During CADDAC’s recent online conference I presented on school advocacy. At the end of the presentation many of the questions were let unanswered or briefly answered. Since many of these questions are common questions that CADDAC receives, I will be sharing the answers to these questions in several blog posts over the next few months.

Written by Heidi Bernhardt R.N.

Question 2

Will my Child with ADHD Receive an Individual Education Plan?

Please note that IEPs or Individual Education Plans are known as SEPs, IPPs, SSPs, and ISSPs in some provinces.

These are a sample of questions I received during my recent online CADDAC presentation on school advocacy.


“We had a child psychologist do an assessment on her and she was diagnosed with ADHD.  The school has the report.  The principal said that ADHD doesn't get an IEP!?!?!?”

"The identification system can block a student with ADHD from receiving services if ADHD does not fit into a designated category - what are the possible designated categories for ADHD in ON?”

“I was told by my daughter's principal (in the Thames Valley District School Board) that she didn't qualify to get an IEP because ADHD doesn't get an IEP.  Is this accurate?”

“I have same issue - does not qualify for IEP - West Vancouver School District (BC).”

The short and very confusing answer is that it depends on which province you are in, the board and school your child is in and the good will and ADHD knowledge level of the principal and teachers in your child’s school.

Summary of Special Education Systems in Canada and ADHD 

This is a brief summary of the current situation across our provinces to help you understand your province’s system in context of all Canadian special education systems.    

Access post-secondary for information on the right to accommodations in this environment.   

If you currently reside in British Columbia, your child will most likely not have access to an IEP unless they have another disability that fits into one of BCs special needs categories. While BC’s Special Education Guidelines state that “ Individual Education Plan Order M638/95: sets out the requirements for school boards to design and implement individual education plans for students with special needs,” they define a student with special needs as: "A student who has a disability of an intellectual, physical, sensory, emotional or behavioural nature, has a learning disability or has special gifts or talents, as defined in the Manual of Policies, Procedures, and Guidelines, Section E.” The fact that ADHD does not fit into one of the defined categories is used to disqualify a student with ADHD from receiving an IEP. BC has indicated their intent to move to an inclusion system of identification but have not done so at this time.

Ontario has a similar system of identification using five defined categories, behaviour, intellect, communication, physical and multiple. ADHD does not fit into the criteria, or definition, of any of these categories. Therefore, schools and boards have been able to use this fact to refuse officially identifying students with ADHD as special needs students through an IPRC, or identification, placement, review committee. In December of 2011 a  Ministry Memorandum explained that a student with ADHD could be identified under any category if they have a “demonstrable learning needs”. Unfortunately, this term left room for interpretation because shortly thereafter the Ministry agreed that schools and boards have the right to set the level of impairment that would qualify a student for the designation where they see fit.

So, does a student in Ontario have the right to an IEP if they have an ADHD disability related need? The Ontario Human Rights Commission certainly believes that they have a right to accommodations and states that the Ministry leaves itself open to litigation if a student with ADHD is denied accommodations and support due to the categories of exceptionality. Access this blog for more details.

What is currently occurring in Ontario around this issue is total inconsistency across boards and even within the same board. The TDSB has stated that a student with ADHD may receive an IEP, if they are impaired, but will not allow an IPRC. This leaves the implementation of an IEP at the school’s discretion and also allows it to be pulled at the school’s discretion. Other boards seem to be accepting the Memorandum’s guidance and being more open to formally identifying students with ADHD. And other boards continue to refuse IEPs for students with ADHD. In our experience, one of the greatest indicators as to whether a student with ADHD will receive an IEP and/or special education services and accommodations in Ontario is the principal and teacher’s knowledge level of ADHD.   

For the other provinces who do recognize ADHD in a category or use a system of inclusion that does not require recognition under a category the implementation of an IEP is also hit and miss. As indicated previously, a great deal depends on how the educators working with your child interpret what they see as impairments caused by a disability. This is what will trigger more investigation and medical documentation to substantiate an exceptional learning need.

My advice to all parents across the country seeking support for their children with ADHD in our schools is to document your child’s impairments and struggles in as many ways possible. Gather medical documentation as well as examples of: academic marks and comments, work product, excess time or assistance required to complete assignments and tasks, and behaviour and social issues that are impairing your child. Do this even if your child is doing “alright” academically. Just because a child is bright and not failing does not mean they do not have a disability that required support and accommodations. It will then be up to you to use this documentation to convince your child’s principal that he/she is impaired to a level that warrants support. If your child is still being denied an IEP, I suggest that you move up the chain of command and speak with your board’s superintendent, preferably one for special education, but not all boards have this position. If you are in Ontario, I also suggest that you take advantage of the language on page 13 of Policy on accessible education for students with disabilities when speaking with your boards if they are continuing to deny access to an IEP.  

Once your child has received an IEP please know that you, as a parent, have the right to assist in the development of the IEP. Use CADDAC Accommodations Charts to assist you in this process.

Please feel free to reach out to me ( to report on your progress. I am very interested in being informed about the ongoing struggles to access support for students with ADHD.

Once you receive an IEP for your child, holding schools accountable for the implementation of an IEP is a whole other issue, but that will require another blog post, stay tuned.

If these issues are of concern to you, please stay tuned for our education advocacy campaign “ADHD Right to Learn” being launched soon.

We need all of your voices to help us effect change!

During CADDAC’s recent online conference I presented on school advocacy. At the end of the presentation many of the questions were let unanswered or briefly answered. Since many of these questions are common questions that CADDAC receives, I will be sharing the answers to these questions in several blog posts over the next few months.

Written by Heidi Bernhardt R.N.

Question 1

If one wants to consider a private school or another public school can you suggest any specific school types (Montessori, outdoor, etc.) that have a great history with ADHD kids?

This is a question that we receive frequently and unfortunately there is no easy answer. Yes, there are some individual schools (as well as some public schools) that demonstrate expertise in teaching neurodiverse kids, but they don’t fit into any one category or type of school. My advice to parents when looking at private schools, or considering changing public schools is to first learn as much as you can about how ADHD impairs learning, executive functioning and self and emotional regulation. Then build a profile for your individual child, outline their strengths and needs, and define where they are struggling. After that, research appropriate teaching strategies and classroom accommodations to assist with these impairments. Use CADDAC webinars, classroom accommodation charts and Teach ADHD Charts to do so.

Once you are informed, visit the schools you are considering in person and assess the environment. Is it somewhere your child would feel welcome and comfortable? Then, sit down with the administration for an in-depth conversation. Have them explain their understanding of ADHD. Do they develop IEPs? Ask them how they educate their staff about all neurodevelopmental disorders, their impact on learning and the appropriate teaching strategies and classroom accommodations. How do they evaluate their teachers’ knowledge and understanding of this information and their success in applying these skills?

At the end of these questions I would suggest you describe some specific scenarios that your child has experienced at school. Ask how they would react and solve these situations? How would they deal with a child that is not handing in assignments or a child that is reluctant to try new things? How about a situation were a child has reacted badly when triggered? This will allow you to get a good understanding about their knowledge level of ADHD and how they might handle situations that commonly occur with your child.

Unfortunately, I have spoken to many parents who have reported that although their private school spoke about understanding self-regulation issues during the interview, in practice, they were far better at working with children’s academic difficulties than dealing with what they saw as behavioural outbursts. They were often reactive rather than proactive during these situations and handled them much the same as the public system.    

About 75 people attended the live show featuring Patrick McKenna on Saturday night and if the laughter and tears was any indication everyone had a great time. Interestingly about two thirds of the audience were not conference attendees, which was unexpected but great bonus because it meant that we were reaching even more people in nova Scotia. The improve group was a blast. People were in stitches. I laughed so hard tears were running down my face. Patrick’s featured presentation “Is it me or the ADHD?” was inspirational and obviously hit home for many of the attendees. There was much nodding and also some tears in the audience. A young man pulled us aside at the end saying he wished he could stay and chat with Patrick but had to head out. He shared that he and his Dad attended with his Mom's insistence, so he was not too happy about attending. But, after hearing Patrick speak, so much had resonated with him that he now knew that he needed to think long and hard about getting an assessment making some serious changes. I guess we can’t ask for more of an impact than that!

Heidi Bernhardt



We’re just back from our 10th annual conference which was held in Halifax this year.  As in past years the conference received an abundance of positive feedback with attendees commenting on the superb quality of speakers, organization and opportunities to interact with ADHD experts. They also told us how remarkable it was to be in a room filled with others who understood what they were going through and who “got ADHD”.

I was stopped in the halls by many people thanking us for bringing the conference to Halifax this year sharing that conferences of this caliber rarely occur on Canada’s east coast. Due to our generous sponsors, one being the Nova Scotia Ministry of Health and Wellbeing, we were able to reduce the cost of registration significantly this year, but even so, we received more requests for sponsorship than in past years. CADDAC sponsored all that asked, more than 20 attendees who we eager to attend but could not afford the fee.

In all, we had 175 attendees at the conference which is quite a good turnout especially for a smaller city. Our one regret is that only a few educators attended even though specific content for educators was included in the schedule and the conference was promoted throughout all school boards in the four east coast provinces. We were able to make some contacts during the conference which may result in our returning to Nova Scotia to provide educational sessions to individual school boards - always an added bonus.

One of the attendees was kind enough to express her feelings to me, which I think sums up many of the comments I received over the two days.  She shared that she had been a little nervous about attending a two day conference after having worked all week, worrying that she would be exhausted by Saturday night, but instead found herself energized and could not wait to return on Sunday morning to learn more. She was excited to share what she had learned and would be passing on the information with as many others as she could.

Heidi Bernhardt

Patrick McKenna is on a mission to get the word out about ADHD: “People question the validity of ADHD because they can’t see the problem. If only those with ADHD could wear a bandage on their head 24/7 maybe people would not be so dismissive of ADHD symptoms which can cause a great deal of pain.” Rick Green, of TotallyADD, addresses it on a more personal level, “When I received my diagnosis at the age of 47 it explained so much. I finally understood why some things were so easy for me to accomplish and others were impossible to complete, no matter how much effort I put into it. It changed my life and the way I look at myself.”

In addition to taking the lead in reaching out to other comedians for this campaign, Patrick McKenna will be starring in “Is it Me or the ADHD?” along with the Improv group "Two Men & a Lady, during CADDAC’s Live show, “Living With ADHD, A Funny Yet Serious Look At Having ADHD” occurring on the Saturday night of CADDAC’s 10th Annual ADHD Conference, taking place this October 27th and 28th in Halifax, NS. The conference is geared to parents of children with ADHD, adults with ADHD and their families, educators, and the medical community.

10th Annual ADHD Conference

October 27 & 28, Saint Mary’s University, 923 Robie Street Halifax NS B3H 3C3
Speaker Biographies:

Living With ADHD, A Funny Yet Serious Look At Having ADHD

This is a show for all ages, with couple and family discounted ticket rates

Is it Me or the ADHD? Starring Patrick McKenna and the Improv Group - "Two Men & a Lady
McNally Theatre, Saint Mary’s University, 923 Robie Street, Halifax, NS, B3H 3C3
Oct 27th, 2018, 7:30pm

Russ LeBlanc

Russ Le Blanc, award winning communications expert, public speaker and trainer, has been heard across Canada on various television networks and over 160 Canadian radio stations and will be joining CADDAC for our Night of Comedy and Inspiration!

Known for his quick (and somewhat unique) wit, Russ makes it a point to include it wherever possible, especially on stage. As well as volunteering to MC the event Russ will be briefly sharing his own journey with ADHD.

An outspoken advocate for ADHD awareness Russ was officially diagnosed as having ADHD at the tender age of 50. Despite his creativity (and humor) being described as “brilliant”, by a number of clinical and mental health physicians, Russ has experienced the dark side of living a life with undiagnosed ADHD and the co-existing disorders it can create. Russ is determined to utilize his communication expertise to help his community (and the world) replace the myths of ADHD with the real FACTS. By doing so, Russ hopes others will not have to go through some of the ADHD related hardships he himself has experienced.

Came out and meet Russ along with Rick Green and the CADDAC team on the evening of Saturday September the 26th! Order Tickets before they’re gone.

Join us to learn all about Executive Functioning and how to boost these skills during the 7th annual CADDAC conference!

Executive functioning impacts our functioning almost every minute of every day. Recent research tells us that impairment in this area is a major issue for many with ADHD, and the cause of much daily functional impairment.

This is the area of expertise of our featured Saturday CADDAC conference speaker Margaret Foster. Margaret is a learning specialist, the founder and Director of the Learning Network, and the co-author of Boosting Executive Skills in the Classroom: A Practical Guide for Educators.

Targeting the entire audience in the morning, Margaret will present on Executive Functioning (EF) through the lifespan: When do executive functioning skills begin to emerge? How do we nurture them? What interferes with their development? And finally, what happens when these skills don’t emerge in a timely fashion? The most recent research in the field of executive functioning (2014/15) will also be covered. Margaret will look at the home, the school, the classroom, and the individual student, identifying strategies that promote executive functioning for all.

The afternoon will feature two breakout sessions covering practical home and school strategies.

Rick Green may be best known as ‘Bill’ on the long running series The Red Green Show, but to CADDAC and the ADHD world Rick has always been the renowned creator of two ground-breaking documentaries on adult Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity. Over the many years that I have known Rick and his wife Ava they have always been unwavering supporters of CADDAC and the work we do. Rick has graciously donated his expertise, charm and great talent to help CADDAC raise funds for our ADHD awareness, education and advocacy work on many occasions.

On September 26th, 2015 at 7PM, Rick will be presenting his touching, inspirational and funny one man show “My Award-Winning, Coast-To-Coast, Internationally Acclaimed Mental Disorder” that he developed and presented at the “Cracking- Up the Capital Comedy Festival” in Ottawa. With laughter Rick will explain the power and peril of the ADHD mindset. The message is profound but simple: "I used to suffer from ADHD. Now, I just have it."

In this live show Rick, an award winning producer, director, writer and comedic performer who has made hundreds of innovative television, radio and stage shows including: History Bites, The Red Green Show, Prisoners of Gravity, The Frantics and of course ADD & Loving It?!ADD & Mastering It!, will explore what this 'disorder' really is, why it's so misunderstood, and why many adults who get the diagnosis are actually relieved, hopeful, and even excited.

Come and Join us for this wonderful night of comedy and comradely and join Rick and Ava in supporting CADDAC.

For more information and to order tickets access visit CADDAC Night of Comedy and Inspiration.

Reading comprehension has been flagged as an area of concern for many students with ADHD. The ability to understand what one is reading is essential for all areas of academic success, success in the workplace and even overall health. If you have wondered why your students or your child with ADHD demonstrates difficulty in this area you won’t want to miss our up-coming CADDAC conference.

Dr. Rhonda Martinussen, an Associate Professor of Special Education and Adaptive Instruction at the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto will be addressing reading difficulties frequently seen in children with ADHD. She has direct experience teaching children with ADHD and reading disorder and is the coordinator of one of the two graduate teacher education programs at OISE. In addition she conducts research examining the relations between behavioural inattention symptoms and reading achievement in children and adolescents and has recently completed a study examining listening and reading comprehension skills in youth with and without ADHD.

During Rhonda’s CADDAC conference presentation entitled the Update on Reading Comprehension Research in Children and Youth with ADHD: Implications for Classroom Instruction and Assessment, the role of background knowledge, cognitive processes such as executive functions, and language proficiency (e.g., vocabulary knowledge) will be highlighted. She will also discuss research that examines how to enhance reading comprehension in children and youth struggling in this area. Practical tips and useful online resources will be shared.

In the past ten years ADHD Coaching has become one of the most popular types of ADHD treatment used in conjunction with medication or on its own. CADDAC frequently receives calls and e-mails asking for information on coaching as a recognized treatment for ADHD, so this year CADDAC has arranged for David Giwerc, a master certified ADHD coach, the Founder and President of the ADD Coach Academy,, the world’s foremost ADHD coach training program and a past president of ADDA, to present at this year’s CADDAC conference.

David, also the author of the ground breaking book, “Permission to Proceed, The Keys to Creating a Life of Passion Purpose and Possibility for Adults with ADHD.” will share his unique & effective coaching models for gaining control of one’s ADHD in life at home, work and in the community. David believes that although most individuals with ADHD do not realize it, they truly are gifted beings. Once they are able to realize that the negative stories they have been telling themselves are not true, they can change their narrative to one of uniqueness and authenticity. Ultimately, they can give themselves permission to proceed by creating a life full of passion, purpose, and possibility.

David’s first presentation, having the same title as his book, will reveal a roadmap to success using proven models, tools, and strategies, which have empowered thousands of individuals with ADHD to dramatically improve their self-esteem, and has inspired them to create lives focused on a purposeful mission in many key areas of their lives.

During David’s second presentation “The ADHD Coach Approach: Building a Positive, Balanced Blueprint for the Adult ADHD Brain, he will conduct a coaching session using a volunteer attendee's character strengths profile to demonstrate how the use of common positive strengths language, as well as focus on an individual's top signature strengths, can balance the brain's natural propensity to be dominated by negativity. David will demonstrate how the use of the educational coaching models, coaching process, and use of the VIA Character Strengths can provide immediate access to one's best qualities, attributes, and capacities.

If you want to learn how to use your understanding of your own ADHD and your natural character strengths to activate your brain, access your positive emotions, and take action that will consistently lead to more success and fulfillment, then come join David at the CADDAC conference for this transformational presentation. For more detailed information on David Giwerc’s and other presentations access the abstracts.

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