Home and school work together on ACSES
by Jordan Stoopler
As a mother of two teenagers with learning challenges, Rosemarie Federico has become an advocate for her children’s educational needs, first at the elementary school level for seven years, and now in her fifth year on the English Montreal School Board’s Advisory Committee on Special Education Services (ACSES), where she has served as chair since 2018.
“It was recognized that not every student will be successful if they aren’t accommodated with respect to their specific need,” said Federico. “How are you going to let a student run a race if he’s limping? You have to provide support. We don’t necessarily expect the student to finish first, but the mere fact of finishing the race is an achievement itself. We try to figure out how to help these students finish the race and be successful in this already competitive world.”
ACSES brings together parents, teachers, school administrators and support staff, among others, for meetings once every two months. The parents sitting on the board form the majority and are selected by the Executive Committee for a two-year term from applications submitted by interested parents. They must have a child with “physical or learning disabilities, social maladjustments [or] other difficulties which require special needs,” as described on the ACSES webpage.
“We want a perspective from every type of disability, from autism to Down syndrome and hearing impairment,” said Federico. “We try to ensure that the committee is well-rounded, and that we cover all our bases.”
ACSES works in close collaboration with the Student Services department. Parents offer their first-hand accounts of their child’s struggles and their concerns, with the school board offering support and answering questions along the way. In addition to the bi-monthly meetings, workshops are also arranged through Student Services to apprise parents of important issues and EMSB programs.
“The EMSB professionals are working hard to help our students,” she said, “and it is important for them to work in collaboration with the parents who know first-hand what it is like to raise a child with special needs. They rely on our experience to better understand the needs of our children.”
The committee advises the school board on policy and the allocation of financial resources for educational services to students with special needs. Improvements to individualized education plans are also heavily discussed. The committee will also periodically meet with other like groups from school boards across the province to share information and strategies.
Federico is proud to see her advocacy rubbing off on her children.
“I needed my children to learn how to advocate for themselves in order for them to be able to advocate for their future children or others,” she said. “It’s about accepting and acknowledging their challenges, not using it as a crutch, but rather as their reason to persevere.”
ACSES was established in October 1998 as part of the law within the Quebec Education Act requiring school boards to establish an advisory committee on services for students with special needs.