Latimer: ADHD students let down
In a report card released last year on how Canada’s special education systems recognize, identify and support students with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), British Columbia received a failing grade.
The report was produced by the Centre for ADHD Advocacy in Canada (CADDAC) and examined various systems of special education across the country to evaluate their potential impact on students with ADHD.
It found significant inconsistencies from province to province and three provinces were given a failing grade—B.C., Quebec and Ontario.
In B.C., a diagnosis of ADHD alone does not qualify a student for an official designation as an ‘exceptional student’, which means that unless there is a co-existing disorder, the student will not qualify for the right to receive any accommodations in the way they are taught or evaluated at school.
This failure to recognize ADHD as a legitimate learning disorder has led to inconsistencies in how those with this condition receive special education services in our province—if they receive them at all.
ADHD is a neurological disorder affecting approximately five per cent of children—meaning there are an average of one or two children in each classroom who experience ADHD.
These kids often have difficulty functioning in a typical school environment because they have deficits in regulating attention and impulse control, among other things.
For many, some consideration of their condition—such as extra time to complete assignments, breaks during the day to move around, breaking up large tests into smaller packets and other interventions can make a big difference in allowing them to reach their academic potential.
According to the national director of the Centre for ADHD Advocacy Canada, standards must be brought forward to ensure the needs of students with ADHD in all provinces are met.
This means those with the condition should qualify for special education resources and access to appropriately trained educators. It also means ensuring every child can access the interventions deemed appropriate by their doctor.
On a nation-wide basis, the CADDAC is campaigning for fairness in education and calling on governments to make sure ADHD is recognized as a legitimate disorder and have appropriate supports in place for those who need them. Specifically, the organization wants ADHD to be formally recognized by provincial ministries of education as well as professional education bodies and would like to see the provision of mandatory professional development on ADHD in all school boards across the country.
The more our educators and governments learn about this condition and the way it can affect functioning for the thousands of children who live with it, the sooner we can eradicate the negative stigma associated with ADHD and help all children reach their potential.
Paul Latimer is a psychiatrist in Kelowna.