One of the main concerns of the Centre for ADHD/ADD Advocacy Canada (CADDAC) and Heidi Bernhardt, their National Director, involves the treatment of children with ADHD in schools. In all provinces across Canada except Alberta, ADHD is not considered a learning disability, and therefore no special accommodations can be provided for students struggling with it unless the case is extreme.
These accommodations include extra time for assignments and exams, repeating and rewording information, frequent breaks, homework tracking, buddy systems, a quiet classroom setting, and strategic desk placement, among many others that can significantly improve the academic experience for a child with ADHD. A comprehensive list of ADHD schools can be found here (this includes ADHD schools in Toronto, Ontario, Quebec, and the US). CADDAC and Bernhardt are currently in talks with the Ontario government to address this issue.
But now, many families turn to private schools across Canada to help their kids succeed academically. With the ability to construct their own curriculum and develop unique teaching methods, many schools are able to build a child’s education around their specific needs.
Timothy Moore, the head of Landmark East School in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, knows that his students (between gr. 6-12) have mainly come for one reason – they simply weren’t succeeding in traditional school structures. But Landmark East’s specialization in educating those with ADHD and other learning disabilities has routinely brought out the best in their skills, studying strategies and self-confidence. Ninety percent of their graduates go off to post-secondary education.
Landmark East places emphasis on organization and consistency to create a productive environment for their students. Moore says that the in-depth research, brainstorming, and long-term assignments that are so common in high school are especially difficult for students with ADHD, and Landmark East takes special steps in breaking these down to make it easier for students to tackle them.
Homework and individual subject binders let students and teachers keep track of assignments visually, small class sizes let teachers individualize their lessons, and consistent teaching methods let students develop positive studying habits and social behaviours. And of course, being in a community with teens with similar challenges helps a student realize they are not alone and highly increases their confidence.
Wildwood Academy, a special needs school, in Oakville, Ontario has seen impressive growth in its elementary-aged students in grades 2-8. Like Landmark East, most students come through its doors to seek the direct instruction that is scientifically proven to close the academic gaps found in the public school system. Michelle Quick, one of Wildwood’s directors, says most students only stay for about two years, and that’s a very good thing.
The specialized curriculum at Wildwood breaks down subjects like math, writing, and spelling for its students and places them in classes according to subject, not age or grade. This not also helps students learn, but it avoids the stigma and embarrassment that comes from needing extra help in a subject.
The teachers keep the students actively engaged in learning throughout the entire day so much that some students return home exhausted just from focusing on the lessons and learning to think critically. Quick says it is this teaching method, in cooperation with a unique rewards system to encourage good behaviour, that allows some students to gain two years of learning in half the time.
The characteristics of all Canadian private schools, such as small class sizes, tight-knit communities, and close student-teacher relationships, allow any child to receive an individualized education. But students facing the additional challenges brought about by ADHD and other learning disabilities can find the attention they’re looking for at specialized schools like Wildwood or Landmark East to build essential work and social habits to prepare them for a long and successful career.