Reversing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of cuts in OT and PT services at schools across York Region. Solidifying a modernised delivery model so more kids get access to high-quality special education services. Advocating for kids with physical disabilities in the education system.
These are some of Jeffrey’s biggest accomplishments while representing Easter Seals on the YCDSB SEAC.
We talked with Jeffrey to get his thoughts on the importance of SEACs, experiences representing Easter Seals Ontario, and opportunities for kids with disabilities and their families to get involved in the school system.
Easter Seals Ontario: Let’s start with SEAC 101. What is SEAC, and what does it do?
Jeffrey Man: The Special Education Advisory Committee, as its name implies, advises on special education policies and programs at each school board. We have two formal duties: to review and approve the Special Education Plan and the special education budget.
Voting members represent community organisations that serve people with disabilities. I represent Easter Seals Ontario at the YCDSB.
The committee meets approximately once a month during the school year. Each school board runs their meetings differently to meet their unique needs. At York Catholic, we provide input on a range of programs, strategies and service delivery models.
ESO: What has your experience on SEAC been like?
JM: I’m really lucky to serve on a SEAC that is collaborative and collegial, one where senior administrators value our input. I have developed great relationships with colleagues at other organisations. Easter Seals SEAC representatives across the province meet several times a year to discuss shared challenges, and I find myself to be a part of a supportive community of people who want the best for our kids.
I believe our work is really important. Having a diversity of thoughts and perspectives at the table improves the quality of decision-making at school boards. Those decisions trickle down to the school level and have a huge impact on the day-to-day lives of students with disabilities. I had some great experiences at school, and I’m working to ensure future generations do as well.
ESO: You talk about having a diversity of opinions. Tell us a bit more about that.
Personally and professionally, I have learned the voices of historically marginalised populations like people with disabilities aren’t often heard. When we create programs and policies for students who have disabilities but don’t learn from their lived experiences, that’s when we get the disconnect between things that sound great but don’t work in the “real world”. SEAC’s are one way to bridge that gap.
ESO: Why should family members and young adults with disabilities join their local SEAC?
JM: I wish we had more space to talk about this! Here are my top three reasons:
Key decisions around special education are made at the local level. This is where the programs and funding allocations, the “nuts and bolts” of the school system, are created and implemented. This presents a unique opportunity for people with disabilities and their families to make a huge impact in their communities.
My second reason speaks directly to those who have or know young adults who accessed special education services. If this is you, listen up 🙂
By joining your local SEAC, the contributions you make can have a direct impact on the lives of your kids, family members, and friends. Maybe you will work towards increasing access to formal testing at an earlier age, leading to the possibility of more early and effective interventions. Perhaps you will contribute to increasing funding that can be used to hire educational assistants. Maybe you will increase awareness of disability related issues, leading to broader systemic change. All of these things have real impacts on people doing well.
Finally, volunteering on SEAC helps you build personal and professional support networks with people from allied organizations. Being part of something bigger than yourself is powerful – I am lucky to work with amazing people! Maybe we can be partners as well…
ESO: What next steps would you recommend?
JM: Reach out to Alison at Easter Seals to learn more about how to join SEAC (she’s amazing!). Hopefully we’ll be able to work together sometime soon!
If you are interested in talking more, feel free to reach out via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.