C. LeAnne Taylor

Children growing up in Ontario post-war generally lived in two-parent homes, with a stay-at-home mom. My family was an anomaly since my father died when my brother was seven and I was three. My brother struggled with many things – although very bright, he had difficulty completing assignments. He could read for hours – and it was almost impossible to rouse him. His behaviour was often impulsive, and he teased me mercilessly – to the point of bullying. This was blamed on the impact of my father’s death and living in a house with four females which included our only grandparent and an aunt who was affected physically and intellectually by cerebral palsy.  Did my brother have ADHD? This was not even considered at the time – any “bad” behaviour was the result of poor parenting after all. He did not complete university but held a good job until retirement. He has struggled with alcohol binging and alcoholism as an adult.

            Fast forward to the 70’s when I became a secondary school teacher. ADHD was not understood or even much considered in education. In my first semester, I taught a boy whom I now believe had severe, and of course, unmedicated ADHD. I can still picture him – full-grown in grade 10, rolling on the floor. He taught me to “roll with the punches” – something that was beneficial throughout my teaching career as I considered the needs of many students – the grade 11 student who said he had “the attention span of a chipmunk”; the quiet fellow who told me my decorated history classroom made it difficult to concentrate; the girl who lived in a group home and was often in trouble with other teachers because of her impulsive behaviours. Gradually over my career, there was greater understanding of the attributes of ADHD, and Individual Education Plans (IEP) were developed in an attempt to ameliorate the difficulties these children faced. An IEP is only as good as the attention teachers pay to it and the ability of the student and parents to advocate. I taught in schools which adhered to the requirement of an annual review with teachers, parents, and the student. Where possible, I did my best to follow the directives, and feedback from many of these students indicated it helped.

            But right under my nose, in my own home, was a child with ADHD. My daughter was not diagnosed until her mid-30’s. With my current knowledge of ADHD, after attending conferences, reading extensively, and talking to experts, the signs were all there, hidden in plain sight. At home, she was the sunny one with a bright and happy personality. She was also “scatter brained”. We would send her upstairs to get dressed and find her playing. She would be asked to retrieve something from her bedroom, and she would return with something else entirely. When we asked, “Where is what you were asked to get?” she would immediately turn around and get it. Her bedroom floor was covered with clothes and “stuff”. On one occasion, when I went to get my jeans, they were missing. She had nothing to wear, because her laundry was not done, so she “borrowed” mine. Her friendships were filled with drama, and although we put it down to teenage angst, I could not remember having had such huge issues. Stable relationships would suddenly end, and then start up again. Reading was difficult, and her handwriting nearly illegible. With help and support, she could produce wonderful projects, but without that support, assignments would not be completed. She was a whiz at math and could be found in her room, doing math “for fun”.

            In her early 20’s she met a man five years older. We felt he was not the best choice for her, but when she became pregnant, we gave them the support we could. It was not always easy for either of them. Their little son was born with GERD and the first months were exhausting, until he was given the appropriate medication. My daughter’s husband had a good job and was skilled at welding, but he suffered from back issues and was diagnosed with Lupus. He was often off on disability, and she worked as a supply EA, a convenor of a program for developmentally challenged children and provided respite for families of children with disabilities. As her husband struggled with his health issues, he turned increasingly to alcohol use. My daughter would come home to find him drunk and asleep instead of looking after their son.

            Our grandson was quite bright, with a keen interest in words, and how things work. Although he was a busy little boy, and often dug his heels in when he did not want to do something, we just thought it was typical “boy” behaviour.

            Five months after their second son was born, my daughter’s husband left the family. He had attempted to stop drinking after a DUI but decided that he could still drink. My daughter gave him a choice, and he chose to leave. Losing his dad was stressful for our oldest grandson who was now in grade two. Because he attended a small school, he was given support for his acting out. The difficulty was that my daughter’s doctor refused to have him assessed for ADHD, believing it was more likely related to his father’s absence. When a new principal arrived two years later, with the support of the Special Education teacher, he was finally assessed. Our amateur diagnosis of ADHD was confirmed, and he was referred to an excellent pediatrician, who has carefully monitored his medication and treatment. A psych-ed assessment in grade 6 helped to put in place an extensive IEP and behaviour management plan. These are all helpful, but he still struggles with the attributes of ADHD that make learning difficult and impulsivity a challenge.

            One element that doctors and psychotherapists search for are the genetic factors. There was discussion around his father’s behaviour - skilled at many things but not able to complete projects, his alcoholism, and impulsive purchases when money was tight or non-existent and his very quick temper. It was easy to assign any genetic factors to him. Not long after however, it was determined through testing that my daughter also had ADHD. Acquiring suitable treatment was not easy. Her family doctor said she had no knowledge of adult ADHD and would not prescribe medication. Trying to get an appointment with a psychiatrist resulted in several difficulties and she fell through the cracks because of lack of follow-up on several occasions. It took more than a year before she was finally started on Concerta, which did not work! The psychiatrist with whom she was finally connected was unsympathetic to the issues she faced in her family situation, and she gave up on him. She has counselling every two weeks through an agency she connected with at the 2019 CADDAC Conference, but otherwise she must manage her symptoms on her own. The only support her family doctor gives her regarding ADHD is to refill her current prescription.

            In the meantime, our younger grandson was presenting traits of ADHD. As a toddler, when my daughter was concerned about her older son, I would point out behaviours in her younger son. He was assessed early in grade one, and because he was already under the care of the pediatrician, treatment began quickly. The medication has made a difference for him. Trying to deal with on-line learning through Covid has been arduous – there is not enough stimulation to keep him engaged and he is a full grade behind in his reading level.

There are many questions we ponder. Is there a genetic element one can carry without having the attributes of ADHD, and then pass it on? Other than sometimes being disorganized, neither of us seem to have issues such as time-blindness, inability to be attentive, or impulsivity. Why did it take so long for our daughter to be assessed and to not discover the basis of all she dealt with until her mid-30’s? Why is it so difficult for adults to find the support they need when they are not diagnosed until maturity? Why is ADHD not recognized as a learning disability when it so clearly affects learning?

            I have attended conferences, watched webinars, and read countless books and articles to expand my knowledge. It is putting that information into use that is challenging. I am not a therapist nor a counsellor. I can direct information, ideas, articles, and “useful” hacks to my daughter, but since she struggles with her own ADHD, works two jobs, and does her best to raise her sons on her own with as much family support as she will allow, following through is problematic. She has great ideas but putting them into action is often elusive. We wonder how her life might have been different if we had discovered the ADHD in our family when she was a child. This is a question we can never answer.

Our Students With ADHD Need You!

Take This Once In A Lifetime Opportunity To Make Your Views Known.

The Ontario Government, after years of advocacy work by the AODA and other disability organizations, has committed to enact an Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).  An advisory committee, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, which includes representatives from the government and the disability community, was assigned to develop recommendations on what the Education Accessibility Standard should include.

The committee’s initial recommendations report, a 185-page report, was made public on June the 1st (summaries below). The public has been given until September the 2nd to send feedback on the initial recommendations. This may be your only opportunity to have your voice heard.  

The report’s recommendations are focused on eliminating barriers that students with disabilities (including those with ADHD) face in accessing education. Currently Ontario’s special education system is designed to only meet the needs of students who have a condition that falls within the Ministry of Education‘s definition of “exceptionalities”. ADHD is excluded from all 5 categories. This report recommends the removal of the term “exceptionality” and extending these rights to all students with any kind of disability as defined in the Charter of Rights, the Ontario Human Rights Code, and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

How can you make your voice heard?

There are two ways for you to send in your feedback:

  1. E-mail: (Strongly Recommended)
  2. Survey: Consultation: Initial recommendations for the development of proposed Kindergarten to Grade 12 (K-12) education accessibility standards |

 (The survey is confusing, will take some time to complete, asks questions on a wide variety of topics and will not allow you to choose your areas of focus.)

To assist you, CADDAC has developed Feedback on the Main Themes of the report, as outlined by the AODA, that we feel will affect students with ADHD.

You can:

CADDAC suggests that if you would like to comment on only some of the themes, these are themes of the most significance to students with ADHD: 1,2,4,5,6, 8 and 10.

For more detailed information please access the AODA Alliance’s 15-page summary, their 55-page condensed and annotated version  as well as their 49 minute video

By: Melissa Tamblyn

I am an A type person – A-type in every way. Star student, hard driving, goal seeking, avid reader, knowledge seeker type of person. Learning has come easily to me so guess what? – I like it. Imagine if reading - a key skill for knowledge acquisition was hard and made learning more challenging...and you can’t seem to maintain your focus… That would suck. That would really suck. That is what life has been like for my husband and my son. Guy and Liam have learning disabilities and ADHD. Diagnosed and certified based on the best available information at the time but either way – reading is hard and learning in the traditional ways has been a struggle. The ADHD only exacerbated the issue as it was hard to get focused – especially on something so “boring.” ADHD, as I have learned, rarely travels alone and there are often other concurrent issues that we see in play. Their self esteem has suffered. My heart has broken for them. It would not be as painful if they were not as smart as they are – they are highly intelligent, creative, and engaging people who I love to spend time with. As a partner and parent, I have spent the better part of my life learning about how to help them learn and make it easier. It has not been an easy road for any of us. For my husband growing up, he was labelled “dumb”, and my son has been in “special education” from grade 1 onward. Working to identify the issues and find the right combination of academic and emotional supports has been a challenge. But we are making progress. We are seeing results. You can too. Guy is now a teacher, focused on special education in Toronto and Liam is a thriving grade 11 student.

Here is what I would have to say to my fellow parents who are living this reality. I have jumped in with two feet and have made it a point to contribute to supporting parents and children with similar experiences.

Things that we found helped us along our journey:

  1. Get informed – there are several great resources through CADDAC and other organizations to start your learning process. 
  1. Ask for help – you are not alone, and the network of organizations is growing – tap into it!
  1. Get support – Take advantage of the supports available to you. Get the Canadian Disability Tax Credit (DTC) and the Individual Education Plan (IEP) and any counselling you need to get through. Explore ADHD and other comorbidities that often accompany learning disabilities and look to find services to support your child and your family.
  1. Advocate – meet your child’s teacher, establish lines of communication with the school leadership and actively pursue getting the accommodations your child needs for success. Look at programs to augment where the school simply cannot meet your needs. It is my experience that they can’t. And yes, even the private ones. 
  1. Be patient – someone once told me that “it’s a marathon not a sprint” and truer words have never been spoken. Like child development overall, don’t compare yourself or your child to anyone at any time. We are all on our own path.
  1. Get a psycho-educational assessment – it is worth it and will give you the information and leverage to advocate and support your child and provide detail to support the IEP and direct your enabling activities. 
  1. Reinforce strengths – identify the things your child (and you) does well and find every opportunity to point them out and reinforce them to build confidence and connection with your child.
  1. Love – take care of yourself and your family’s emotional needs first and always. Parenting is hard. Parenting a child with learning disabilities and all the things that come with that is very hard. Doing it all within a global pandemic is next level. Be kind to yourself and try to feel and express the love.

Guy and I have focused our efforts of late in establishing the READy Clinic – a full-service reading clinic that also acts to support parents, children, and their families to navigate these waters. Through this Clinic we offer the Barton Reading Program - an Orton-Gillingham influenced approach to reading and spelling that has helped our family with the dual diagnosis of ADHD and dyslexia and we want to share it with others

By: B. H.

I only recall difficulties first becoming apparent to me in elementary school - despite being a social, athletic, well-rounded top student.  I was secretly starting to struggle with procrastination, perfectionism and pulling stressful “all-nighters” to complete schoolwork.  I didn’t realize what kind of issue this was yet.

In high school, much of the same continued in an amplified manner.  To continue to succeed at a high academic level, all the previous struggles only worsened and now included panic attacks, faking illness, missing tests, and handing assignments in late with penalties or not at all.  Despite this, I continued to achieve excellent grades, have praise from my teachers and even regularly win awards. 

With school sports still on my plate, I would be exhausted after school, fall asleep on the couch until dinner and start homework late in the evening.  My stress and anxiety levels also worsened, eventually leading to depression.  Although my life seemed good in terms of family, finances, friends, and community involvement, I was severely struggling mentally.  I had great difficulty managing everything involved in this chapter of my life and did not know why.  I was only diagnosed with depression and treated for it with anti-depressants.  Those other issues however obviously never really improved, but I plugged on well enough to get myself accepted into university.

I decided to go away for my studies.  Despite having strong reservations about this new journey, others convinced me to go.  All the stress and anxiety I had in my head before arriving on campus temporarily disappeared.  It was an instantly fun experience to start.  Over-socialization and over-consumption of alcohol became too prevalent.  I lacked self-discipline, organization, and motivation around schoolwork which previously came from my parents.  This dangerous combination came at the large cost of quickly getting behind in my studies, increasing my anxiety, stress, depression and causing me to eventually drop courses once they became unmanageable or salvageable in my eyes.  I made use of many on-campus resources like Study Skills workshops and counselling sessions, but it never really improved my struggles. 

Eventually moving out to off-campus student housing only increased my daily responsibilities and stress.  Learning how to suddenly shop, cook and clean without prior training, was anxiety provoking.  I was also distracted by romantic relationships.  I always felt there was “something wrong with me” and tried to hide that from others, especially those I dated.  Relationships that didn’t work out only lowered my self-esteem, but I continued to be involved with many more.

I got to spend my third year of university learning abroad in Europe - another exciting, but very stressful and anxious adventure.  Despite new cultural and social experiences, I continued to struggle immensely with managing my studies and my emotions.  I barely completed any of my courses that year. 

I returned to my studies in Canada and added part-time jobs to my load.  These were fun learning experiences but of course increased my stress and anxiety levels.  A three- or four-year period at university studies turned into five, and still was not complete.  Despite all my struggles, I still felt I gained a lot of knowledge from my studies.  I wanted to return home to my parents’ house but was urged to stay in my university town.

It was then that I listened to the suggestion from a family member to apply for and start a job in my field of studies.  It was miraculous to me that I could land a job in that domain, without having completed my degree.  Realistically however, I was unknowingly very much underpaid.  Severe daily stress and anxiety also ensued.  My knowledge of the language I taught wasn’t as strong as I thought, and I was often unprepared and panicking.   Too tempting to give up at this point however was a financially independent life.

This new life chapter eventually led me to finding a husband.  Feeling so inferior my entire life, I felt I was lucky to find anyone who knew what I was really like and would want to actually vow to spend their life with me.  Low self-esteem though also led me to loosen my boundaries and allow myself to be controlled and put down for many years.  It took a couple decades to realize this and start standing up for myself more in this regard.

I plugged on in these areas of my life with emotional ups and downs sometimes leaving me off-work and barely functioning at times. The added responsibilities like that of a serious relationship and managing a home, only worsened all the struggles.  I would work long hours trying catch up on my perpetual list both at work and home, but never felt that I was even close to achieving that.  I always felt I was drowning with my to-do list.  This cycle has continued for decades in my life.  I periodically changed jobs, but eventually crashed and burned mentally at all of them, including now.  I have been off work for almost five years. 

During one of these crashes, a miraculous suggestion by a fellow colleague suggested I could have ADHD.  Although doubtful at first, further research about it I could totally relate to, felt like the discovery of that missing puzzle piece I had always looked for!  While family and friends lacking information about it weren’t convinced, having an official psycho-educational assessment through a psychologist specializing in the area further confirmed it. This finally answered so many lifelong questions. Further investigation with other specialists also revealed another comorbid condition of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) along with my ADHD that helped me and others better understand my lifelong struggles.   I finally stopped “beating myself up” emotionally for all the things I struggled with and blamed myself for. I have always felt lucky there is a name for this issue, and so much constantly evolving research and information about it.  It was then that I embarked upon my lifelong ADHD research journey.  It was also a realization of a newfound purpose and mission in life to help others – especially those bright young girls, their families and educators unknowingly struggling for years in similar ways. 

Further research and trials with doctors ensued to find myself helpful medications.  Before having children, we came up with an effective combination together. What helped me then with the ADHD was a non-stimulant.  This finally gave me a sense of how and what I was supposed to feel and accomplish both at work and home.  Once deciding to have children however, I went off those medications, which obviously increased my struggles both at home and work. Unfortunately, after having children these same medications no longer worked for me. My doctors and I thus started over again with trials of different ones. It took years to find a helpful combination again. It led to me now taking stimulants for my ADHD. This long trial and error process however is well worth it in my eyes. The right medication can be lifechanging, as I feel it is in my life.  All I have ever wanted is to feel alert, motivated, and productive enough to accomplish some of the most important items on my perpetual to-do list.  Proper medication has allowed me to do that.       

Besides seeking help online and from doctors, I also found a local parent support group.  I found it very helpful both before and after having children to learn more about ADHD and share my experiences with others from an adult’s perspective. I regularly attended that group and eventually helped organize the yearly meetings with others.  When the group changed hands and locations, I continued my commitment to it. I now actually lead this group virtually, not because I am an expert on the topic by any means, but because there was not anyone else available this year to run it. It is not a position I would ever volunteer for. It does however need to exist in my opinion, as there is such a constant need and demand for such an outlet for parents whose children are just beginning this journey of discovery. 

Knowing that ADHD is highly hereditary, my husband and I have been observing our own children carefully for years.  Although there are not major complaints from their teachers, as was the case with me, we are feeling we see more and more of these traits in both now. We have begun the screening process with doctors. Knowing what I know about ADHD and comorbid disorders, I feel it has aided me both as a parent and teacher.  I feel I can recognize these traits from an early age, and hopefully lead someone to discover it earlier than when I did. I will forever be grateful for my co-worker who brought it to my attention. I feel it changed my life for the better. I hope I can do the same for someone else one day.

By: C. W.

When my son entered kindergarten in the fall of 2018, he had no ADHD diagnosis. He was just an energetic kid who struggled with appropriate social behaviour. I figured, “well, he’s only 5, he can’t be expected to sit still all day. This is normal for kindergarten”. While that was partially true, some of the behaviour – pushing in the cubby room, biting, and having zero impulse control, for example, was not. I suddenly found myself getting phone calls a few times a week to come and pick him up early, stories of him not being in class, being asked to come on field trips with the class or he would not be allowed to go. There were several meetings with the principal, and a reward system created, because without a diagnosis everyone thought he was doing all of this on purpose. Reward system did not work. No shock there. The issues continued. Finally, 3 months before kindergarten was over, an IEP was created. It did not have a whole lot in it in the way of academics, or in the way of strategies, plus it was three months before the end of school, but at least it was a step in the right direction. I had to push for it though. We are lucky I know, as ADHD has no official diagnosis in the school system, but my son was able to get an IEP because his designation was “behaviour”. I really, really dislike that word. Behaviour. Blah. Somehow, we made it through kindergarten, but I realized that this was not going to be an easy ride. I would have to advocate for my son every single year and teach him to advocate for himself. With kindergarten done, I thought “it can only go up from here, right?”. Boy, was I wrong? 

It was during the 2019-2020 school year that I really had to grow some thick skin. Grade 1 started out well enough, but the honeymoon phase was short. Soon, the phone calls to pick up started again. They continued almost daily at the start of the year, and he was barely in class at all except for subjects he liked and ones that were more hands on. No academic goals in his IEP. Monthly ‘check in’ meetings with the school team. Essentially, my kid was going to school to be babysat. What was he even learning? They thought he legitimately did not know the material, when in fact it was the way, it was being presented to him that his body had a hard time with. The district was called in to assist – at my insistence as well as the school’s. They made a bit of progress, but by the time we could really implement their strategies, it was after winter break.  I made sure all missed work came home and was done with me, and I documented every minute of missed class on Inclusion BC’s Exclusion Tracker. There was talk of him going down to half days at school after spring break. 

Finally, in January 2020, 2 months before the world shut down because of a global pandemic, the official ADHD diagnosis came. I had hopes that things would change -- movement breaks written into his IEP, outcomes the same as the rest of the class but done in a way his brain could handle, more time in class (as promised if behaviour improved, which it did). Nope. Nothing. He was well behind his classmates in almost all subjects, as he was not given a chance to prove his abilities. Fast forward to spring break 2020 – in person learning had been suspended, and all the kids started remote learning. “This is our chance!” I thought, “our chance to show them exactly how much my child is capable of when given the chance”. I was determined to show the school exactly how smart and competent my child was. We participated in every online class meeting, did every assignment given – and did it happily. He moved up 3 reading levels, finally got to participate in social studies, and we kept our science experiment meal worms well into the next school year! He had no stress of having to comply, and I did not have what I have come to call “phone anxiety”, about the school calling every day. It took a global pandemic, and remote learning, for my son to be included in everything his class did.

You would think that things would continue that way, but when schools were told they could open in June for in class learning again, more disappointment came our way. There was never a question that my son would be going back to in class learning. He missed his friends and needed face-to-face instruction from the teacher. Each child going back, unless essential service or vulnerable learner, would get 2 days a week of face-to-face instruction. That was all fine and good. However, when I got an email from the school saying my son’s 2 days a week would be half days, I was livid. First, I did not consider this to be “after spring break” since going back was voluntary, and we did not know in March if we would even finish out the year in person. Apparently, the half days after spring break that had been discussed, were going to happen. Secondly, I was unaware that my son was entitled to 4 full days, as a vulnerable learner. With the help of a friend, I got in touch with the right people at the district, who got in touch with the school, and ultimately got my son more days. We agreed on 4 half days, which equaled 2 full days. I was happy with this. 

Naturally, when school started in the fall of 2020, all my anxieties about the past 2 years, and inclusion struggles, came back. The year started much the same, with some partial days, the district getting involved, and very little work being done. However, thanks to my bravery in getting the district involved that past June, my developing of thick skin, my son’s maturity & ability to self-advocate, and a most fabulous teacher & support worker, things quickly turned around for the better. I pushed for academic goals in his IEP and got them. And they are followed. Work is sent home willingly, and we are given ample time to complete it. My son adores his teacher. He loves to learn and is learning SO much. He never stops talking about what he has learned and teaching it to me as well. There are no more meltdowns or outbursts. No more reward systems or altered schedules. No more partial days. And perhaps the biggest thing of all for me... NO MORE PHONE CALLS! :-). All because these new adults gave him a chance. My biggest regret is not getting the right people at the district involved sooner. I was intimidated by the school team. I know that advocating for my son in that way was the right thing to do, and while I hope that is the first and last time, I will have to go to them, I am not afraid to do it again if needed.

It’s not only about being organized. One of the biggest challenges of living with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), no matter how old you are, is working with the ongoing challenge of monitoring our executive function, including:

We recognise ADHD as a lifespan condition, but it’s not the same throughout life. Sometimes the symptoms of ADHD show up much more intensely than other times, which can be both frustration for the person with ADHD, and non-ADHDer’s who depend on them. This very inconsistency of the disorder itself makes it challenging to be consistent in proactively managing how it affects us.

In many ways, our problems with time are closely linked to many of our executive function challenges, with these invisible functions resulting in very visible missteps in life, which of course affects our relationships.

People with ADHD can:

People with ADHD in therapy or coaching then, can become increasingly aware of how they manage time (a good thing), and more often notice time slipping by, but still often feel unable to do anything about it. Understandably, this causes distress, which leads to more inattentive or hyperactive and impulsive behaviours (sometimes things get worse before they get better).

Is this really ‘procrastination’?

ADHD-level ‘procrastination’ is not the same as non-ADHD procrastination – its’s next level. It’s fueled by similar things, like anxiety about decision-making (making a wrong choice), a fear of failure (which leads to perfectionism driven procrastination), and also ironically, a fear of success (if I do it well now, they’ll expect consistent success from me and I can’t do that).

The critical difference is that ADHD brains also have these very real challenges of invisible brain functions (or lack thereof) preceding these thoughts and emotions listed above.  

How many times have you heard an exasperated parent say something like, “that child would forget their head if it wasn’t attached to their body?”

50% to 80% of all memory problems in daily life were, at least in some point, problems of prospective memory.

Prospective memory is a term which refers to the memory to perform an intended action at a particular point in the future, like, I need to grab milk on the way home from work today. It can also be described then as 'the delayed execution’ of an intended action - an essential skill for everyday life functioning. [i]

Prospective remembering comprises multiple processes and phases:

The ability to plan, know when to start a task and what one will need to compete the task, are a fairly sophisticated set of functions that non-ADHDer’s might take for granted.

We can see then, the ability to recall at a certain time or event in the future that an action or task has to be executed, is the core of prospective memory and a core of how we expect emerging adults and adults to behave on a regular basis.[iii]

Challenges in time ‘management’ underpin many of the daily challenges of the ADHD brain.

Difficulties with the perception of time can lead to difficulties in the planning aspect of any remedy for executive dysfunction, such as the use of a calendar, scheduling the appropriate amount of time to complete an assignment, and setting short-term goals.  

Interventions that address both the time issues as well as some of the other roadblocks, like interest-based nervous system and managing overwhelm are better than tips in isolation. A few of the quick tips that we find success in implementing include:  

Managing ‘time-blindness’

An invisible symptom I talked about in the article Managing overwhelm & other invisible symptoms of ADHD article, is ‘time-blindness’.  Time-blindness really refers to both this inability to estimate how much time has passed, as well as challenges with not being able to consistently prioritize.

In bringing greater awareness to proactively managing ‘time-blindness’ we know:

  1. An overfilled calendar, like an overfilled to-do list, sets you up for failure. Ensure you have a few breaks every day, and in good measure throughout the week for the downtime you know your brain needs.
  2. Conversely, an underfilled calendar leaves you with too much free time, which could lead to boredom, impulsively taking on one too many new projects and finding yourself in paralyzed overwhelm, a feeling the adult ADHDer knows all too well.  The fine balance between overwhelm and boredom is something that managing your calendar can really assist with.
  3. Plan 2-3 weeks out into the future. Starting to grow this muscle helps us manage in world built around deadlines and performance expectations.
  4. Make everything as visual as possible. Print it off, tape it to the wall. Visualize yourself actually doing the task you need to get done probably has a greater chance of success than creating reminders.
  5. Be explicit about the consequences of not planning. Taking a moment to think a few steps into the future about what happens if you don’t do X, and what else gets affected, might help set more external motivators you might be able to leverage.

Sometimes I say people with ADHD should be the ultimate champions of mindfulness because we are stuck in the present (we just need to start making it more intentional, rather than unintentional!).  The principles of mindfulness are excellent guideposts for ADHD brains – being an intentional and non-judgemental observer of ourselves allows us to know what we need to do to get going toward the things that do bring us joy. We have great resources to help train your brain toward a more mindful existence, but there are also great apps around (like Headspace) and books to learn this from.

Check out our latest free offering for our clients, our new e-book: Take Back Your Calendar: Time Mastery for the Time Challenged.

Author: Christina Crowe, Registered Psychotherapist

Christina is a Registered Psychotherapist, ADHD Therapist & Coach, Clinical Supervisor, Founder of Dig A Little Deeper, Psychotherapy & Counselling and the author of the online course DIY*ADHD.  Christina is passionate about accessibility in mental health care, which is why she spends her free time writing articles like this.

[i] Caitlin E.V. Mahy, Louis J. Moses, Matthias Kliegel. “The development of prospective memory in children: An executive framework.” Developmental Review, Vol. 34, 4, (2014).

[ii] Mahy. “The development of prospective memory in children: An executive framework.”

[iii] Fuermaier, Anselm B M et al. “Complex prospective memory in adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.” PloS one vol. 8,3 (2013): e58338. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0058338.


 TDSB Seeks to Decrease Documentation of Supports Provided to Struggling Black Students     

The TDSB has implemented a new kindergarten/grade one special education strategy that will now make it more difficult for Black students, with disabilities to receive classroom accommodations. The strategy has been implemented in an effort to reduce the number of Black students receiving IEPs. The TDSB feels that currently Black students with disabilities in kindergarten and grade one, especially boys, receive IEPs too often and that academic support or an IEP will have a negative consequence for these students. However, when questioned during a Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) meeting, the TDSB was unable to provide any evidence that IEPs cause negative outcomes. What is clear though, is the abundance of research which shows early intervention is crucial to positive outcomes. Early intervention programs have been linked to positive developmental outcomes, such as better school achievement, higher educational attainment, and lower rate of delinquency (Barnett, 1995Campbell, Helms, Sparling & Ramey, 1998Reynolds, Temple, Robertson & Mann, 2001Yoshikawa, 1995).

The TDSB has used an anti-Black/anti-racism lens to justify this strategy, stating that Black students are disproportionately represented in special education programs, and that this new strategy will address this issue. The problem is, the TDSB is focussing on equality rather than equity. Equality means giving every student the exact same supports or resources while equity means providing students the supports they need to reach their potential. In an equitable environment proportionate representation is not relevant.

Students with a disability are entitled to accommodations under the Ontario Human Rights Code and the TDSB Human Rights Policy. IPRCs and IEPs help to ensure that the legal duty to accommodate disability-related needs of students are met. In fact, IEPs are considered a legal document that outline what an individual student requires to be able to access the curriculum in its entirety and to achieve success. IEPs help teachers document and implement required accommodations and teaching strategies, monitor the student’s progress, and provide a framework for communicating information about the student’s progress to parent(s)/guardian(s) and students. By refusing IEPs for children with disabilities the TDSB is preventing the documentation of accommodations, thereby making it more difficult for parents to hold them accountable, and delaying the implementation of supports for their disabilities. This policy prevents transparency and sets struggling students up for failure during their formative years. It also potentially opens the school board to human rights litigation.

The Centre of ADHD Awareness Canada, CADDAC fears that this new kindergarten/grade one strategy will not only hurt Black students, but will also affect any student with a disability that requires support, especially those who have a disability that is not listed in the categories of exceptionality set out by the Ministry of Education. This includes students with neurodevelopmental disorders such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) and Tourette Syndrome. Unlike other Ontario school boards, The TDSB has already made it impossible for these students to be identified as exceptional learners at an IPRC despite the 2011 Ministry Memorandum stating that these students have a right to be identified as exceptional students if they express a learning need. A 2018 Ontario Human Rights Policy clearly recognizes ADHD as a disability requiring accommodation under the Code and further outlines that “a legal duty exists to accommodate whether or not a student with a disability falls within the Ministry’s definition of ‘exceptional pupil,’ and whether or not the student has gone through a formal IPRC process, or has an IEP.” By creating a policy to prevent IEPs for students in kindergarten/grade who are not identified as exceptional learners through an IPRC, the TDSB is greatly increasing the risk that TDSB schools will provide the accommodations these students have a right to under the Ontario Human Rights Code.

If the TDSB is genuinely concerned about the number of Black students receiving IEPs would it not be better to take a deeper look into why these students were given IEPs in the first place? What is causing these students to struggle? Is it perhaps due to a neurodevelopmental disorder that the TDSB does not recognize? Do they have an undiagnosed disability that needs to be identified and treated quickly, before the outcomes become more serious? Before rushing to become perhaps the only school board in Ontario to implement such a policy the TDSB should be asking itself why they are so invested in making it more difficult for students with learning needs to access the appropriate accommodations for their disabilities and reducing transparency and accountability of schools in supporting struggling learners.

Written by 56-year-old Robert and shared by CADDAC in honour of National Poetry Month (April). Do you have a poem about your experience with ADHD? National Poetry Month is over, but we still love to read your poetry. Submit your poem here and we’ll feature it!

If you took all of the things that were special about me,
you could put them all together and call it AD/HD
No better, no worse, just different that’s me.
I’m really now crazy, please try and see
Like a talented wizard in a world full of “Muggles”.
it’s no wonder all you see is frustration and struggles.

As I daydream and drift, you think no one’s there,
but nothing could be further from the truth, believe me, I swear.
I see your impatience as my mind starts to wander
But, you don’t know the depth of the thoughts that I ponder.
For creative thinkers, get lost in deep thought ,
which lead to the illusion that they cannot be taught.

I know trying to reach me can give you the blues,
but I wish for just once, you could walk in my shoes.
To see things through my eyes, you would be amazed,
at the speed and the sheer volume my thoughts seem to blaze.

I’m not lazy or stupid, if only you knew,
how truly difficult is it to limit myself and think like you do,
But, I can see things that you’ll never see,
it’s like a second nature, because I am me.
with lightening fast reflexes, I can switch gears,
to be firm and inflexible is the worst of my fears.
I’m calm in a crisis, and know just what to do,
For I’m in great company, Mozart, Edison, Churchill just to name a few.

So show me some patience, as I’m patient with you.
Just a little tolerance, it’s long overdue.
Please try and understand me, along with my AD/HD,
It’s a very big part of wonderfulness of me.

Up-date on CADDAC’s Meetings with Ministries of Education Across Canada

Over the past three months CADDAC has been meeting with Ministries of Education across Canada as part of our ADHD Right to Learn Campaign. All provincial and territorial Ministries of Education were contacted with a request to meet and an ask that they recognize ADHD as a serious learning risk on par with Autism and learning disabilities. Only Nunavut did not respond to two e-mails and phone call and one province, PEI confirmed receipt of our second e-mail, but did not follow-up on our request to meet. CADDAC researched all provincial and territorial special education systems prior to meeting with representatives from the Ministries. Here is a summary of the meeting content, our findings and our concerns.

For a complete summary of our meeting with the Ministry of Education in Ontario and our on-going concerns in this province please access this LINK

View documents shared with the Ontario Ministry of Education

Recognition of ADHD as a Learning Risk

All provinces with systems of inclusion (simply mandating schools to meet the needs of all students) agreed that students with ADHD are recognized as students with exceptional needs if they exhibit a need in the classroom. Provinces still using a system of identification (officially identifying students with exceptional needs under a category) who include ADHD under a category, are Newfoundland, Saskatchewan and Alberta, the later two indicating that they are transitioning to a system of inclusion, stated that recognizing ADHD in a category recognizes learning risks. BC, who recently developed new guidelines for moving to a system of inclusion, stated that ADHD would be recognized in their guidelines under the domain of cognition. Please access the Ontario summary for Ontario’s continued lack of recognition.

Ministry Web sites

Each Ministry’s web site was evaluated for their content on ADHD. We found that they contained little or no information on ADHD while they frequently contained information on Autism and learning disabilities. Some sites also hosted information on teaching strategies for Autism and LDs and included additional information on specialized Autism programs. CADDAC shared this fact in our initial correspondence with the Ministries pointing out that this sends a clear message to parents, educators and the public that the Ministry does nor recognize ADHD as a significant a learning risk. When this was reiterated during our meetings the Ministries all agreed that there was a lack of ADHD information. Some stated that they could not change the information quickly, but would bring up our concerns during up-coming meeting, while others offered to share CADDAC links on their sites.  

Needs Based Approach

Prior to each meeting CADDAC researched each province and territory’s process of recognizing the needs of students with ADHD. During the meetings we discussed, how individualized learning plans (provinces use a variety of names for these plans) were initiated, who could initiate them, who developed these plans, and how they were implemented and reviewed.

Most ministries spoke about moving away from a medical model to a needs-based approach for all students with exceptional needs, regardless of whether they currently use a system of inclusion or identification. While consistently using this term, provinces rarely defined it with any specificity, but we inferred it to mean that supports would be implemented to meet a student’s individual needs. The term universal design for learning, an approach to teaching aimed at meeting the needs of every student including those with learning differences, was also mentioned several times during these meetings. When these terms came up, CADDAC pointed out that for these practices to actually work for students with ADHD, educators must be trained in the multitude of ways ADHD impacts a student’s learning. They must also be trained in appropriate ADHD teaching strategies and accommodations and then mentored on how to apply and individualize these strategies. CADDAC has identified the lack of educator training in ADHD across Canada as one of our biggest concerns and the factor that directly impacts our students on a daily basis.            

Lack of Educator Training

During our discussions with Ministries, all provinces and territories spoke about principals and teachers being mandated to recognize and meet special needs in students. CADDAC specifically asked each Ministry how they were educating their teachers and administrators about ADHD. While most Ministry representatives were aware that teacher’s Colleges provided very little ADHD training, they admitted that in-service structured training on ADHD did not occur. Some mentioned the ability to go into the odd school board to present on ADHD if specifically asked to do so while others mentioned that teacher’s unions had the ability to provide training. All except Nova Scotia were unaware of any online training for their educators, but most were open to learning more if CADDAC had resources or knew of any good educator programs.  

Changes in Some Funding Models   

The vast majority of all provinces now use a jurisdictional funding model that ties special education funding to student enrollment numbers even if they still use a system of identification. For instance, Ontario for some time and Alberta since 2020 use this funding model even thought they still identify students under categories of exceptionalities. During our meeting with Alberta, they shared that while they are still asking boards to collect coding information, they will only be using it to discern trends. During out meeting with BC, they confirmed that they are still looking to transition out of the current system of identification (where they exclude students with ADHD) and into a system of inclusion and jurisdictional funding. To-date, special education funding in BC is directly tied to the number of students who are identified under special education categories.   

The Special Education Inclusion Model

While researching and speaking with Ministries across Canada, a clear trend emerged. The majority of provinces have either moved away from identifying students with exceptional needs and moving to an inclusive system or were looking to do so. Even provinces that still identify students, speak about the ideology of an inclusive classroom where all students, no matter what their needs are, are together in a communal classroom. However, some issues with the implementation of this system came to light during our research and were discussed with the ministries.   

Concerns with the Inclusive Model

As provinces move away from formally identifying students with special needs, new terms for individualized education plans, such as SLPs, Student Leaning Plans, are being developed. Parents are voicing concerns about the legal accountability behind these new forms of accommodation documentation, since IEPs have always been recognized as legal documents that help hold a school and board accountable. For instance, Yukon has removed IEPs for more than 130 students and will only be developing IEPs for students who are not on target to graduate high school. When CADDAC discussed this issue with the Yukon Ministry we received assurances that these new forms of documentation would have the same level of accountability, however whether they are actually considered to be a legal document will only be confirmed when a legal challenge occurs.

In 2013 New Brunswick completely embraced the inclusive education model launching a policy that would facilitate the full participation of all students, whatever their abilities or needs in their community classrooms. Last year New Brunswick announced that it would be reviewing their classroom inclusion policy due to continued complaints from parents and teachers. Education advocates have long pointed out that an inclusive system that places students with all types of learning needs into one classroom without adding additional staff and supports rarely meets students’ or teachers’ needs.   

During our meeting with BC CADDAC reiterated a concern that was previously shared in a formal submission to the Ministry. We are asking that as the province moves to a system of inclusion, they send a strong message to educators that ADHD is indeed recognized by the Ministry as a serious learning risk. By excluding ADHD from all special education categories in the past, the Ministry has intentionally sent the opposite message to educators and done significant damage.         

What Qualifies a Student for an Individualized Education Plan?  

Other Ministries, such as Nova Scotia shared that they only develop a learning plan, such as an IPP, Individual Program Plan, if there is an “academic” issue of concern. While this sounds reasonable, it is of significant concern to CADDAC and many parents of students with ADHD. The term “academic concern” is arbitrary because it depends entirely on the school’s interpretation of what designates a concern. Is it a student who is failing, a student who is academically behind, or a student who is not meeting their potential? We would hope that it is the later, yet that is rarely the case. In Ontario, the Ministry allows each school board to set the bar of what meets their level of concern wherever they like which has led to significant inequity throughout Ontario boards. Parents in many other provinces also report great discrepancy between what the school defines as a student who is struggling and how they recognize their own child’s struggles. Most parents will tell you that they still need to advocate, or actually fight, for the development of an individualized education plan for their child.         

Holding Boards Accountable

Across Canada one of the main issues with accountability is that Ministries have few ways to hold school boards accountable for meeting the needs of students with ADHD. We have clear evidence that this does not happen in Ontario. BC reported that they are building this into their new system, but again, only after the new system has been in place for a while will we truly know if it is effective.  

CADDAC’s National Education Concerns in Order of Importance

  1. Lack of educator training in ADHD
  2. Equitable support for all students with ADHD to be able to meet their potential   
  3. Systems of Inclusion that
    1. Remove IEPs and introduce education plans with reduced accountability
    1. Have insufficient resources to meet the needs to students with a wide variety of needs in one classroom
    1. Do not affirm that ADHD is a serious learning risk   

Written by 41-year-old Kim and shared by CADDAC in honour of National Poetry Month. Do you have a poem about your experience with ADHD? Submit it here and we’ll feature it this month!

What it is to be human
To wake up and feel alive

We process our world through our senses
But something inside us lies

With so many people around us
Our world and systems complex

We try to fit concepts, people into boxes
Trying to define the mess

By carving people into sculptures
We shave off the rest

To shove aside, oppress and hide
Similarity is the best?

What a loss we all experience
When all we want is same

The jewels and shine of humanity
Float to the ground and become shame

Until the frozen people
Are so sick and tired of the cold

They break through the harness
To speak their mind and be bold

We are all variations of humanity
Beautiful, strong and unique

We are diverse in our human attributes
We honor each other when we meet

When we meet at the point of connectedness
When something inside us that lies

The human spirit is boundless
Variation is what makes us fly

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