CADDAC Director’s Message regarding the new Ontario Ministry of Education Memorandum


I feel that it is important for me to share some information with parents and medical caregivers of students with ADHD regarding this new memorandum since we are receiving many calls asking for clarification on how to proceed. While this memorandum has been a very a long time coming, and hard won, it was not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal would have been for ADHD to be fully recognized and listed under a particular category. The Ministry has refused to do so for more than a decade.


However, this memorandum does clarify that students with ADHD, and no other diagnosed disorder such as a Learning Disability, should not be barred from being officially recognized through an IPRC as an exceptional student, which allows them to access an IEP and special education. It also goes one step further and lists several ways that a student with ADHD can present a learning need, while stating that this list is not all inclusive. Perhaps the bigger issue is that memorandums sent out to school boards by the Ministry of Education are not immediately, if ever, embraced and implemented by school boards. The Ministry itself admits that memorandums are a form of guidance rather than mandates. They do not have a way to hold school boards accountable.


Do not be surprised if individual educators within school boards do not know of its existence or are reluctant to implement it. In fact, after receiving feedback from parents and speaking with school boards, many boards feel that it is business as usual, and this memorandum only supports what they have been doing. In reality, it falls on the shoulders of the public to hold school boards accountable since the Ministry is unable to do so.


This is why CADDAC is very committed in spreading word of this memorandum to parents and medical professionals working with students with ADHD. This memorandum directly contradicts school boards who inform parents, physicians, psychologists, and other medical experts that a student with ADHD does not qualify for an IPRC unless they have a diagnosed learning disability.


You might have noticed that the memorandum states that a student must display a learning need in order to qualify for this recognition. Although it is very unusual for a student with ADHD not to have a learning need, due to a lack of training many educators wrongly believe that learning needs presented by students with ADHD are actually under their control, rather than a symptom of the disorder. It is imperative for parents and medical experts to do their due diligence and be prepared to demonstrate and document the learning needs of the student. Some ways that a student can demonstrate these needs are listed in the memorandum: “attention/focus, organization, processing speed, working memory, executive functioning weaknesses, mathematical processes and skills, and expressive and receptive language,” however, the areas of need are not limited to this list. Please note that school failure is not the only way to document this need, although some boards may claim the contrary. We should be evaluating whether a student is working to their potential rather than assuming all is well if the student is not failing.


My recommendation to parents, physicians and other health care providers is that this documentation should be prepared prior to requesting an IPRC meeting. The more examples and documentation parents can make available as evidence, the better the chances of success. The CADDAC document entitled “Classroom Accommodations for Specific Behaviour,” which can be found under the “Classroom Accommodations/Strategies Drop-Down” under the School section of the CADDAC website can be a helpful tool for the identification of additional learning needs.


When speaking with special education administrators recently, it has become even more evident that many do not really understand ADHD and its impairments on learning. They put the onus on the parents to prove that this disorder impairs their child’s learning in a way that they, the boards, find acceptable. The Ministry allows each board to decide the level and specific type of impairment that would qualify a student to be deemed an exceptional student, resulting in an unfair and inequitable educational system.


You may have noticed that in our press release we stated that: “It is CADDAC’s hope that school boards will follow through with the intent of this memorandum. It is also our hope that increased training for educators will be the next step.”


That is still our hope. We are willing to help in any way that we can with the training of educators. ADHD is a very complex disorder and we fully acknowledge that understanding the extensive impact of ADHD on a students’ learning is not easily done, however the enormous benefits would be well worth the effort for both the students and the education system.


If your child has a learning need that has been documented, and the school and/or board are refusing to recognize your child as an exceptional student qualifying for special education, please contact us at CADDAC. We are interested in hearing your story.


Regards to all,


Heidi Bernhardt

National Director, CADDAC

3 thoughts on “CADDAC Director’s Message regarding the new Ontario Ministry of Education Memorandum

  1. We performed a psychoeducational assessment on my son in grade one at the urging of his teacher. My son received a diagnosis consistent with ADHD with a high average cognitive ability with poor auditory memory skills. His issues at the time were attention/focus, lack of organizational skills, inability to sit in the classroom and a lack of impulsivity control, which was summarized by “his ability to cope in the regular classroom is compromised by his behaviours which are related to the ADHD”. A list of accommodating strategies were then shared with our school. I was then told by my school’s principal that he did not qualify for an IEP since he did not fit the criteria for a learning disability, which absolutely shocked me. Needless to say, he did not receive the appropriate accommodations and this led to loss of learning and years of unnecessary frustration for both my son, his teachers and the rest of his classes throughout his elementary school career. He was suspended from grade 1 a total of 16 times for behavioural issues due to his ADHD and spent a tremendous amount of time sitting either in the hallway or in the principals office from grades 1 to 5. HIs self-esteem suffered and did very poorly academically. Thankfully, our luck turned in Middle School with a progressive principal and extraordinary culture that worked with the parents to accommodate ADHD children, with the use of progressive techniques that included a “Spirit Room” for kids to go and chill when they were experiencing frustration or particular challenges. We saw a difference in our son almost immediately, his self-esteem soared and he began performing at a B grade level (level 3) and he started making friends and joining sports teams. I cannot help but lament about the lost years of elementary school for my son and family, due to an archaic definition on what qualifies for an IEP. We cannot continue to allow some kids “on the bus” to achieve their full potential, while closing the doors on the kids with ADHD!

  2. I was told just today by the SERT at my child’s school that in order for him to have an IEP he needs a formal ‘diagnosis’ of ADD. His teacher last year and I filled out the SNAP IV questionnaire and my family physician who has known my 12 year old son since he was born, after reviewing this questionnaire and speaking with me, wrote a letter to the school confirming his tendency towards having ADD. While I understand that this is not a definitive diagnostic statement, I’m afraid will take a long time to get a physchologist’s diaganosis. Your paragraph, above, that says “…it has become even more evident that many do not really understand ADHD and its impairments on learning. They put the onus on the parents to prove that this disorder impairs their child’s learning in a way that they, the boards, find acceptable.” hit the nail on the head for me. I guess my question is does he need a formal official diagnosis of ADD before I can go ahead and try and get an IEP?

    1. If the school has indicated that they will give your child an IEP with an ADHD diagnosis, this is good news. You do not need a diagnosis from a psychologist. You should ask the school if they are asking for a MEDICAL diagnosis of ADHD. For a medical diagnosis, you will need to have your child see a developmental pediatrician or child and/or adolescent psychiatrist. You can contact us at for a list of those.

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