A Brief Summary

Lack of Recognition Has Led to Inequity

Although ADHD is a fairly common neurodevelopmental disorder, occurring in 5 to 9% of children, it continues to be underrecognized in our school systems. Recognizing that ADHD is a significant learning risk varies widely across our provinces, school boards and from school to school. Unlike the US, Canada does not have a Federal statement, clarifying a school boards’ obligation to provide students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) equal access to education.

Some provinces continue to refuse to officially recognize ADHD in their coding or categories of exceptionality, resulting in students with ADHD being refused resources, even after CADDAC’s numerous attempts to inform and advocate on this issue. Please access Ontario for further information on this province.

This lack of understanding and recognition of ADHD as a serious learning risk has resulted in inequitable in access to special education resources and accommodations for students with ADHD. Students with similar levels of impairment caused by ADHD receive widely different levels of support across Canada, within provinces and from school to school within a province.

Lack of Teacher Training

Due to this lack of recognition, few educators truly understand the complex and far-reaching impairments caused by ADHD. Most educators receive only superficial information on ADHD during their training, and have access to minimal in-service training despite that fact they will have at least one to three students with ADHD in their classroom every year of their teaching career. For these students to have better academic outcomes, specific interventions targeting learning deficits and accommodating and improving cognitive difficulties need to be implemented.

ADHD’s Impact on Learning

Research over the past two decades has shown us that ADHD significantly impairs processing speed executive functioning skills, reading fluency and comprehension, written expression, mathematical problem solving; and the acquisition of learning strategies, study and organizational skills. [i],[ii],[iii],[iv],[v],[vi],[vii],[viii]

ADHD seriously impacts learning: Students with ADHD are at high risk for academic underachievement or failure even without an accompanying learning disability[ix],[x],[xi], an 8%-10% decline in academic attainment over a 4-yr period and a 3-fold increased risk for high school dropout. ix This occurs despite students with ADHD having average or above average intellectual abilities and the capacity to learn. [xii],[ix]


[i] Breslau J, Miller E, Breslau N, Bohnert K, Lucia V, Schweitzer J. (2009) The impact of early behavior   disturbances on academic achievement in high school. Pediatrics. 123(6):1472-6.
[ii] Loe IM, Feldman HM. (2007). Academic and educational outcomes of children with ADHD. J Pediatr Psychol. ;32(6):643
[iii] Re AM, Pedron M, Cornoldi C.(2007). Expressive writing difficulties in children described as exhibiting ADHD symptoms. Journal Learning Disabilities, 40 (3): 244-255.
[iv] Capano L, Minden D, Chen SX, Schacher RJ, Ickowicz A.(2008).Mathematical learning disorder in school-age children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Can J Psychiatry.;53(6):392-9
[v] Frazier TW, Youngstrom EA, Glutting JJ, Watkins MW. (2007) ADHD and achievement: meta-analysis of the child, adolescent, and adult literatures and a concomitant study with college students. J Learn Disabil.40(1):49-65
[vi] Volpe RJ, DuPaul GJ, DiPerna JC et al (2006). Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Scholastic Achievement: A Model of Mediation via Academic Enablers. School Psychology Review 35(1): 47-61
[vii] Fletcher J, Wolfe B (2008). Child mental health and human capital accumulation: The case of ADHD revisited. J Health Economics 27: 794-800.
[viii] Mayes SD, Calhoun SL(2007). Learning, attention, writing, and processing speed in typical children and children with ADHD, autism, anxiety, depression, and oppositional-defiant disorder. Child Neuropsychol; 13(6):469-93.
[ix] Currie, Janet & Stabile, Mark, 2006. “Child mental health and human capital accumulation: The case of ADHD,” Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(6), pages 1094-1118, November.
[x] Fletcher J, Wolfe B. Child mental health and human capital accumulation: the case of ADHD revisited. J Health Econ. 2008 May;27(3):794-800. doi: 10.1016/j.jhealeco.2007.10.010.
[xi] Frazier TW et al. ADHD and achievement: meta-analysis of the child, adolescent, and adult literatures and a concomitant study with college students. J Learn Disabil. 2007 Jan-Feb;40(1):49-65
[xii] Arnold, L. E., Hodgkins, P., Kahle, J., Madhoo, M., & Kewley, G. (2015). Long-Term Outcomes of ADHD Academic Achievement and Performance. Journal of Attention Disorders, 1087054714566076