A National Survey of Parents of ADHD Students Prompts a Call for Ontario and BC Parents to Speak up for Change – Canadian Celebrity Patrick McKenna adds his voice to the effort

Centre for ADHD Awareness (CADDAC) (CNW Group/Centre for ADHD Awareness Canada)

TORONTO, April 3, 2018 /CNW/ – A national survey of parents of children with ADHD, the most prevalent neurodevelopmental disorder seen in children, reported that 45% of their children are not receiving support for their disability in our Canadian schools. The survey of over 1,000 parents confirmed what the Centre for ADHD Awareness Canada (CADDAC) has been hearing from parents for the past two decades; they have significant concerns about the education their children are receiving. Although there is an abundance of research that proves Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to be a serious risk to learning, Ministries, school boards and schools are not identifying it as such, or putting in place sufficient accommodations and resources for these students.  Parents reported that many educators they encountered knew little about this disability even though it impacts one to three children in every classroom.

Patrick McKenna, a well-known Canadian actor, a parent of a son with ADHD and an adult with ADHD himself, put it this way, “This is an invisible disability, which means most people and educators only see the outward manifestations of the disorder and not the internal struggles these children deal with on a daily basis.  Maybe if kids with ADHD wore a bandage on their heads more people could understand that this is something that actually causes significant mental pain and suffering.”

Lack of Educator Training on ADHD

At least half of the parents responding to the survey felt that their children’s educators had insufficient knowledge about ADHD even though we know that the right teaching strategies can help mitigate many of the impairments.  When asked how this lack of knowledge impacted their child,

  • 60% felt that this had damaged their child’s self-esteem,
  • 56% felt that their child’s school experience was negative and lead to poor academic outcomes,
  • 50% felt that it had negative consequences on their child’s mental health.

The vast majority of parents, 80%, reported that their child’s academic experience fluctuated from year to year, directly coinciding with the teacher and principal’s knowledge of ADHD. “We receive calls from concerned parents on an almost daily basis,” shared Heidi Bernhardt, the President and Executive Director of CADDAC.  “Most parents tell us that they know by the end of September if it is going to be a good year or a bad year depending on the teachers’ understanding of ADHD.”

Students with ADHD Punished for Their Disability

Not only did this lack of knowledge on the teacher’s part impact the students academically, parents reported that 60% of their children with ADHD had received consequences for behaviour stemming from their ADHD symptoms and self-regulation impairments;

  • 60% were kept in for lunch or recess or received a detention;
  • 45% had spent more than brief periods in the principal’s office;
  • 32% were sent home prior to the end of the day;
  • 24% were barred from attending a class outing;
  • 23 % had been suspended.

An overwhelming number of parents, 83%, felt that this was directly due to educators not understanding ADHD as a medical disability, but rather interpreting impairing symptoms of this disorder as being under the child’s control. “Educators unfairly mislabel these students as being lazy, unmotivated, defiant, or simply “bad children” and interact with them through this lens punishing them for their disorder,” stated Cheryl Connors, a mother who firmly believes that the anxiety and depression her son now endures is directly due to the treatment he has received in his Ontario school.

For those students who had experienced significant bullying 75% of parents felt that it was due to their ADHD;

  • 56%- 59% felt that is was handled inadequately by the school with bad outcomes for their child;
  • 52% of parents felt that this was due to a lack of knowledge about ADHD by educators;
  • 65% felt that this had a negative consequence on their child’s self-esteem and mental health.

BC Proposing Change – Ontario Still Refusing to Recognize Students with ADHD

In Ontario and BC, both provinces that CADDAC has flagged for education advocacy campaigns this year, many parents were told that their children could not receive support because ADHD did not qualify a student to receive special education resources in that province. After hearing the diagnosis of ADHD schools often refused to even have a meeting to discuss the possibility of accommodations or resources. Parents report that the school claimed that their child was not “impaired enough” to qualify.

Heidi Bernhardt shared what she has been hearing from Ontario parents, “After the recent announcement about increased funding for special education by the Liberal government, parents of children with ADHD are questioning how this will benefit their children, if the Ontario Ministry of Education still does not recognize students with ADHD as qualifying for special education.”

British Columbia, on the other hand, may be moving in the right direction. The Ministry of Education is proposing that ADHD be included as a category in the new draft of their Special Education Guidelines. This would allow for the recognition of students with ADHD as exceptional students requiring additional support.

However, after almost two decades of advocating for ADHD to be included in the Ontario special education categories of exceptionalities the Ontario Ministry of Education is still refusing. Yet, two less prevalent neurodevelopmental disorders are both listed under a category.  Dr. Megan Smith, Ph.D. C.Psych, a psychologist working in Ontario schools, and the mother of two children with ADHD stated that, “The fact that some school boards in Canada fail to recognize students with ADHD as “exceptional” students, despite the wealth of research unequivocally demonstrating that they are at significant risk of poor academic and social-emotional outcomes, is extremely unfortunate. In several Canadian school boards, including many in Ontario, only those students who are identified as “exceptional” are legally entitled to special education support. This means that many school boards are effectively discriminating against students with this serious and prevalent neurodevelopmental disability.”

Advocacy Campaigns

The results of this survey have prompted CADDAC to organize an Ontario and BC Advocacy Campaign as well as a National Education Advocacy Campaign.

Government representatives claim that their constituents do not care about ADHD since they do not hear from them. CADDAC’s message to parents and others interested in ADHD, we know you care because we hear from you on a daily basis.  If you want change, this is the time to speak up! Go to caddac.ca to find out how to make your voice heard.

SOURCE Centre for ADHD Awareness Canada

CONTACT: To arrange interviews with Patrick McKenna, Megan Smith, Cheryl Connors, Heidi Bernhardt and other Parents across Canada who participated in this survey please contact: Russ LeBlanc, russleblanc@rogers.com, 905-430-2933; Heidi Bernhard, President and Executive Director CADDAC, heidi.bernhardt@caddac.ca, Phone: 905-471-3524


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