multiple means of representation. I always aimed to have EVERY student access my lessons and tasks.

Key Points:

Module two

After studying this module I feel more informed about the history of our Special Education Policies. I now Understand the amount of suffering and advocacy that Canadians had to undergo in order for Section 15 to be put into The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I have a new sense of appreciation for our Special Education policies and all the work that has gone into them. I also found the Attribution Theory extremely interesting. I think most of what was said in the Gaier (2015) article is what teachers do all the time, but it was interesting reading more about it and putting a name to the action.

What do I know now?

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"One of the greatest challenges in helping students learn is identifying and understanding why they do what they do"

(Gaier, 2015)

What and how will I implement what I learned?

My main takeaway from this module was the Attribution Theory. Understanding the why behind behaviours and separating the person from their behaviours. This is such an important action to do when teaching children who have Special needs (and anyone) because their behaviours can tell us what they need/want. Looking beyond a behvaiour and phrasing them as, "I wonder what they are trying to tell me" can really help students. Escpecially those who find it difficult to communicate their feelings or advocate for themselves.

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Lingering questions and directions for the future

instead of a question from this module I have a direction I would like to take for the future. Moving forward I want to try to be more patient when it comes to behaviours. Sometimes I can be quick to judge a behaviour rather than asking myself, "why?". By doing this I think I can become a stronger advocate for my students and create a more welcoming and accepting environment for all my learners.

Module Three

What did I know before?

This module was filled with things I knew so I was able to bring a lot of prior knowledge which allowed me to gain a deeper understanding on the topics. I was able to solidify what I knew about adaptations, modifications, IEP's and UDL. This module acted as a reminder of why we do what we do when it comes to differentiated instruction. These areas of differentiated instruction is something I do regularly in my class and is something I take very seriously as I aim to allow every student feel successful!

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"If a child can't learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn." -Ignacio Estrada

Key points:

  • Adaptation: Change the way a student learns the regular curriculum.
  • Modification:Change what the student learns.
  • Differentiated Instruction: The way teachers respond to learning needs by adapting or modifying.
  • Response To Intervention: A tool educators use to aim intervention at certain students depending on the tier they are on. Tier 3 is most in need, tier 1 is least.
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What do I know now?

something I learned from this module was even more ways to modify and adapt for students. It was interesting seeing all the different ways and hearing the ways my classmates do it in their classes. Some new ways I learned about were:

  • A peer helper
  • Oral interviews instead of writing

I also learned that it is important to create meaningful adaptations and modifications. Link it back to their strengths and interests!

What and how will I implement what I learned:

My takeaway from this module is the differentiated instruction section! I really liked the way Carol Ann Tomlinson broke down DI into 4 sections; content, process, products and learning environment. I found that when I thought of DI in this way it made it much more manageable to implement. It allowed me to question each part of me lessons and units and also allowed me to pinpoint specific area's I need to be applying DI within.

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Lingering questions and directions for the future

Some questions I have and some things i would like to continue learning are...

  • I would love to learn how to design a classroom that allows all learners to be successful.
  • i would love to learn more about assessment with IEP's. How do I assess someone with certain goals. For example, in math if their only IEP goal for math is to add/subtract. Would I only assess that goal?
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What did I know before?

Module four

Before this module I knew some of the category designations, but only the one's I have taught. Mainly, Q, R, D and G. Knowing the categories was something I was always interested in and I was able to do so in this module!

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Key points:

Low Incidence Categories:

  • A- Physically dependent/multiple needs
  • B-Deaf/blind
  • C-Moderate to Profound intellectual Disability
  • D- Chronic Health
  • E- Visual Impairment
  • F- Deaf or hard of hearing
  • G- Autism
  • H- Intensive behaviour intervention or serious mental illness
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"All students can learn and succeed, but not in the same way and not in the same day" -William G. Spadey

What do I know now?

Something I found really interesting in this module was the reading on Eating Disorders and what to do as a teacher. Whenever I think about the designations I might get in my classroom, I never think of any eating disorder. This made me realize that I am not as equipped as I should be.

What and how will I implement what I learned:

My main takeaway from this module was the mental health designation and readings we did. As an educator i feel like i am very focused on the academic side of things and always pinpoints things like, ADHD, Autism and Learning Disabilities. While there is a huge portion of students that are flying under the radar. This module taught me to take into consideration and be aware of both academic and mental health signs so I can truly help all my learners.

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Lingering questions and directions for the future

Something I wondered throughout this module was the Student Well-being Team in Prince Edward Island. This team is where students mental health is supported within the school by their parents, educators and outside professionals. After reading Designation H and reading about Eating Disorders I wonder why we do not have something like this in BC? I know in my district specifically it is really difficult for students to see the school counsellor and there is often a large waitlist. I'm wondering if there is a way to increase access to mental health resources in my district and others who struggle with accessibility?

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"People with learning disabilities learn differently, obviously. Does that mean the way they learn is wrong?"

-Joanne Dumm

Module Five

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Key points:

  • K- Mild intellectual disability
  • P- Gifted
  • Q- Learning Disability
  • R- Behaviour support or Mental Illness

Many different types of learning disabilities, such as;

  • Dyscalculia- Numeracy
  • Dysgraphia- Writing
  • Dyslexia- Reading
  • Dysorthographia- Spelling
  • AND many more!

What do I know now?

What did I know before?

This module was the most impactful for me because Learning disabilities is something i encounter a lot and i realized I did not know as much as I thought I did! i enjoyed learning about the different types of learning disabilities and the different strategies to help support students. I also really liked learning about designation R (mental illness). the mental Health field is something I feel very passionately about and so learning about this designation was especially interesting to me. While I research for the assignment I came across a strategy that said "use a classmate as a volunteer assistant". This stuck out to me because I realized we as teacher's aren't alome! We not only have other teachers, but we have our students! Our students can do so much to help their peers and it can be so meaningful and beneficial to both parties involved!

Before this module I only had experience with Learning disabilities, but my knowledge was very limited. Every student I had who had a Q designation had it in the area of writing. I didn't know there were other kinds and it was very surprising to me how many there were! I knew how to support my students with learning disabilities quite well and so when I was research adaptations/modification I was thankful to see many things I already do be on the lists. Such as, extra time, chunking work, alternatives to writing, graphic organizers, and so on.

What and how will I implement what I learned:

My main takeaway from this module will be the various strategies I learned for each designation. But there is one in particular I would like to try, which is to use a peer as a volunteer assistant/buddy. I never thought to use peer helpers but it is such a meaningful and beneficial idea. One that stood out to me was, buddy readers, which is pairing a stronger reader with a weaker one. Whenever I had a student who wasn't able to read, I just read with them. But reading about using reading buddies makes much more sense! This allows students to connect and learn from one another. Which is amazing! This strategy is definitely something I will be implementing.

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Lingering questions and directions for the future

some questions I had from this module are:

  • How can we make mental health professionals more accessible to schools?
  • How can I use peer learning in my class for students who are designated in categories other than learning disabilities?

What did I know before?

My experience with IEP's is limited to what I have experienced within my classroom, the IEP meetings I have been apart of and what my LSS teacher has taught/told me. I know that teachers and EA's play pivotal roles in the identification and IEP process and that we are obligated by the School Act to participate fully in IEP expectations. I also know that Parent's and school staff need to act as a team when it comes to IEP's and communicate clearly and transparently for it to work successfully.

Key points:

Module Six

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"Collaboration is best achieved in an atmosphere that is respectful, trusting and honest"

(Ministry of Education, 2009)

What do I know now?

I know how to write an IEP now! This module was so much fun because I always wanted to learn how to write an IEP. I learned that academic goals need to be linked back to the big ideas. I also learned that there are two types of IEP's; SMART goal and core competency based. I really enjoyed the core competency IEP templates more because I teach core competencies throughout the year, so I felt like this template fit me the best!

  • Two types of IEP's: SMART goal and Core Competency Based
  • School Act outlines obligations and expectations that schools have when participating in IEP's.
  • IEP goals need objectives (mini goal) and strategies for how you will meet the objective
  • Two types of goals: academic and Core Competency goals
  • Teachers and EA's play a big role in identifying students for IEP's. Typically through observation

in the classroom.

  • Triangulation of Assessment: Use written, observational and conversation assessment when

assessing learning.

  • Success of an IEP depends on good collaboration from teachers, EA's, LSS, and parents (and outside professionals when needed).

What and how will I implement what I learned:

After completing this module I feel more knowledgeable and confident with IEP's. I feel better about entering IEP meetings, reading IEP's, observing students, assessing goal objectives and adding goals to IEP's. Being in a heavy IEP school and seeing what my class is going to be in September, I feel really good about the amount of knowledge I now have and I feel ready to take on new designations and IEP's.

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Lingering questions and directions for the future

Some questions I have are...

  • What happens if a parent rejects goals in the IEP even though they are helpful to the student and all the educators agree?
  • What are steps to take if a parent rejects IEP goals or an IEP altogether?

Quotes and thoughts that stood out to me.

During the course I had candid thoughts written down in my journal that were not put into my discussion posts or assignments.

My district keeps taking divisions away and I've been in remedy every year since I've started. Is this a funding issue or a teacher shortage issue?

I have found that the majority of my job has been to advocate for students to their parents. Many fear the stigma that a designation will bring them and so we are not allowed to move forward with an IEP. This is why UDL/differentiated instruction for ALL is so important. Just because someone doesn't have an IEP doesn't mean they don't need one.

Why is the waitlist for an IEP assessment so long? When we bring a student to team to get assessed for an LD sometimes it can take a year, unless parents go private (very expensive).

I know we don't have A LOT of money, but why isn't there more money put away for special needs education? Especially when it is shown that the way we adapt for Special needs can have beneficial impacts on ALL students?

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Your degree is just a piece of paper. Your education is seen in your behaviour" - unknown


BC Ministry of Education. (April 2016). Special Education Services: A Manual of Policies, Procedures and

Guidelines. Retrieved from


British Columbia Ministry of Education (2010). Special Education Services- Category Checklist. Retrieved



Hutchinson, N.L. (2016). Chapter 1 Exceptional Students, Universal Design for Learning, and

Differentiated Instruction. In inclusion of learners with exceptionalities in Canadian schools:

A practical handbook for teachers. Pearson Canada

United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (1994). The Salamanca Statement and

Framework for Action on Special Needs Education. Retrieved from

THE CONSTITUTION ACTS, 1867 to 1982. (2022). Justice Laws Website.

BCTF > BC’s inclusive education funding gap. (2018, October). BCTF.

Sokal, L., & Katz, J. (2015). Oh, Canada: bridges and barriers to inclusion in Canadian schools. Support for Learning, 30(1), 42–54.

Gaier, S. E. (2015). Understanding Why Students Do What They Do: Using Attribution Theory to Help Students Succeed Academically. Research & Teaching in Developmental Education, 31(2), 6–19.

Tomlinson, C. A. (August, 2000). Differentiation of Instruction in the Elementary Grades. ERIC Digest. ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education.

Differentiation Model. (2016, May 27). Differentiation Central.

Gorski, D. What is Response to Intervention (RTI)? | RTI Action Network. RTI.

BC Ministry of Education. (2011) Supporting Students with Learning Disabilities: A Guide for Teachers. Retrieved from

A. (2018, January 10). Understanding Learning Disabilities. LDAC | The Learning Disability Association of Canada.

Classroom Accommodations for Dysgraphia. (2014). Understood.

I. (2017, January 6). Dyslexia in the Classroom: What Every Teacher Needs to Know. International Dyslexia Association.

Koch, K. (2017, May 15). What is “Triangulation” in the Assessment Context? FreshGrade.

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Thank you!

Thank you for a wonderful course! I learned so much.

By: Michelle Pagliaro