School & ADHD

See the 1 day workshop recording for more information

Youth and young adults with attention deficit disorder often have problems in school and university.  Inattention, distractibility, impulsiveness, hyperactivity and disorganization make it difficult to achieve individual potential.  ADHD people usually experience problems with meeting deadlines, unfinished or forgotten assignments, careless errors, and problems writing exams due to lack of time or distractions.  Simple accommodations, teaching style, and teacher fit can lead to vast overall improvements in learning and grade point.

Unfortunately, a diagnosis of ADHD alone does not guarantee an individual education plan (IEP), which is the formal documentation to guide and allow the use of accommodations.  Parent advocacy is sometimes necessary to assist the child, and can be more successful if psycho-educational testing has been done that documents learning disorders, strengths, and challenges.  Often ADHD youth also have learning disabilities.  To receive accommodations in high school and university, there usually has to be a history of prior successful use of accommodations.

All youth in BC have the right to write exams in a quiet environment and to have time and a half for exam completion.

For teacher suggested accommodations see:

ADAPT by Harvey C. Parker, PHD at this link or


Elementary School

Primary Grades : This is the time for many firsts, and is the time that our ADHD children often experience the first hurdle they need to jump.  Expectations are around learning to socialize with new children, following directions and routines, regulating their behaviour to be able to focus … They have a hard time regulating their behaviour, staying on task, being able to sit longer than they are capable, being able to control impulsivity with waiting turns, staying organized and being able to comprehend what is being taught.

Intermediate Grades : Expectations rise greatly for our youth in Grade 4 through 7, and the ADHD population can be anywhere between two years below in developmental maturity.  Often parents describe their children as being two years below expectations for behaviour, but for interests, being 2 years ahead.  This makes it difficult at times for peer socialization let alone the increased academic hurdles.  Often in the primary years, behaviour and quirkiness are forgiven by their peers; but by intermediate years more peer judgement comes in to play.  Academically, youth often describe having so many ideas but not being able to relay them in a coherent fashion.  Teachers begin to ask more of the students, especially in Grade 6 & 7, to try prepare the population for middle school or high school.  Often the youth are still struggling with skills development around advocacy for self, staying organized, and monitoring behaviour.  They still need more assistance until the skills acquisition takes place, especially around organization.

High School

High School can often be the hardest time for the youth academically, but can be a relief socially.  Teacher fit is still important, but most youth can manage with a poor fit, as they only see that teacher every second day for a short period.  Parents often have difficulty through this transition as the school system is geared for the pupil to take responsibility.  The students themselves though, usually feel the pressure by the time of first report cards, as taking full responsibility is usually very difficult.  An IEP (Individual education Plan) is very important for student success. Having a skills block, a quiet place to write exams, time and a half or more if necessary (depending on individual profile), note taking or computer access, are just a few examples of accommodations.  Parents should email all of their youth’s teachers by the end of September explaining some of the assistance their youth still needs.  Use of the counsellor is also very important at this time.  At the same time, the youth wants to be independent and can struggle with too much parental interference, especially if their decision has not been incorporated into the plan.  Communication is key when dealing with teens and young adults.

University or Higher Education

The one main point is to be careful in the choice of universities, colleges, or technical schools.  The size of the institution is very critical as large universities do not usually have an undergraduate focus, and the ADHD person needs smaller classes and hands on instruction.  Often the larger institutions have little support in the way of 1:1 access with the professors or even the tutorial assistants.  The smaller universities have usually segmented themselves in the market place as accommodating undergraduate students.  It is actually easier to get supported at universities than it is at high schools.  Receiving extended deadlines, getting notes, having student support, is built in to assist with young adults that need the assistance.  There must usually be an updated psycho-educational assessment in either Grade 10 to grade 12, or a Dr.’s letter confirming diagnosis, to get assistance.  Again, depending on the individual’s profile, will depend on what type of accommodation they receive.

Often our ADHD children that have been very successful in high-school, have a very difficult time in first year university.  Not only do they have to juggle increased academia, but now have to make new friends, feed themselves, do laundry, and monitor a balance between play and work.  Many of the young adults for the first time face overindulgence that can lead to anxiety, depression, and addictions.  Education of the young adults is very important, as our untreated (un-medicated) youth are susceptible to addictions by approximately 3 times the rate than the normal population.

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Phone: 604 889-6578

#370 2025 West 42nd Ave
Vancouver, BC V6M 2B5

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