British Columbia

Advocate urges B.C.'s Ministry of Education to recognize the difficulties posed by ADHD

The Centre for ADHD Awareness Canada wants the B.C. Ministry of Education to make a statement recognizing the risk to learning posed by Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and indicating that teachers need specific training to help.

Centre for ADHD Awareness Canada wants B.C. teachers to get specific training on educating kids with ADHD

An advocate for people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder says B.C. needs to specifically recognize the learning challenges posed by ADHD and ensure teachers are educated to support students with the disorder. (weedezign/Shutterstock)

The Centre for ADHD Awareness Canada (CADDAC) wants the B.C. Ministry of Education to make a statement recognizing the risk to learning posed by Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and indicating that teachers need specific training to help.

According to Heidi Bernhardt, founder of CADDAC and the group's director of advocacy and education, ADHD has been identified as a neurodevelopment disorder in recent years, but for about two decades, teachers have been told it's insignificant and they don't need to pay attention to it.

"What we need is the Ministry of Education to give as much weight to the learning risk of ADHD as they do to autism and learning disabilities," said Bernhardt.

She said the disorder can significantly affect learning, but there are simple accommodations that can make a big difference, including:

  • Sitting close to the teacher.
  • Extra time with the teacher to break assignments into smaller chunks.
  • Help for students to time manage.
  • Help focusing attention.
  • Having access to prepared notes because listening and taking notes at the same time can be a challenge.
  • Being in smaller areas with fewer distraction for exams and tests.

CADDAC produced "report cards" for the provinces' ministries of education in 2010 and Bernhardt said B.C., Ontario and Quebec all received failing grades.

Her group has been lobbying B.C. officials since 2014 to have ADHD recognized and now the ministry is transitioning to what's called an inclusive model, meaning different disabilities aren't categorized at all.

'Ensuring every child is supported'

The Ministry of Education sent CBC News a statement in response to CADDAC's advocacy.

It doesn't include the term ADHD anywhere, but says in part, "All students have the right to receive supports to access their learning. Our goal is to respond to a student's educational needs, and not only a medical diagnosis."

"Nothing is more important than ensuring every child is supported to reach their full potential and that's why we are committed to removing barriers standing in their way," the statement reads.

Bernhardt said it's important for the ministry to specifically address ADHD as it makes the change to an inclusive model. That's because even though students with ADHD can get support, teachers haven't necessarily been educated on their particular needs and there's a history of discounting the challenges posed by ADHD.

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