3 provinces failing students with ADHD: Yep, BC is right there!

3 provinces failing students with ADHD: Study

"A first-ever report card into how Canada's special education systems "recognize, identify and support" students with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, has given Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia failing grades."

Well, most districts in BC provide minimal or no services to students diagnosed with ADHD. Period. They don't qualify for official "exceptional student" status unless they have a second learning disability or another recognized disorder. This in spite of the fact that if you asked teachers what students they need the most help with they would name students with ADHD!

Heidi Bernhardt, the centre's national director, who raised three children with ADHD, said that has a huge impact. "They (children with ADHD) won't be able to access things like extra time to write their tests or exams, having assignments broken down for them . . . instead of potentially doing 30 questions, they could do 10," she said, adding what takes most students 45 minutes to do takes two to three hours for those with ADHD.

It can be very frustrating for parents, said Bernhardt, adding some have launched human-rights complaints or found sneaky ways around the system as a result. The article tells of some horrific situations parents find themselves in.

Those provinces that fared best (and BC is NOT one of them) have specific categories of disability that catch students with ADHD and don't require secondary ailments to qualify for specialized attention. Some provinces have "inclusive systems" where students aren't labelled special needs, but Bernhardt said it's important to have a "paper trail" to show a student is "exceptional" to ensure their right to special accommodation is met.

If you compare the graduation rate for students with ADHD to the graduation rates of other students, you'll quickly find that if your child had autism, Asperger's, is cognitively impaired or a severe learning disability he or she is far more likely to get a diploma. This is a shocking situation, those most likely to fail are given no help.

As a school psychologist and registered psychologist I have, for several years, provided many training workshops for local school districts. They request multiple workshops on working with students with autism, Aspergers and especially reading disabilities, but even at my urging school districts in BC are reluctant to ask for or provide training for teachers in supporting students with ADHD. (Reading some of the other articles in the Province and Vancouver Sun you might understand why. Articles question the validity of the diagnosis, and the appropriateness of medical interventions. Many, apparently, still want to blame the student for being lazy or having "family issues" which cause these behaviours. It's time to move into the current century and stop publishing this garbage!).

Sooner or later parents will take a stand, or a good lawyer will collect this data and go to court. How a student with a medical disorder can be allowed to fail, be refused support and ignored is beyond me. ADHD is a serious disorder that keeps smart, positive, good kids from succeeding. It's time the local districts took this serious, stopped blaming the students and their parents, and opened up a simple, clear and serious track for these families to follow to help their children succeed. British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec are considered failures, as ADHD students are only designated "exceptional learners" if a coexisting disorder meets the required definition. Newfoundland and Labrador gets "good" grades but is faulted for having no official designation process. The Centre for ADHD Advocacy Canada says some legal documentation of a disability should exist to ensure a student's right to accommodations. Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and the Northwest Territories are faulted for the same thing. The Northwest Territories and P.E.I. also got low grades for leaving accommodation decisions to school staff who may not have "up-to-date" knowledge about the disorder.

What a sad state of affairs. The plan: Ignore, avoid or have staff without training make decisions! We can do better than that for our children!

This blog is not offered as medical advice or as a means of diagnosing or treating ADHD or any other disorder. Don't go on line and take an ADHD "test." The diagnosis is complex, and it involves not just looking for symptoms of ADHD, but also ruling out other disorders that might look just like ADHD. So avoid these on line "tests" which are nothing more than a collection of symptoms. You need to see a licensed or registered professional for that. Medical doctors can diagnose ADHD, but the diagnosis is complex and often they will make a referral to a Registered Psychologist. You can obtain a referral from the British Columbia Psychological Association for a psychologist near you.

My web page lists a number of resources you can make use of yourself in dealing with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Please visit it at www.adhdhelp.ca or one of my other sites at either Psychology Today, AAMFT, PSYRIS or my professional site.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) assessment and treatment services are offered for individuals, couples, families, children and adolescents in the Burnaby, Vancouver, Coquitlam, Port Moody, New Westminster and Maple Ridge areas of the lower mainland. This includes neuro-developmental assessments, psycho-education and cognitive behaviour therapy. I also provide diagnostic assessments for autism and Asperger's Disorder in my Burnaby office.

Dr. Jim Roche
Registered Psychologist, British Columbia 01610