Firstly, I would like to thank everyone who has sent an e-mail or tweet to their elected official through CADDAC’s online advocacy campaign. To-date, 178 e-mails have been sent through our Ontario campaign and 289 through our national campaign as well as countless tweets. More are being added every day. A special thanks to those of you who have taken the extra time to share your personal thoughts and stories in the e-mails to your elected officials. It is these personalized e-mails that touch politicians the most. 

I would also like to encourage those of you who have not yet contacted your elected official and Minister of Education through this quick and easy tool, to please do so.  Since CADDAC has a newsletter following of over six thousand, we sincerely hope to see many more e-mails sent.

I would also like to encourage all of you to share this information with your contact lists. Please access E-mail text to share, which will provide you with an e-mail to send to your friends, family and colleagues. Until those in a decision-making position, understand that their constituents actually do care about students with ADHD, things will remain the same. 

At the launch of this campaign CADDAC reached out to every Ministry of Education across Canada except for Quebec. CADDAC is in the process of hiring a bilingual employee and is searching for Quebec partners to assist us in advocacy efforts in that province.    

To-date six of the twelve ministries contacted have replied to our e-mail, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, North West Territories, Yukon, Saskatchewan, and Ontario. Of these all six have agreed to meet. We have already met with representatives of the Ministry of Nova Scotia and have meetings booked with the Ministries of North West Territories, Manitoba, Saskatchewan. We are waiting for the meeting times to be set for Ontario and Yukon.

During our calls we expect to discuss ways in which Ministries can improve teacher training in ADHD, ensure that students with ADHD are receiving the resources they require and increase ADHD information on ministry web sites and other platforms to ensure that ADHD is recognized as a serious learning risk. In addition, during these calls we are gathering information on the unique process each province uses to flag students with special needs, when and how they develop individual learning plans for these students and how students with ADHD fare in their process. We are also asking about the role of parents in developing individual education plans.

Due to a media release sent out on January the 21st four media interviews occurred. Interviews with Global News Radio 900 CHML Hamilton, CBC Vancouver, CHEK News Victoria, and a free lance journalist in Alberta resulted in news stories and a live news radio interview.   

When our Ministry meetings are completed CADDAC will send out another media release summarizing the meetings and comparing provincial supports for students with ADHD.

CADDAC has also sent out a request to ADHD medical professionals and ADHD support groups across Canada asking that they share the ADHD Right to Learn campaign information far and wide.    

Please take a few minutes to help us advocate for students with ADHD across Canada by sending an e-mail or tweet to your elected official and passing on the ADHD Right to Learn campaign information.      

Warm regards,

Heidi Bernhardt

CADDAC Founder and Director or Education and Advocacy

Have you heard about CADDAC’s ADHD Education campaign, ADHD Right to Learn?

Are you wondering why you should take a few minutes to contact your elected official and your Minister of Education?

Here’s Why

Elected officials believe that you, their constituents, do not care about ADHD and therefore question why they should care. We need to prove them wrong!

An e-mail or tweet from you will let them know that you do care that children with ADHD receive the special education support they need. 

Your elected officials and your Ministry of Education need to be informed that:

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!

What You Need to Know

Autism disorder commonly coexists with ADHD with 20-50% of children with ADHD meeting the diagnostic criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder, (ASD). Even when symptom levels do not meet the criteria for a diagnosis of Autism, we often see common symptoms of Autism present in children with ADHD. ADHD on the other hand is the most common coexisting disorder in children with Autism, 30-80% of ASD children meet the criteria for ADHD.

Research on this significant co-existence led the American Academy of Psychiatrists to revise their guidelines. Prior to 2013 physicians were not allowed to diagnose both disorders in the same child, however the new DSM 5 guidelines now allow for the dual diagnose ADHD and Autism.

More Facts:

Current Research

Some researchers have been pondering whether these two disorders might possibly be the same disorder with different presentations, but research to-date has been inconclusive. Genetic studies show some similarities, but brain imaging indicates both differences and similarities. Researchers are also questioning whether similar appearing impairments seen in the two disorders, such as attention dysregulation, may actually be caused for two different reasons.

At the same time, other researchers are pondering if we should be looking at a different way to think about mental and neurological disorders altogether. Rather then looking at the disorders through their diagnostic labels, we should be conducting joint studies looking at ways to categorize under common traits. An example is a study by the POND Network in Ontario, which looked at the inability of study participants with Autism, ADHD and OCD to read other people’s emotions by looking at their eyes. This has generally been thought to be an Autism trait, but researchers found the same inability in participants with ADHD. Therefore, children with ADHD would also struggle with impaired social functioning. Knowing this would greatly assist in initiating appropriate supports.

Why Should Parents of Children with ADHD Know About Autism?

One of the most important things we need to understand as parents of children with ADHD is our child’s unique profile. When we understand their individual set of strengths and impairments, rather than just a generalized list of ADHD symptoms, we can put appropriate supports and accommodations in place and make knowledgeable decisions about appropriate treatments. With the overlap of these two disorders many children with ADHD will also present with traits seen in Autism, even when they do not meet diagnostic criteria. Only after my grandson was diagnosed with dual ADHD and Autism, did I delve into the world of Autism literature more deeply. I was surprised how much this also assisted me in understanding some of those “more unique” traits of two of my three sons with ADHD.

ADHD, Autism and Schools

Another reason to understand the interplay of these two disorders is for the purpose of school advocacy. Although many of the learning and self-regulation impairments that students with ADHD experience are very similar to those of students with Autism, ADHD is not included in the categories of exceptionality in Ontario, British Columbia or Quebec. Ministries of Education use these categories to define students with special learning needs and approve additional resources. Therefore, students with ADHD although also impaired do not qualify due to their specific diagnosis. In a past blog post CADDAC summarized a recent Ontario Human Right Commission’s paper addressing this issue.

The situation has become so bad that physicians report parents coming to them asking for a diagnosis of Autism rather than ADHD because they know that this will get their child access to learning resources that these kids desperately need. Of course, this is not a discretionary choice on a physician’s part, but how sad that it has come to this.

Perhaps we all need to do a better job of educating our elected officials and Ministries of Education on the research and how greatly these two disorders actually overlap.

For more information please access these resources

Dear Mister MacLeod,

I am reaching out to you through this e-mail on behalf of the Centre for ADHD Awareness, Canada, or CADDAC.  We represent countless Ontario families that we hear from daily, who struggle with the lack of recognition of ADHD and therefore services for this disability in Ontario. We applaud your Ministry for allowing families of children with other disabilities to also be heard. 

Did you know that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, was clinically observed more than 100 years ago, is a lifelong disorder and a significant risk to health, learning and employment. ADHD is the most common neurodevelopmental disorder occurring in children, with incident rates exceeding Autism and learning disabilities. But, children with ADHD who receive the proper treatment and support can grow into success contributing members of our Ontario society. 

Untreated, or inadequately supported, ADHD leads to increased school dropout, increased unemployment and social services, increased physical and mental health issues including addiction and substance abuse and increased involvement with the justice system. ADHD incident rates in our correction systems are 5 fold for adults with ADHD and 10 fold for youth with ADHD. One third of Canadian inmates have ADHD despite the fact that we know that treating the disorder greatly reduces recidivism.

Although multimodal treatment for ADHD is recommended, all types of treatment, other than medication, including cognitive behaviour therapy and childhood behaviour therapy, are not covered by Ontario provincial health care. 

Although many of the learning and self-regulation impairments that students with ADHD experience are very similar to those of students with Autism, ADHD is not included in any of the Ontario special education categories of exceptionality. This has resulted in many school boards using this as an excuse to not IPRC students with ADHD leading to inadequate resources for students with ADHD. One of our major asks of the Ontario government's Ministry of Education is that ADHD be included in the categories of exceptionality. Since learning disabilities, Austism and ADHD are all neurodevelopmental disorders that impair learning, so it would only make sense to group these disorders together in one category. 

Similar to students with Autism many students with ADHD are also being excluded from a full day of education in our Ontario school boards.

We very much want to be included in any stakeholder consultation on this issue that is being initiated by your government. 

We would very much like to meet with you to discuss these issues and the continued inequity of access of education and health resources faced by children and adults with ADHD in Ontario.

I look forward to hearing from you regarding possible meeting dates.


Heidi Bernhardt

President / Executive Director CADDAC

Take advantage of this unique opportunity to have your voice heard by the Ontario Government on ADHD issues that affect your family. Minister Lisa McLeod, the Ontario Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, recently informed the public that the Ontario Government is open to also hearing from families of children with other disabilities through the Autism Consultation process. ADHD has been listed as one of the diagnoses. In the month of May 2019, the Ontario Government is providing three ways for you to participate in this consultation process.

You can register to participate in one of three Town Halls, (access the link for dates and instructions) where you can participate live during a phone call. They are asking that you restrict your comments to 30 seconds. They are only allowing one hour for these town halls and warn that they may not have enough time to hear everyone in the queue. Staff from the Ministries of Children, Community and Social Services, Education and Health and Long-Term Care will be listening in during the sessions.

Another option is participation in a 20 minute online survey.   

The third option is to write to them through


Or mail:
Ontario Autism Consultations
Ministry of Children Community and Social Services
Communications Branch
7th Floor, 438 University Avenue
Toronto, Ontario, M7A 1N3

The deadline for a mailed submission to be posted and to participate in the survey is May 31, 2019.

Although I was well aware of the OHRC’s new policy I watched both training session videos from start to finish. I strongly recommend that anyone interested in the issue of accessible education in Ontario for students with ADHD, or any other disability, view these videos. They take a total of 85 minutes to watch. Cherie Robertson, OHRC Senior Policy Analyst and the author of the paper, does a great job of explaining the points covered in the paper. She also answers questions from the audience. ADHD is specifically discussed two separate times during the presentation.

These are my important take always from the presentations:

  1. A disability is an expected variant in the human condition not an anomaly to normalcy.
  2. The process that the education provider goes through to explore accommodation options is as important as the accommodations themselves. The request for accommodations cannot be refused without an extensive process to look at possible accommodations before accommodations can be denied. The process must be documented.
  3. Educators must accept requests for accommodations in good faith unless they have a legitimate reason to doubt the request.
  4. The education provider is entitled to ask for medical documentation to substantiate the need, but the documentation should not be used as a way to question or second guess the need. Asking for a diagnosis is not acceptable.
  5. Requests for retroactive accommodations should be accepted in good faith. To refuse will put the education provider in violation of the code. The request by the student should be done as soon as possible and medical documentation needs to be provided, but the institution must consider the request. In some cases the request may be impossible to meet due to the length of time that has passed (the course may no longer be available), but all possibilities must be explored.
  6. Institutions are required to cover the cost of the documentation that they are demanding.
  7. If documentation takes time to obtain accommodations must be implemented while waiting for the testing and/or documentation.
  8. A school cannot jump to the conclusion that a request for a certain accommodation will impair academic integrity. An entire process of reviewing options and academic integrity must be undertaken. An array of possible evaluation accommodations must be reviewed.
  9. Before a student’s behaviour is sanctioned the education provider has a duty to inquire about a disability, or if aware of a disability must consider if the actions of the student were caused by the disability. They must evaluate whether accommodations for the disability have been put in place, if they were put in place in a timely manner, and if they are sufficient. In other words, is the behaviour due to the duty to accommodate not being met?
  10. If the education provider cites health and safety risks as a reason for exclusion of the student, such a risk must be clearly demonstrated and not just anticipated. Also, accommodations must be reviewed. Are they in place and implemented? Are they effective and were they put in place in a timely manner?
  11. The Commission is aware that schools are excluding students (asking them not to attend school) rather than going through a formal process of suspension or expulsion. Under the Safe Schools Act, the principal has the power to exclude, however it was stressed that a rigorous process of evaluation of accommodation must occur. The education provider must inquire if the student’s needs have been met to the level of undue hardship which is very difficult to reach. They must also look at what is triggering the behaviour.
  12. It is the education providers’ duty to be proactive and learn about the OHR’s code. They cannot claim ignorance.
  13. The OHR’s Code prevails over the Education Act when they are in conflict. The example of, “Categories of Exceptionalities”, were used to drive this point home. It was stated that the Commission views the categories as being under-inclusive. Under the OHR’s code any student with a disability, whether listed in a category or not, has the right to accommodation.

The videos can be accessed on YouTube:

The paper can be accessed:


I read the Toronto Star article, Group worries kids with other disabilities forgotten amid autism crisis with much interest and I must say also some frustration. The below information was sent to

I wholeheartedly agree that many children with disabilities are being left out of this discussion while at the same time I applaud the parents of children with Autism for making their voices heard. We are still working at getting more parents of children with ADHD to speak out about the continued lack of recognition ADHD received in Ontario schools. Thankfully we now have some parents who are willing to speak out, but many parents unfortunately are still affected by the myths, stigma and judgment that surrounds ADHD. Hence out latest ADHD Speaks Campaign

The issues that are front and centre in the media at this time are some of the issues that we have also been discussing with Ontario Ministries of Education for almost two decades.  Similar to students with Autism many students with ADHD are being excluded from a full day of education in our Ontario school boards. ADHD is the most common neurodevelopmental disorder seen in children world wide, with incident rates at least double or triple that of Autism. And while some students with Autism can be severely impaired, students with a severe case of ADHD are more impaired than a student with mild Autism. The two disorders also frequently co-occur in the same child.

Although many of the learning and self-regulation impairments that students with ADHD experience are very similar to those of students with Autism, ADHD is not included in any of categories of exceptionality that the Ontario Ministry of Education uses to categorize stud nest with special leaning needs. This has resulted in many school boards using this as an excuse to not IPRC students with ADHD leading to inadequate resources for students with ADHD. The situation is so bad that physicians report that parents are coming to them asking for a diagnosis of Autism rather than ADHD, because they know that this will get their child access to some learning resources.that these kids desperately need. Of course this is not a discretionary choice on a physician's part, but how sad that it has come to this.

One of our major asks of the Ontario government's Ministry of Education is that ADHD be included in the categories of exceptionality. Since learning disabilities, Autism and ADHD are all neurodevelopmental disorders that impair learning, it would only make sense to group these disorders together in one category.

While on The Agenda, prior to the election, this was a promise made by Christine Elliott. Please access this link to view the interview, This segment followed an interview on the Agenda with CADDAC.

In addition, because ADHD is not included in a category of exceptionally many teachers do not view ADHD as a serious learning risk, when we have abundant research that clearly indicates that it is. We see 8-10% lower scores in literacy and numeracy for these students and far higher drop out rates, even though most are smart enough to go on to post-secondary education. Educators are also not receiving adequate training on classroom teaching strategies and accommodations that are beneficial to all students but essential to those with ADHD.

We have released several policy papers on ADHD and education over the years. Here is or latest paper,

Join the discussion about this post on our Facebook page , or become involved in our ADHD Speaks Campaign.

Heidi Bernhardt





I read the Globe and Mail articles on Educating Grayson and Advocates for students with disabilities call on Ontario to stop school exclusions with great interest. CBC's "Metro Morning" also hosted an interview with a mother of a student with Autistism who had been excluded and the reply by a school principal.

The families that we represent have been contacting us for the many years to express their frustration and anxiety over this very issue. Many students with neurodevelopmental and mental health disorders, including ADHD the most prevalent, who express their symptoms and impairments in ways that schools find challenging (usually what is labelled as behavioural) are being asked to attend school for less hours than their peers. Students with ADHD in Ontario have the additional challenge of not even being officially recognized as students with a disability and exceptional needs, unlike students with Autism, although many of the impairments are very similar.

Understandably students with these exceptional needs can be a challenge for schools, but it is often made more challenging by a lack of understanding about the disorders, lack of educator training on how to work with these children, lack of support, resources and unfortunately sometimes also the false belief that the behaviour of these students is a choice, rather than a result of a disability. What I and many parents have found makes the greatest difference are educators, teachers and principals, who "get it". In other words, have training and insight, work with the families to figure out strategies and accommodations, and try to understand the student and their special needs, rather than being judgmental and punitive.

Many years ago when the Ministry of Education and the boards began speaking about inclusion and integrating children with exceptional needs into main stream classrooms, an advocate that we worked with, cautioned that inclusion without additional resources and support for educators and students alike was just a form of dumping students into the main stream - a recipe for disaster. For the past several years we have been seeing the result of this very process.

Over the many years that I have been working in this field I have seen many reports by Ministries and school boards on "education and learning for all". When asked for my opinion, my comment would be that it was a very pretty document often backed by good intentions, but without the implementation of more education and training for educators coupled with more resources and support it is just a pipe dream.

Similar comments have been sent to both Metro Morning and the Globe and Mail.

Heidi Bernhardt

In February of 2017 I called the Ontario Human Right Commission asking for an up-date on ADHD in the Ontario school system and spoke with Ms. Cherie Robertson, Senior Policy Analyst Policy, Education, Monitoring & Outreach Ontario Human Rights Commission. This was followed up with an e-mail requesting that the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) put in writing that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a disability within the meaning of the Ontario Human Rights Code (Code). In the e-mail and discussion I outlined our concerns that students and their families are encountering barriers in the education system and are being told that students with ADHD-related needs are not entitled to education resources or accommodations, since ADHD is not included in the Ministry of Education’s “special education” categories.

At that time, Ms. Robertson assured me that ADHD was indeed a disability under the Code, and advised that she would be in touch with more information once the OHRC had completed its update of the Guidelines on Accessible Education, 2004 policy publication.

Ms. Robertson did indeed follow-up with me last week to inform me that a draft of the OHRC’s Policy on Accessible Education for Students with Disabilities has now been approved and is scheduled for a fall release.

Ms. Robertson also shared some excerpts from the Policy that she thought would be of interest to CADDAC, which she gave me permission to share with you.

Some of the up-dates that directly address ADHD in Ontario schools are below exactly as seen in the guidelines including examples, notes and citations.

Section 2.2 of the Policy states:

It is important to note that, while the Ministry of Education has devised its own framework for identifying “exceptional pupils,” it is the Ontario Human Rights Code and human rights case law that establishes that education providers have a legal duty to accommodate the disability-related needs of students to the point of undue hardship. This legal duty exists whether or not a student with a disability falls within the Ministry’s definition of “exceptional pupil,”[1] and whether or not the student has gone through a formal IPRC process, or has an IEP.

Example: The OHRC has heard concerns from parents and advocacy organizations that some Ministry of Education documents fail to specifically name ADHD as an “exceptionality” and that, as a result, some education providers are failing to provide accommodation for this condition.[2] The definition of disability in the Code, and as interpreted in human rights case law, is broader than the Ministry of Education exceptionality categories. For example, human rights jurisprudence has explicitly recognized ADHD as a disability requiring accommodation under the Code.[3]

It is important to note that the Code has primacy over other legislation, including the Education Act. [4] This means that where there is an inconsistency between the Code and the Education Act, the Code will prevail.[5] And, in one case, the HRTO found that the Ministry of Education could be potentially liable for discrimination where its definition of exceptionalities prevented or delayed a student from receiving required accommodations.[6]

Section 8 of the Policy states,

Under the Code, education providers have a legal duty to accommodate the needs of students with disabilities who are adversely affected by a requirement, rule or standard.[7] Accommodation is necessary to address barriers in education that would otherwise prevent students with disabilities from having equal opportunities, access and benefits.

Ms. Robertson also shared that the policy includes other examples that reference situations where students with ADHD have accommodation needs in education. She stated that she hoped that these statements and the accompanying examples help to address the issues that I had raised with her and that they help to make clear to education providers what the OHRC’s position is in this regard.

Once the Policy is released to the public in the fall Ms. Robertson promised to send a copy to CADDAC.

While these guidelines are only one more step in the right direction to making sure that students with ADHD receive the education resources they deserve, it is another step forward  in a long journey.

Heidi Bernhardt

[1] In D.S. v. London District Catholic School Board, 2012 HRTO 786 (CanLII) [D.S.], the HRTO stated at para. 62: “[T]he issue of whether or not a child is an ‘exceptional student’ as that term is defined under the Education Act is not co-extensive with the issue of whether that child has a ‘disability’ within the meaning of the Code even where that child’s disability requires accommodation under the Code. To take a simple example, a child with a mobility impairment may not require placement in a special education program, but may nonetheless require accommodation to access school services. Similarly, a child who is gifted and thereby may be designated as an ‘exceptional student’ under the Education Act and require a special education program is not likely to be regarded as having a ‘disability’ under the Code.”

[2] Note that the approach of the Ministry, school boards and school staff is inconsistent. For example, while parents and students are frequently having to fight with front-line educators and school administration to have ADHD recognized and accommodated, the Ministry itself issued a memorandum to school boards, dated December 19, 2011, which states that the explicit inclusion of medical conditions (i.e. autism) in the categories of exceptionalities is not intended to exclude other medical conditions, specifically mentioning ADHD. The Ministry further states that the determining factor for the provision of special education programs is the needs of a student, and not a diagnosed/undiagnosed medical condition:

Inclusion of some medical conditions (e.g. autism) in the Guide's definitions of the five categories of exceptionalities is not intended to exclude any other medical condition that may result in learning difficulties, such as (but not limited to) Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD), Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Tourette Syndrome, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Fibromyalgia Syndrome.

For example, a student with ADD/ADHD may present learning needs in many ways in the school setting and the student may be identified as exceptional within one or more of the categories of exceptionalities (including, Behaviour, Communication, Intellectual, Physical and/or Multiple) depending on the presentation, and the degree of the impact that ADD/ADHD has on that student's learning.

See: Ministry of Education, “Categories of Exceptionalities,” Memorandum to Directors of Education, et al, December 19, 2011; available online: (date retrieved March 7, 2018).

[3] See, for example, Gaisiner v Method Integration Inc, 2014 HRTO 1718 (CanLII) [Gaisiner]; Cohen v Law School Admission Council, 2014 HRTO 537 (CanLII) [Cohen]; D.S., supra note 23; Binkley v Blue Mountain Resorts, 2010 HRTO 1997 (CanLII); Kelly v UBC (No 3), 2012 BCHRT 32 (CanLII) [Kelly], upheld on merits on judicial review in University of British Columbia v. Kelly, 2016 BCCA 271 (CanLII); Ryan v Sprott Shaw Community College, 2018 BCHRT 30 (CanLII); Dewart v Calgary Board of Education, 2004 AHRC 8 (CanLII); A and B obo Infant A v School District C (No. 5), 2018 BCHRT 25 (CanLII). See also: C.M. v. Toronto District School Board, 2012 HRTO 1853 (CanLII) [C.M.]; L.B. v Toronto District School Board2015 HRTO 1622 (CanLII) [L.B.], reconsideration refused 2016 HRTO 336 (CanLII); C.T. v Greater Essex County District School Board, 2017 HRTO 665 (CanLII); R.B. v Keewatin-Patricia District School Board, 2013 HRTO 1436 (CanLII).

[4] Section 47(2) of the Code.

[5] As was stated by the HRTO in L.B., supra note 25, at para. 98, “Since the Code has primacy over all other legislation in the Province, it is expected and must be assumed that school boards implement the Education Act in accordance with their Code obligations.” See also: Torrejon v. 114735 Ontario, 2010 HRTO 934 (CanLII), upheld on judicial review in 1147335 Ontario Inc., o/a Weston Property Management v. Torrejon, 2012 ONSC 1978 (CanLII).

[6] Davidson v Lambton Kent District School Board2008 HRTO 294 (CanLII), at paras 33–38.

[7] See section 17 of the Code, supra note 2. Requirements under the CRPD also provide that States Parties, including Canada, must take steps to make sure that people with disabilities are provided with accommodation (for example, to ensure equal access to education): see CRPD, supra note 7 at Article 13(1), Article 24(2)(c), and Article 27(1)(i), respectively. “Reasonable accommodation” is covered under Article 5 generally.

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