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Promises Unfulfilled: Ontario Education Week and Support for ADHD Students

The Past

In honour of Ontario’s Education Week, May 4th to the 8th CADDAC pulled out our copy of the response letter from then Education Minister Kathleen Wynn dated March 17th 2008. The letter was in response to our request to include ADHD in the list of categories of exceptionality under which the Ontario Ministry of Education recognizes students requiring special education resources.

The letter assured CADDAC  that “Although ADHD is not among the ministry definitions of exceptionality, it should not be viewed as a barrier to students with ADHD being identified as exceptional. The determining factor is whether a student is in need of a special education program or service.  Once a student is identified, the Identification, Placement, and Review Committee (IPRC) can apply the ministry definitions(s) that most closely match the student’s special education needs.

The Present

Education practices are even more entrenched in categorizing students along the lines of their diagnoses. This categorization is then used to qualify students as having a right for identification as an exceptional student and the legal right to an Independent Education Plan (IEP) and special education resources. A Memorandum from the Ministry in December of 2011 stating essentially the very same thing that Minster Wynn said in her letter in 2008 made little difference. The majority of Ontario school boards in Ontario still refuse to IPRC students with ADHD, some even refusing them an IEP.

Right now, we have parents begging physicians to diagnose their child with Autism rather then ADHD so they might receive the resources they require at school. Of course, this is not a discretionary choice on a physician’s part, but how sad that it has come to this. So much for “need” rather than a diagnosis dictating special education resources.

Education Advocacy

CADDAC’s first goal, even before our official incorporation as a not-for-profit, was to educate educators about ADHD. Our first full day workshop for educators occurred in 2003. Our second goal as to advocate for students with ADHD. We first began our advocacy efforts in Ontario, with the Ontario Ministry of Education.

In 2010 we published our 2010 Provincial Report Card: ADHD in the School System which reviewed and graded how all the provinces and one of the territories recognized, or did not recognize, the educational needs of students with ADHD. Three provinces, Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec all received failing grades; the three largest provinces. Sad to say, they would all three still receive failing grades.          

The report card was followed by our first national policy paper, Equitable Access to Education for all Canadians in 2011, a paper on Understanding ADHD as a Disability in the Post-Secondary Environment in 2015 and a follow-up to the 2011 paper, Inequitable Access to Education for Canadian Students with ADHD in 2017.  

Ontario Education Advocacy – Promises Made 

Advocacy for students living with ADHD with the Ontario Education Ministry of Education came to a stand still with the change in government in 2018.

There has been no response to CADDAC’s requests for a meeting with the Ministry of Education and no movement on including ADHD within the categories of exceptionality despite promises made prior to the election.

When asked by Steve Paikin “Should [ADHD] be on the list? Should you be entitled, as a public education student in the province, to automatically be eligible for addition supports if you’re diagnosed with ADHD?”, Christine Elliot on behalf of the PC party answered “Short answer, absolutely yes.” and continued on to state, “I have talked to Doug Ford about commitments that I think are really important. Special education and working with people with special needs is a huge priority for me. I’ve talked him about it and he’s very supportive. ”

Watch Promises for Special Education episode of “The Agenda” for more information.

4 Things You can Do During Ontario Education Week!

  • Tweet your Ontario MPP! “What’s happened to supporting students with ADHD in Ontario? Promises remain unfulfilled https://www.tvo.org/video/promises-for-special-education @theagenda @CentreforADHD”
  • Share this blog on your social media channels to raise awareness about the needs of students with ADHD in Ontario
  • Make an education themed #ADHDSpeaks submission at www.adhdspeaks.ca.
  • Support Canada’s ONLY national charity focused solely on ADHD

COVID-19 Considerations

With education transitioning to online format, we know that students living with ADHD which is why we’re developed the following resources for parents and educators.

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