Post-Secondary ADHD Accommodation Toolkit for Medical Professional and Post-Secondary Institutions:
For a detailed list of appropriate accommodations linked to specific impairments please access ADHD Symptoms and Impairment s in the Post-Secondary Environment / Appropriate Accommodations click French English
CADDAC’s recent paper titled: Understanding ADHD as a Disability in the Posts-secondary Environment” highlights the inequity in access to post-secondary education accommodations due to a lack of national or provincial standards backed by medical research. This is causing significant inconsistencies in the medical documentation required of students with ADHD by post-secondary schools resulting in discriminatory practices.
CADDAC does agree that detailed medical reporting, by an ADHD medical expert, should be required to meet Canadian government requirements. Reports should provide post-secondary institutions with the necessary information required to understand the student’s unique impairments and needs for specific accommodations, however psychoeducational assessments should not be required.
For a summary on this issue, see below.
For detailed information backed by research citations on this issue please access the complete paper above.
Summary on ADHD in the Post-Secondary Environment
Since ADHD impairments most often continue into adulthood, most post-secondary students will still require appropriate services and learning accommodations be put in place in academic settings.
Post-secondary students with ADHD will exhibit marked functional impairments in organizational and time management skills, note taking; reading comprehension; written expression; and keeping track of materials, despite their success in gaining entry to post-secondary institutions. These impairments often result in incomplete and late assignments, which in turn frequently lead to students with ADHD becoming easily over-whelmed and anxious. Some students are able to function well enough in elementary or even high school when supports are in place and academic loads were lighter, but once challenged to a greater degree their impairments become evident. These students will need to be assessed and diagnosed once in the post-secondary education setting.
Unfortunately ADHD and its resulting impairments continue to be inadequately understood by post-secondary institutions. This has resulted in some of these institutions demanding that students with ADHD undergo unreasonable costly testing in order to be identified as having a disability. All current Clinical Practice Guidelines for ADHD (including the Canadian guidelines), as well as the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for ADHD, require evidence that the symptoms impair social, academic, or occupational functioning. Thus, evidence of impairment is one of the required diagnostic criteria for ADHD.
However, a diagnosis of ADHD alone (even if it indicates impairment) is not sufficient for documenting impairment as required by Post-Secondary Education institutions, which require evidence that the person’s functional limitations impact academic performance. In addition, the Canadian government requires that impairment in post-secondary students be a permanent disability that impacts functioning in the post-secondary setting. Since persistent functional impairments such as poor organizational and time management skills, difficulty with note-taking, reading comprehension and written expression constitute a permanent disability, ADHD clearly qualifies as such.
Currently, there are no agreed-upon national or provincial standards for assessment and documentation practices to assure fair access to accommodations and services in post-secondary education for students with ADHD. There is inequity across and within Canadian Provinces, with some post-secondary institutions requiring similar documentation for ADHD and for Learning Disabilities: that is, they require neuropsychological or psycho-educational testing to determine the severity of ADHD and to quantify the impact of ADHD on cognitive or academic functioning.
The demand that students entering post-secondary education require psychoeducational testing and reporting that indicates a disability is unreasonable or valid, since few if any of the tests used quantify accurately cognitive or academic impairments that caused by ADHD.