New BC Education Ministry Special Education Guidelines Will Recognize ADHD under the Learning Disorder Category

A new Huffington Post article is talking about changes coming to the BC Special Education Guidelines that will allow students with ADHD, who present learning needs, to be identified under the learning disability (LD) category. This may not seem like a huge change, but parents of children with ADHD in BC and CADDAC have long been advocating for this change. In fact, CADDAC has been advocating for this change to occur in Ontario since our inception in 2005.

What does this change mean and why did it come about?

In the past system, students with ADHD in BC, who were struggling at school, were denied recognition as exception students (learners) because ADHD was not listed under a category. This recognition allows students access to special education resources and an Individual Education Plan (IEP). By placing ADHD under the LD category the Ministry of Education in BC has acknowledged recent changes in the DSM 5 (the document that defines mental health and neurological disorders) which now categorizes ADHD as a neurodevelopmental disorder, rather than a behaviour disorder. Learning disabilities have long been recognized as neurodevelopmental disorders.  Although ADHD is not an actual learning disability it can significantly impair learning even without an LD being present.

Unfortunately, CADDAC continues to receive countless calls from parents in Ontario frustrated that their children are still being barred from being recognized as exceptional learners, many also being denied an IEP. Although a 2011 Ontario Ministry Memorandum states that a student with ADHD presenting learning needs should not be barred from being recognized as an exceptional learner, this is still routinely occurring.

You see, school boards are entitled to set the bar of learning impairment (how impaired a student must be to be recognized as an exceptional learner) wherever they like. There is no requirement for school boards to document this, so decisions are often quite arbitrary and difficult for parents to challenge. This is resulting in little consistency across boards or even within the same school board. Even though the Ministry’s 2011 memorandum exists, we continue to receive calls from parents who are told that their board does not recognize students with ADHD, period. The latest parent I spoke with, who also happened to be a teacher, just told me that their principal was totally unaware of the memorandum and when it was brought to their attention was sure that it must be out dated.

So here is my “ask” of you. If your child with ADHD is struggling at school and continues to be denied an IEP or recognition as an exceptional student in the Ontario School System and you would like to share your story with us to further advocacy efforts in Ontario, please contact

Access the article HERE

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