Ontario Memorandum

On December 19th of 2011 the Ontario Ministry of Education released a memornadum to Directors of Education entitled "Categories of Exceptionality". To access the memorandum: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/general/elemsec/speced/2011categoryexception.pdf

This memorandum clarifies 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.

The memorandum also 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. In addition, we have been informed that the level of the bar of impairment that would quailfy a student for an IPRC or IEP is set by each individual board so inconsistency and lack of recognition of the needs of students, unfortuinalty still remains.

If there is any hope in receiving an IPRC designation 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 a good way for the school or the parent to document this need. We should be evaluating whether a student is working to potential rather than assuming all is well if the student is not failing.
It is recommended that parents, physicians and other health care providers prepare documentation outlining the student's impaitments 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,' can be a helpful tool for the identification of additional learning needs.

Unfortunaly you must still be prepared that individual educators within school boards will not know of the memorandum's existence or may be very reluctant to implement it. Do not be surprised if in fact your school board feels that it is business as usual, and this memorandum only supports what they have been doing. In reality, memorandums sent out to school boards by the Ministry of Education are not immediately, or 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.

As well, many if not all school boards are very reluctant to officially recognize students with ADHD as exceptional through the IPRC process, preferring to do an IEP alone, since an IPRC is accompanied by legal requirements. The difficulty with this is that an IEP without a legal IPRC mandate can be pulled by the school at any time.

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