Saturday, October 24, 2020

Manitoba Education's SSP Handbook Needs An Upgrade

Manitoba Education's SSP Handbook 

Manitoba Education's SSP (Student-Specific Plan) Handbook leaves much to be desired.  The biggest issue is the lack of specific, concrete direction for school staff when implementing the goals outlined in a student's IEP or SSP.  If a school staff member has never written an SSP before, they unfortunately will not find much help in Manitoba Education's handbook.  

The biggest issue is that the Handbook outlines how to write S.M.A.R.T. goals for the student, but says very little about accountability and direction for staff in terms of supporting the student to achieve those goals.  Goals will not be effective if there are not concrete steps that the school staff will take in order to meet the student's needs, and then concrete steps that the school staff and student will take together in order to achieve the goals outlined in the SSP.  That portion is missing from the Handbook, and without inclusion of those concrete steps, the SSP is of very little use to staff or the student.  

Highlighting and emphasis in coloured text added by ADHD 2e Pro

Here is what is included in the current Handbook:

(Not-so) “SMART” SSOs (Student-Specific Objectives) 

Specific: written in clear, unambiguous language

Measurable: allow student achievement to be described, assessed, and evaluated

Achievable: realistic for the student

Relevant: meaningful for the student

Time-related: able to be accomplished within a specific time period, typically one school year

Here is what must be included in order for those "smart" goals to be of any use:

(Student-Centered) S.M.A.R.T SSOs

Specific: written in clear, unambiguous language

Specific, concrete direction for the staff regarding what works best for this individual student and what school staff roles will be in helping to meet the student’s needs.  

Oftentimes these goals are written with what the school wishes the student would/could do, rather than what would be in the student's best interest, and that is not okay. 

Measurable: allow student achievement to be described, assessed, and evaluated

Yes, we need to be able to measure whether the accommodations and supports are achieving their desired outcome, which should be to meet the student’s needs and help the student to achieve their goals.  

However, the pressure should not be on the school staff, nor on the student, to perform for standardized testing or assessments.  The focus must, first and foremost, be on meeting the student’s needs, regardless of what that looks like on an evaluation.  

If the student's needs are not being met, then their goals are useless, and cannot realistically be achieved.  

To be clear: the primary purpose of the SSP is to outline what supports a student needs in order to be on a level playing field with their peers, not what goals the student should meet in order to make life easier for school staff.  

Achievable: realistic for the student

An SSP should also have supports and accommodations that are realistic for the staff to provide as well.  If an accommodation is required and staff do not know how to meet this need, then they are obligated to seek support from their division.  Accommodations for students' disabilities are not optional, and if the school or division lacks the resources to provide them, then it is their obligation to apply for funding from the province in order to meet the student's need.  

Relevant:         meaningful for the student

This point is incredibly important.  We will not get buy-in from the student if they don’t care about their goals, and if they are not involved in the process of creating their own goals.  In whatever way is developmentally appropriate, the student should be consulted and have input into their SSP.  They should be given an opportunity to express their wishes, and describe how they feel they can be best supported at school.  

Time-related: able to be accomplished within a specific time period, typically one school year

SSP goals should be short-term as well as long-term.  If there is a goal for the end of the school year, then smaller, achievable goals, should be made for the interim in order to help the student progress toward that year-end goal.  If you have a year-end goal in September, then that goal is too broad, and it needs to be broken up into smaller steps that can be re-visited quarterly.  Ideally, the SSP team is meeting each term, but also communicating very regularly, almost daily if needed.  This daily communication can be in the form of a staff log/communication book or short emails, but they team needs to collaborate and keep everybody up to date.  

The most glaringly inadequate portion of Manitoba Education's SSP Handbook is reference to staff roles and responsibilities when it comes to supporting the student and meeting the student's needs.  In particular when supporting younger students with SSPs, there needs to be increased focus on what school staff will do in order to support the student to meet their goals.  

This is their current framework for developing SSOs: 

This is what it should look like (with an example included): 

Manitoba Education's Roles and Responsibilities for Staff focus primarily on the tasks involved in actually writing the SSP and evaluating the goals, not on how the staff will actually implement the steps outlined within, nor on how they will specifically support the student along the way: 

That is a huge oversight, and one that can make the difference between an SSP that will actually help the student succeed, and an SSP that wastes a whole lot of time and paper. 

One document that is potentially quite helpful is the Parent Handout (appendix F), yet I've never seen it actually given to a parent (I made just a couple of notes that I feel are important to include - click the image to go to our website and download your own PDF copy): 

Schools should be required to provide this to each and every parent and caregiver that will be attending their first SSP/IEP meeting.  There should also be a student and parent "bill of rights" that every family receives.  Currently there isn't adequate legislation in Manitoba regarding the rights of students with disabilities, which I discussed in my last blog post.  

If you need assistance advocating for your child, please do not hesitate to contact us.  

About the Author

Jillian is an ADHD 2e Coach and Child Advocate in Manitoba, Canada.

Jillian has a diploma in Child & Youth Work and a Degree in Psychology, as well as being the parent of an amazing 2e/ADHD child.

Visit and to learn more.

If you need help educating your child's school, your family, or with general ADHD coaching or advocacy, please feel free to contact us.  

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