Advocating in Education K-12
We consider it our mission to advocate for equitable access for students with ADHD in the k-12 system, however that may look for each family. We will do so until outdated policies are changed to reflect the true needs of those with ADHD. Until then, we will offer up
our knowledge of the system in its current state. When we see policy changes
made, we will amend the information in this document.
BC children and youth have rights in
the K-12 education system. These are
outlined in the BC School Act, Orders
In Council, Ministerial Orders, and policy.
Important Government links
Links from Family Support Institute & BCEdAccess, learn more about:
The rights of students: Student Rights in Education
The rights of parents/guardians: Parent and Guardian Rights in Education
For more information on Education: Education
Check out the Exclusion Tracker if your child is being excluded from school.
Exclusions could be but are not limited to:
Being asked not to attend school (not due to a suspension)
Denied attendance on field trips, or
Exclusion from school activities.
Identifying challenges for your child in the Classroom
Challenges students often face could be:
Challenges in Executive Functioning skills such as:
Difficulty learning in class due to distractibility
Difficulty attending to tasks
Difficulty handing in assignments on time
Difficulty transitioning between tasks or activities
Difficulty remembering items of importance such as homework, glasses etc.
Challenges with Mental Health. Symptoms can appear as, but are not limited to:
Extra risk taking
Talk of suicide
Difficulty regulating their bodies and emotions due to stress
"Masking/holding it together" at school and letting it all go once home, where they feel safe. This can cause dysregulation that can lead to further difficulties at home.
Learn more about self-regulation/dysregulation here (coming soon)
Falling below academic levels compared to peers
Difficulty solving social conflicts in class or at recesses
Difficulty having appropriate reactions to situations around them
After you have noticed some challenges that your child may be facing, there are steps that you can take to help start the process of getting some supports in place for your child. In our personal and professional experiences, the following is the typical path most parents have experienced to receive supports.
Keep reading to learn more about the following steps
Step 1: Call a Meeting
Step 2: School Based Team (SBT) & Advocating to receive a designation
Sep 3: Establishing an Individual Education Plan (IEP)
Steps to Take After Identifying Challenges for Your Child
The first thing we recommend doing when you know your child is struggling with the above or similar challenges, is to call a meeting with your child’s teacher and other applicable school staff.
Toolkits have been created by Family Support Institute of BC (FSI) & BCEdAccess to provide information about how to:
Call a meeting - School Meetings-How to Write an Email to Call a Meeting
Prepare for the meeting - School Meetings-Preparing for Your Meetings
Running a productive meeting - School Meetings-How to Run a Productive Meeting
What to do after the meeting - School Meetings-What to Do After the Meeting
Call a Meeting
School Based Team & Designation
After presenting the challenges your child is facing to the school staff...
work needs to be done with the School Based Team
A School Based Team (SBT) will create either:
a Behaviour Support Plan and/or,
start the process of obtaining a student designation
A Behaviour Support Plan, also referred to as a Positive Behaviour Support Plan, is a planning document created and used by the SBT in an attempt to support a student without a designation. A Behaviour Support Plan and a Safety Plan must be created concurrently.
A Behaviour Support Plan is meant to be a temporary plan to use while seeking a designation. It should be promptly replaced with a designation and Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
Policy statement regarding designations:
“Students with special needs may require additional support and accommodations to enable them to access and participate in educational programs. The Basic Allocation, a standard amount of money provided per school age student enrolled in a school district, includes funds to support the learning needs of students who are identified as having learning disabilities, mild intellectual disabilities, students requiring moderate behaviour supports and students who are gifted.
Additional supplementary funding recognizes the additional cost of providing programs for students with special needs in the following categories: dependent handicapped, deafblind, moderate to profound intellectually disabled, physically disabled or chronic health impaired, visually impaired, deaf or hard of hearing, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and intensive behaviour interventions or serious mental illness.” K-12 Funding - Special Needs - Province of British Columbia
We recognize that you may need to advocate to a higher level and we recommend that you use this document as a reference to understand the steps to do that more effectively.
Each school district in BC may have a different approach to securing a designation for a student. It is often found that the SBT will either decide on a designation that they feel is appropriate or they will ask the district psychologist to facilitate the process of obtaining a designation.
The process via a district psychologist may include:
A parent meeting
Possibly a school observation
And where applicable, the district psychologist may ask to review external reports such as ones provided by doctors, private psychologists, occupational therapists, speech language pathologists etc.
The district psychologist would then typically produce a report, and either recommend or not recommend a designation for the student. This report should be discussed promptly with the student’s support team, consisting of their parents, teacher, resource teacher, and other applicable individuals.
Because ADHD does not have its own specific designation, students with ADHD who have other
disorders or conditions such as ASD, learning disabilities and/or serious mental health conditions etc., referred to as comorbid conditions, may receive a designation specific to the non ADHD disorder/condition.
Some individuals believe that students who only have ADHD should get at least a Q (learning disability) designation. Although learning disabilities and ADHD can often occur together, they are separate disorders/conditions and as per the DSM-5, ADHD is NOT a learning disability. While ADHD can affect a person's ability to learn, a Q designation would be an inaccurate reflection of the actual challenges of ADHD.
If the student does not have a comorbid condition, these are the designations that school districts may use to provide an IEP for ADHD students:
H: Students Requiring Intensive Behaviour Intervention or Students with Serious Mental Illness
(districts receive attached funding).
-Most districts are now requiring students to receive continuous outside support services. Some districts are strict about what that means. Make sure to discuss the particular requirements with your district.
R: Students Requiring Moderate Behaviour Support or Students with Mental Illness
(districts do not receive attached funding).
- Does not require continuous outside services. Some districts will remove this designation without warning, so please check-in with staff regularly.
The designation criteria for the current disorders/conditions listed in the Special Education Manual do not accurately portray the challenges that ADHD individuals face. We advise families to become familiar with the Special Education Manual.
Special Needs Categories as per the Special Education Manual: Section E.2-E.11-Adobe PDF pg.48
Funding for a designation is not an indicator of the level of support each student needs or will receive. All funding that the district receives is distributed to the schools based on a percentage of the required level of support. However, the school district has an obligation to accommodate the student to the point of undue hardship regardless of confirmed diagnoses or designations.
You can read the Supreme Court Judgement regarding the “Moore vs British Columbia (Education)” that special education is not a “dispensable luxury” here.
You can read the case-law summary here.
When a designation has been put in place for a student, the school is then required
to create an IEP tailored to the student’s support needs.
“An IEP is a documented plan developed for a student with special needs that describes individualized goals, adaptations, modifications, the services to be provided, and includes measures for tracking achievement. It serves as a tool for collaborative planning among the school, the parents, the student (where appropriate) and, as necessary, school district personnel, other ministries and/or community agencies.” Special Education Policy Manual
Each school district uses different formats of IEPs, but they should all follow the guidelines that are laid out in the Special Education Policy Manual.
Individual Education Plan
Generally, a meeting will be set with the student’s support team. Together, they will work collaboratively to prioritize the student’s support needs, identify obtainable goals, and create support plans to assist the student in reaching their goals.
The resource teacher, or in some cases school counselor, will create the IEP document containing all that was discussed at the meeting and then share it with the student’s support team for review. This is usually when a parent or guardian is asked to attend a meeting to finalize the IEP.
Some schools will ask for the parent’s input at the beginning of the IEP process, and some schools will ask towards the end of the process.
If you have a strong sense of what should be in the IEP, do not hesitate to reach out to the team contribute your thoughts to outlining the goals and/or accommodations you wish to see in the document. These suggestions may or may not get added, therefore it is critical to meet with the team to collaborate on
this process. Once everyone approves the final IEP draft, the document would
then be attached to the student’s school file. Some schools may also upload
the IEP to My Education BC where you can view the report at any time.
Resource teachers and/or Counselors and classroom teachers are
responsible for implementing an IEP accordingly. As well as communicating
with the parents about the student’s progress.
Schools are required to meet at least once per school year to review/update the student’s IEP. These meetings are typically held in October, once staff and students have settled back into the school routine and teachers have had a chance to see where the students have grown and developed over the summer months.