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Accessing Post-Secondary Accommodations When You Have ADHD – What You Need to Know

Written by Heidi Bernhardt

In the fall of 2015 CADDAC released our paper Understanding ADHD as a Disability in the Post-SecondaryEnvironment. CADDAC wrote this paper after on-going feedback from parents and students stating that post-secondary institutions were not recognizing the right of students with ADHD to access accommodations for their impairments. Most schools were demanding that expensive psychoeducational testing be done prior to entering their institution and that data driven tests indicate functioning below average levels.

The difficulty with this is that psychoeducational tests were never designed to quantify impairments caused by ADHD; few if any of the tests accurately report on the nature of cognitive or academic impairments caused by ADHD, including those for executive functioning (EF). In fact, scoring within the average range on EF testing, while showing impairment in daily life functioning, would indicate that a student with ADHD could benefit from additional support in the academic setting. Instead, post-secondary schools were using these test results to bar students with ADHD from receiving accommodations.

Therefore, our paper states that, “If testing has been done, testing results should not be required to demonstrate below “average” functioning in anything other than attention regulation for a disability to be recognized and for the student to qualify for services and accommodations. Doing so would be discriminatory.”

This past fall I presented on transitioning to post-secondary education with Dr. Tony Rostain for CADDRA.  Prior to the presentation I reviewed the documentation requirements of all fifty schools that we had reported on in 2015. I was thrilled to see that the majority now accepted reports from treating physicians as adequate documentation. Others had developed a form for these physicians to fill out, which was also acceptable.

I contacted the couple of dozen schools by phone that were will still requesting psychoeducational assessments and all but one, Ryerson, agreed to immediately change their web site to indicate that a physician’s letter describing impairments and accommodations was sufficient. Many also wanted to know more about the CADDAC Post-Secondary Report Writing Tool designed for medical health care providers and our chart of Post-Secondary Impairments/Accommodations so they could pass the links to physicians who were sending them incomplete documentation.

So, important messages for students with ADHD applying to post-secondary institutions in Canada are:

  • Psychoeducational testing in no longer required to receive accommodations.
  • Psychoeducational testing, if done, cannot be used to disqualify you for ADHD accommodations, however be aware that some tests for memory etc. have been used to disqualify students for certain accommodations.
  • If your ADHD treating professional is not up-to-date on post-secondary school requirements for comprehensive documentation have them access the above link.     
  • Use the chart of Impairments, above, to assist you with a list of possible accommodation.
  • Do your due diligence before applying to schools; check out their required documentation for ADHD accommodations.
  • If they are still requiring psychoeducational testing please let CADDAC know.        

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