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Written by Heidi Bernhardt R.N.

Click here to download the blog in PDF format.

What exactly is this new “quadmester” system?

Instead of two semesters there will be four semesters in this 2020/2021 school year in Ontario. Two subjects will be taken per semester with each semester lasting approximately ten weeks. Students may choose in school learning or remote learning before each quadmester. If students choose in- class learning versus complete remote learning, they will be in school for approximately 2.5 hours per day, two days out of five one week and three out of five the next week. After their in-class sessions they will be expected to complete their day learning online. The days of the week that they are not in school will be spent in online learning.     

How might these changes impact our students with ADHD?

There may be a slight benefit for students with ADHD in this quadmester system because they will only need to focus on two courses at a time, rather than four. This means less juggling of multiple assignments, which is a challenge for many students with ADHD and executive functioning impairments. A more concentrated learning schedule will require a faster moving curriculum which depending on the student may be a benefit or drawback. Some students will find it difficult to keep pace requiring additional time to process and integrate new concepts. Others with ADHD who find classes too slow and boring may actually do better when classes move at a quicker pace. However, this faster pace will mean that if a student misses a day or two due to illness, they will most likely become overwhelmed fearing that they will never be able to catch up.

For most students with ADHD the expectation that they sit and listen to lecture style teaching for extended periods of time with minimal breaks will cause a problem. In addition, many of our students need to move frequently which will undoubtedly be even more restricted than usual. This will further reduce their attentional capabilities and may lead to more shifting of position, tapping, squirming etc., causing them to be unintentionally more disruptive. Also, the new schedule of moving from in-class learning to online learning at the end of the day and through the week will be difficult for students with ADHD. Consistency of routine is a necessity for those with ADHD.

Tips for students with ADHD and their parents on navigating this new quadmester system.

Written by Heidi Bernhardt R.N.

Click here to download the blog in PDF format.

All students returning to school this fall will be forced to navigate a new reality, but students struggling with ADHD and other neurodevelopmental disabilities will be exceptionally challenged. The skills that ADHD impairs such as the regulation of attention, activity, impulse, behaviour and emotion, as well as executive function are the very skills that will be challenged in this new environment.

Schools will be expecting children with self regulation and impulsivity issues, as well as impaired skills in remembering routines, planning, organization, and social interaction to follow complex instructions on what they should and should not do. Those in higher grades will also be expected to understand and follow new and varied schedules and conquer online learning with what looks like few additional resources. This new and confusing environment along with the added load on these students’ impaired skills will cause them increased stress resulting in more behavioural and academic issues.   

Anticipating this, parents are concerned. In some provinces they are being asked to make a decision about their child’s return to school with limited information. Parents want to know if their child will be provided additional support to ensure their safety. They wonder if their child will be offered additional understanding for their impairments, or be reprimanded, consequenced and ultimately excluded from their classrooms when their impairments prove too great? Of course, they hope for the latter, but some parents who have already experienced their school’s lack of understanding of ADHD impairments along with insufficient supports are rightly concerned. Their concern is so great that some parents are choosing to keep their children home. Some without the resources to do so, or others knowing that their child requires the routine and social interaction only school can provide, are opting to send their children and adolescents into the unknown.

What can parents do to help mitigate this unknown?

  1. Contact your child’s principal as soon as possible (all correspondence should be written in hard copy or sent by e-mail) to ask questions.
    • What will be your child’s support level when returning to school? Can you expect additional resources?
    • Will their environment change from what they are used to, and how?
    • Will the schedule to which they have become accustomed be altered and will it remain consistent after being altered?
    • Will your child’s IEPs and/or behavioural plan be expanded to cover these unique circumstances?
    • Will you be allowed to meet with the school to offer suggested strategies and supports – work with the school to expand the IEP or behaviour plan? 
    • How will you and the school routinely share feedback on your child’s well being and issues that arise? 
    • How will the school respond if your child finds it challenging to follow the expected rules due to their ADHD or other impairments? Is exclusion (asking your child to stay home) an option the school might consider? Knowing this will allow you time to decide how you will respond if this does occur. 
    • Has your school board developed a policy to deal with these circumstances. If so, ask the principal to send you a copy?
  2. If you are not receiving answers to your questions or you are concerned about the answers, contact your board’s special education superintendent (preferable) or your area superintendent.
  3. If you are not contacted in a timely manner or do not receive appropriate answers contact your school trustee, your local provincial representative and your provincial Ministry of Education. (Simply write one brief letter and copy everyone, stating you are concerned about your child’s return to school and require written answers to your questions)
  4. Access this Template Letter for text that you can simply cut and paste into a letter to the principal, superintendent, Trustee, Ministry or any provincial representative that you wish to contact. This is a very simple letter that you can use as is, or add to, as you see fit.
  5. You have the right to be informed about the environment your child will be going back to prior to making any decisions. You also have the right to expect your child’s needs to be met, within reason, of course. For instance, no school will be able to provide a personal EA for every student.   

What you can do to assist your child transitioning into this challenging environment?

Once you have obtained the information about the environment and situation your child will be entering, take steps to prepare them as much as possible.

  1. Review how their environment will be different this year. Discuss their worries and your concerns.
  2. Review any added rules they will be expected to follow. Do they anticipate difficulties, do you?
  3. Find ways to reiterate new rules frequently, practice and role play different scenarios that you and they anticipate will be difficult.
  4. If possible, teach your child the language needed to express when they are struggling. This is challenging for many children with ADHD, but teaching them a few simple phrases like “I’m having a hard time right now.” or “I need to get up and move.” can alert school staff that immediate intervention is required so a melt down does not occur.
  5. If you child has sensitivities or is anxious about wearing a mask, or seeing others in masks, have them practice wearing a mask and/or seeing family members in masks.

Prepare the school

Meet with the school to:

  1. Inform them of any issues that you expect may arise and strategies that you have developed with your child; 
  2. Inform them of triggers that increase your child’s stress and any tells (visual cues) that your child’s anxiety is escalating; 
  3. Inform them about your child’s language strategy (above). Stress that the staff will need to pick up on these messages consistently and act quickly for this strategy to work;
  4. Have this accommodation and any others that you have found work added to your child’s IEP; and  
  5. Discuss acceptable interventions for staff to apply once these messages are relayed. These should be added to the IEP or behavioural plan.   

The decisions made during any meeting should be followed up with a written summary. If this does not come from the school follow up with an e-mail to the principal listing the things that were agreed to in the meeting and when you expect them to be implemented. In this e-mail propose a date for a follow-up meeting to review how the strategies are working and if they need to be revised.

CADDAC ADHD Prep FlyerClick here to Register for ADHD PREP!

CADDAC presents ADHD PREP, a 2-day program on Saturday April 25 from 9AM - 4PM and Sunday April 26 9AM - 4PM

Visit the ADHD Prep Outline for an overview of the course content.

ADHD PREP is a comprehensive 12­-hour program geared to parents of newly diagnosed children and adolescents with ADHD, and to parents wishing to upgrade their knowledge on the more complex aspects of ADHD including ADHD and learning, executive functioning and self and mood regulation.

Treatment options, parenting strategies and advocacy skills will also be covered. The program will occur over a weekend allowing parents from outside the local area to drive in for the weekend. Pricing includes workshop materials and light refreshments each morning and afternoon.

 

Don't forget to register for CADDAC's upcoming workshop on Adult ADHD, less than two weeks away!

Date: Saturday October 4th, 2014.
Location: Centennial College Culinary Arts Centre, 940 Progress Avenue, Toronto Ontario M1G 3T5.
Time: Registration and Breakfast from 8:00AM to 9:00AM. Presentations from 9:00AM to 3:30PM, followed by a Q & A Discussion session.

CADDAC is hosting a full day workshop on Understanding Adult ADHD. Presentations will be geared to adults and their families dealing with adult ADHD. This workshop will also be of interest to health professionals who wish to gain an understanding of adult ADHD and potential treatments.

The morning sessions will cover the medical science of adult ADHD, how it presents itself, how it differs from childhood ADHD, medication and psychosocial treatment options. These sessions will be followed by a unique presentation by adults with ADHD speaking about their own experiences and insights.

The afternoon will include a presentation on emotional dysregulation in adult ADHD and a presentation on ADHD in the workplace, discussing potential strategies and accommodations. An open question and answer and discussion period will follow where attendees can ask questions and share their insights.

For further details and to register please visit www.caddac.ca and select Events followed by Full Day Workshop on ADHD in Adults.

Featured presenters include:

Dr. Flood, is a graduate of McGill University and the University of Manitoba. She is a family physician with a focused practice in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Shoniker Clinic. She has considerable experience working in the field of ADHD, Learning Disorders and Autism. She is a member of CADDRA and on the Advisory Board of CADDAC.

Dr. David Teplin, is an adult clinical psychologist in private practice in Richmond Hill, Ontario. His primary focus is diagnostic assessment, clinical consultation, adult ADHD, and substance use disorders. Dr. Teplin is adjunct faculty in the Doctor of Clinical Psychology program at Medaille College in Buffalo, New York, and is on the editorial review boards of several clinical journals. He is also on the Advisory Board of CADDAC.

Heidi Bernhardt RN, is the mother of three young men with ADHD. She has a background in psychiatric nursing, was the Executive Director of the (CADDRA), a national not-for-profit organization of the leading clinicians and researchers in ADHD in Canada, and a founder of CADDAC and the ADRN. Heidi is presently the President and Executive Director of the Centre for ADHD Awareness Canada (CADDAC).

What's in a Label? - Today's Parent Magazine

I strongly disagree with the recent article in Today’s parent magazine “What’s in a Label?” http://www.todaysparent.com/family/parenting/kids-health-labelling-behaviour/, which states that labeling a child with a disorder, be it ADHD, ODD, anxiety or OCD, imprisons a child and gives them the feeling of a life sentence. Liza Finlay, a psychotherapist, goes on to say that these labels allow a child to sidestep any effort to improve. My experiences are far different. From a personal family perspective as well as the perspective of someone who has spoken to thousands of families over the past twenty years, it is the lack of early diagnosis and therefore lack of treatment and access of resources that have imprisoned many children into a life of dealing with the consequences of these disorders. Left untreated, ADHD can lead to additional mental health disorders, increased rates of high school dropout, less years of education, self-medication leading to substance abuse, involvement with the justice system, as well as increased socioeconomic costs.

A psychologist who believes that the earlier mentioned disorders are nothing but behaviours, and that children can simply choose to adopt different behaviours, is an affront to decades of medical research. Does therapy combined with other treatments for these conditions prove helpful? Sometimes, but that does not mean that ADHD is simply a set of behaviours that can be unlearned.

The notion that "once a child is diagnosed with ADHD, parents stop expecting them to behave" is not only ludicrous, it is insulting. Once a diagnosis happens, parents are able to put the child’s behaviour into perspective. They are then able to focus on appropriate parenting strategies to assist that child with their behaviours and access other appropriate treatments.

I certainly agree that additionally focusing on a child’s strengths and working to increase their capacities is essential, but the best way to do this is within the understanding of a child’s overall profile. The lack of understanding of a child with ADHD can lead to all of the above mentioned consequences as well as increased childhood and family stress, family breakup, and, in extreme cases, abuse and children leaving home.

Do we need increased tolerance for those who do not fit into society’s definition of normal? Do we need to expand society’s definition of normal? The answer to both of these questions, of course, is yes. But we need to make sure that while we work on this goal, we don’t neglect the children who are labeling themselves as stupid, lazy and bad because no one has let them know why they might be finding it more difficult to succeed than their peers.

 

Heidi Bernhardt

President

www.caddac.ca

*** You can comment on the original article or click here to leave a letter for the editor. ***

In 2012, CADDAC conducted a survey of parents with ADHD children. Participants were asked to define the stress levels experienced during the school year.

More than half of the Canadian parents surveyed were not satisfied with the help their child is received at school, nor the knowledge that teachers and principals are perceived to have about ADHD.

Long wait times for comprehensive assessments and treatments, as well as difficulty accessing information about the disorder, were also flagged to be of significant concern. The full survey can be viewed here:

http://bit.ly/1oQtZWO

Dr. Kenny Handleman talks exclusively with CADDAC about turning stress into a comprehensive action plan. With school almost out for summer, there is plenty of time to make sure the next year is a smooth one!

 

 

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