Some provinces are falling behind on student support, says ADHD Awareness Canada

A new report comparing special education systems across the country, found that three provinces failed the grade in providing equitable access to education for students with ADHD. Mark Neufeld reports.

By Mark Neufeld

Three provincial education systems are failing students with ADHD according to a new national report done by the Centre for ADHD Awareness Canada (CADDAC).

The 2021 “ADHD in the school system report card”, an update to the 2010 report continues to evaluate each province and territorial school system, comparing how each region provides access to education for students with ADHD

“So, some provinces recognize students with ADHD as having a significant disability around their learning and others do not. They have systemic roadblocks in place, and then we graded each province,” explained Heidi Bernhardt, the director of education and advocacy with CADDAC.

Bernhardt says the four provinces who received a grade of “good” were Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Nunavut. A grade of “satisfactory” was given to New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, North West Territories, P.E.I. and Nova Scotia, while “unsatisfactory or failing” grades were given to B.C., Ontario and Quebec.

“Ontario is the province we worry about the most,” added Bernhardt.

Bernhardt says no province received a grade of “excellent” because no province was able to confirm their educators were trained in ADHD recognition or the development of specialized learning plans.

“It shouldn’t be on the teachers only, to identify these concerns and that is one of the reasons why our schools need better funding,” added Jillian Enright, the founder of Neurodiversity Manitoba.

Enright says she would like to see teachers working alongside experts who have skills and training in neurodiverse recognition that can help identify children living with ADHD or other learning disabilities in the classroom. Enright says she and her son are both neurodivergent adding when teachers don’t know how to spot neurodivergence in children they can end up labelling kids with bad behaviour, instead of being neurologically different.

“They view these behaviours as intentional, willful, disobedient, defiant, and then address them as such. So, the children get consequences or punishment and that just further alienates and stresses the child,” said Enright.

“Yeah, I think there is a lot of merits looking at the situation across the country,” said Karen Velthuys, executive director for the Learning Disabilities Association of Manitoba.

Velthuys adds Canada has a need for early assessment in children with ADHD and if the country can do a better job identifying kids with learning disabilities and provide them access to educational support earlier in life, Canadian society as a whole will benefit.

“It’s that untapped potential that we really are missing out on, and I take this to the government, many times, and, you know, I think its just learning disabilities and ADHD have been under the radar for a very long time and I’m so happy this report is helping shine a light on this.”

The Centre for ADHD Awareness Canada hopes this report will stimulate Ministries of Education across Canada to review their policies and practices that impact students with ADHD. And making the necessary changes to see all students meet their academic potential. You can find the full report on CADDAC’s website.

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