Current Situation in Ontario for Students with ADHD
To view letters to and from Kathleen Wynn also access: Recogition in Ontario Schools, under Advocacy, Letters to Government


The majority of students with ADHD are currently not identified as a student with special needs in Ontario. The designation as an “exceptional student” gives students the right to receive educational accommodations.


The current position of the Ministry of Education:
Exceptionalities are currently intended to describe broad educational barriers that might be experienced by students. ADD/ADHD is not a specific category of exceptionality, however students with this disorder can be identified in various categories, such as Learning Disability or Behaviour.

The current position of the majority of school boards in Ontario: ADHD is not classified as a leaning disability and therefore unless behaviour difficulties are extreme ADHD does not qualify a student to be identified as a special needs student.

In reality, students with ADHD are not being formally identified or serviced as students with special needs
  • School boards do not identify a student with ADHD as a student with a Learning Disability unless a learning disability is clearly identifiable outside of the impairments commonly seen in ADHD
  • Learning difficulties intrinsic to ADHD such as, regulation of attention and frequently impairments in: executive functioning, handwriting, processing speed, working memory, reading, viewing and comprehension do not qualify a student for an exceptional designation
  • These impairments impact a student's learning and/or performance across all areas and are therefore not easily distinguishable as barriers to a student's learning or performance - instead the student is labeled as unmotivated and lazy
  • Psychologists most often do not diagnose learning deficits that commonly occur with ADHD, they diagnose the ADHD leaving the child unable to access accommodations within the school system
  • There is no consistency across the province, one board will identify ADHD, some boards will do informal Individual Education Plans (IEPs) – others refuse
  • Informal IEPs do not give the students the right to request accommodations
  • It is difficult enough to ensure implementation of formal IEPs
  • High schools are unlikely to do informal IEPs since accommodations around the evaluation of knowledge need to be justified
  • Post secondary institutions recognize accommodations as a student's right if they are diagnosed with ADHD
  • The Ontario Human Rights Commission recognizes ADHD as a disability and states in their document “Guidelines in Accessible Education” that it is a child's human right to access accommodations in the school system if they are diagnosed with ADHD
  • In a letter dated March 2007, Kathleen Wynn, Minister of Education wrote: “School boards have obligations under the Ontario Human Rights code to accommodate students with ADHD since the Ontario Human Rights Commission regards ADHD as a disability, therefore, such students have protections under the code.”
  • At this time the Ministry and school boards are in violation of these children's rights by not properly identifying ADHD as a legitimate medical condition. This discrepancy clearly contradicts the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Students with ADHD do not disappear simply because they are not identified. They remain in every classroom, in every school, and every board. Unless we place ADHD in a category, students with ADHD will continue to go unidentified and under serviced. Their needs will continue to go unmet and we will continue to experience up to a 30 to 40 % drop out rate.


What are we asking the provincial government to do?

ADHD must be officially recognized by the Ministry of Education as a legitimate disability qualifying students for special needs status under the designation of a medical condition in the Physical/Medical category. School boards must be given direction on where ADHD is to be placed in the categories of exceptionality”

Benefits of implementing this change:

  • Students will have the right to request appropriate accommodations for their disability
  • Cognitive deficits will become the focus of accommodations rather then behavior
  • IEPs becomes a “must” for ADHD students - the student's chance of succeeding at school will greatly increase
  • Less issues in the classroom - as many students with these disorders are currently causing disruptions because their needs are not being adequately met
  • Dealing with a student's disability constructively (or pro actively) rather than destructively (or reactively) will greatly benefit the child's self esteem and mental health
  • Parents will no longer feel powerless to help their children in the school system. Advocating for a child with ADHD is impossible for parents if they have no rights
  • Parents and educators will have the opportunity to work as a team rather then as adversaries, resulting in decreased frustration for students, parents and educators
  • Training for educators around ADHD will become a requirement
  • Clearer direction of how to address these students' needs appropriately will result in multimodal treatment for children with ADHD
  • Students with ADHD will be less likely to drop out in high school and be more inclined to go on to higher education
  • Decrease in stigma and increase in awareness of ADHD
  • Decrease in social and economic impact of untreated ADHD
  • If the “Physical” category is redefined as “Medical”, it will allow other neurobiological and mental health disorders to be addressed under this category
  • A mandate will help provide consistency in educational services around ADHD in Ontario
  • Boards and the Ministry will not be in conflict with the Ontario Human Rights, Guidelines to Accessible Education


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