Parent & Community Education

Articles about Learning Disabilities and ADHD

Dr. Karen MacMillan, Registered Psychologist
The term ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and it is a neurodevelopmental disorder that impacts a person’s thinking, feelings, and behaviour. ADHD is one of the most common mental health diagnoses in children and adolescents, affecting approximately 5% of young people around the world.
Dr. Karen MacMillan, Registered Psychologist
The term ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and it is a neurodevelopmental disorder that impacts a person’s thinking, feelings, and behaviour. ADHD is a “brain boss” problem, as it is essentially a disorder of self-regulation.
Mary Makowski
Why are psycho-educational assessments useful? If your child is performing differently than expected for their grade level, you should bring your child in for an assessment. If your child is struggling in school, an assessment could help explain why.
“For people without disabilities, technology makes things easier. For people with disabilities, technology makes things possible …” – National Council on Disability Many students with Learning Disabilities and attention issues can benefit from using Assistive Technology to help them with academic tasks. It helps to level the playing field so that they can access grade-level learning even if one or more of their skills, like reading, might be behind.
Jacki Bentley, BA, MA, Registered Provisional Psychologist
Adolescence is a time of development and exploration – a period of growth where teens can also be faced with tough decisions. Did you know that out of all illicit drugs, cannabis is the one most commonly used across Canada? It is also often one of the first drugs a teen is offered, and according to the World Health Organization, Canadian youth have one of the highest usage rates worldwide.
Tanya Keto, BEd, MEd, Registered Provisional Psychologist
Students with attention and learning issues often experience deficits in processing speed or working memory, or a combination of both. Processing speed abilities are required to work with ease, efficiency, and automaticity; in short, it’s our “thinking speed”. Up to 50% of children with learning and attention issues exhibit processing speed deficits. Working memory, on the other hand, is the brain’s Post-It Note: the ability to identify visual and auditory information, hold it in mind temporarily, and re-sequence it for use in problem-solving. Up to 80% of children with learning and attention issues may exhibit working memory deficits.
Lawrence Thenu, BSc., BEd., M. of Counselling
When my son was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and a Learning Disability (LD) in 2014, I worried about how he would do academically and socially. I got so caught up in the labels associated with ADHD and LDs that I forgot about how smart, compassionate, kind, and driven my son already was. That moment made me realize that I lacked the knowledge to understand what ADHD was and what an LD was and that ADHD and LDs were two totally separate things that often presented together. To help you understand why ADHD is not a Learning Disability, I thought I would start by talking about what ADHD is, what an LD is, and how they are different from each other.
Tanya Keto, BEd, MEd, Registered Provisional Psychologist
(EF) are mental processes that help to connect past experience with present action to guide goal-directed behaviour. These functions underlie activities such as planning, organizing, strategizing, paying attention to and remembering details, and managing time and space. We all have strengths and weaknesses in our executive functions. However, when students struggle in these areas, it can result in behaviours that are often labelled as “attention seeking”, “defiant”, “showing off”, “unmotivated” or “lazy”, “emotional overreactions”, and “inflexible”, just to name a few.
Melanie Reader, B.Sc. (Hons). MSc., Registered Psychologist
As parents, you want to do what is best for your child. If your child has learning and attention challenges, you likely want to jump into action as soon as possible to get supports set up. However, it can be very overwhelming with the number of choices out there.
Nichola Cross
There are many reasons why people enrol in a French Immersion program. They might want to speak a second language to open doors for future jobs, improve their learning, learn about another culture, or even speak to foreign family members. But what if a child has a Learning Disability? Is it possible to complete this program or does it add extra stress onto the student?
Melanie Reader, B.Sc. (Hons). MSc., Registered Psychologist
I have to confess: I don’t like to exercise. While I have always liked going for walks and hikes, the gym has never been my favourite spot. But once I’ve done a fitness activity, I feel all the better.
Alana Yee, B.Sc., Master’s Intern, 2018
We all have times when we feel like we’ll never get better at something, or that we’re destined to fail. Kids and teens with learning and attention issues often face more challenges and setbacks than other kids and teens. That may lead them to have a specific mindset about their difficulties. Mindset affects our everyday lives by helping us interpret our experiences and future possibilities.
Karen MacMillan
As parents, we often look at summer as a time for our children (and hopefully ourselves) to have some well-deserved rest and relaxation. This is certainly important, especially because the school year provides so many extra challenges for families grappling with Learning Disabilities and ADHD.
Melanie Reader, B.Sc. (Hons). MSc., Registered Psychologist
As students head back to school this fall, they will be expected to learn numerous new bits and pieces of information every day. In fact, children, when in school, need to remember more varied information than adults do in their daily lives. This is because adults are typically in careers that allow them to build on existing knowledge. The memory demands at school are profound with new information coming at students at almost every hour of every school day, often without the time provided to allow the students to consolidate what they have learned before new information is given to them.
Ann Wade, Registered Psychologist
For many parents, it remains a question of whether they should tell their child about their diagnosis. The short answer, according to many professionals, is ‘yes.’ The bigger questions become why, when, and how.
Paige McDonald, Registered Psychologist
When your child is diagnosed with a special learning need like a Learning Disability, school personnel are required to create an Individual Program Plan (IPP) to support their learning needs and maximize their ability. Creating an IPP with your child and your child’s teaching team is a challenging and ongoing process. But, there are things that you can do to make this process go more smoothly and effectively to advocate for your child.
Karen MacMillan
The answer is - Yes! This is true for all forms of anxiety … and certainly for test anxiety. A little anxiety can be helpful for optimizing our performance, however, past a certain point, it can seriously interfere with our performance. High levels of anxiety are reflected in troubling thoughts and feelings which can manifest in a variety of ways, such as – avoidance, unusual behaviours, physical complaints, and even acting out.
Melanie Reader, B.Sc. (Hons). MSc., Registered Psychologist
Research suggests that the more you recognize your child for the strengths and positives that make them who they are, the more they are able to grow stronger in their strengths and to be more resilient. Working from a strength-based model also supports the management of negative behaviours. Therefore, look for opportunities to nurture your child’s strengths, preferably daily. If necessary, make yourself a list of these strengths that you can review every day so that you do not get “bogged down” by the challenges. Also, celebrate even the smallest of improvements. Most importantly, be sure to show your child that you still love him -- even when he forgets his homework.
Andrew Luceno
Many children with good thinking (cognitive) abilities and academic skills struggle to get tasks started and meet deadlines. Regardless of how bright they are, they have difficulty doing schoolwork and staying on top of tasks – especially outside of the normal classroom routine. One possible explanation is that the mental processes that enable us to plan ahead, start and finish tasks, and manage our time (i.e., executive functions) need work. Children need to be taught executive functioning skills. Caregivers can help children by looking for ways to teach executive functioning skills at home – whether it’s through a school assignment or a household chore. We can really help our kids by giving them some practice with removing distractions, initiating tasks, and planning when the stakes are low, and they can afford to make mistakes. What’s great about practicing those skills at home is that they are transferable to all areas of life.
Melanie Reader, B.Sc. (Hons). MSc., Registered Psychologist
A key feature of those with Learning Disabilities, no matter the definition used, is the unusually high level of effort and support required for the individual to achieve. Help the student to discover their learning strengths and needs, what supports their learning, and how to communicate these needs appropriately.
Melanie Reader, B.Sc. (Hons). MSc., Registered Psychologist
Learning Disabilities are life-long disorders that can affect all areas of an individual’s life. With the appropriate supports in place, though, these individuals are very capable. They can learn, and they have the potential to lead happy and successful lives.
Ann Wade
We all have to grow up someday, but did you feel ready to take on the world when you turned 18? If you answered “no”, you are far from alone. The transition from adolescence to adulthood is challenging for most, and it is a particularly vulnerable time for individuals with Learning Disabilities (LD) and/or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Nicole Jaggard, B.A.
Is it anxiety? Challenges with attention? Learning difficulties? Or, all three? How do I know what is causing what?
Jacqueline Stowkowy, MSc.
There is nothing wrong with having high standards and wanting to be the best you can be. The problem comes when the desire to be “perfect” all the time creates so much anxiety that we begin to be held back or start to feel bad about ourselves.
Alana Yee, B.Sc., M.Ed., Registered Provisional Psychologist
Imagine this scenario: Your child is studying for a math test and is feeling anxious about it. They try to focus on their study notes, but their thoughts keep drifting… “I failed the last test… I don’t understand this material… Everyone gets it but me… I can’t do this…”
Jay Johnson, Registered Provisional Psychologist
We understand that boys are more likely to show obvious symptoms of ADHD, yet conversely, they can sit quietly and hyperfocus while gaming. While this may make for a nice break from the noise and activity for you, gaming doesn’t actually provide rest for your child’s brain or support recuperation of the cognitive resources used up during the school day. Incorporating a gaming schedule may be helpful. However, research shows that getting your children involved in individual activities that they are motivated to participate in is the best way to provide them with a fun way to practice focusing on one task at a time. And who knows, they could be a black belt or a world-renowned artist in no time!
Paige McDonald
The school bell has rung for the last time this year, the kids are excitedly talking about the long summer days ahead, and you are looking at the next two months with relief that you no longer have to shuttle them to their many activities and monitor schoolwork. But, what about that little voice at the back of your mind that is worried the kids might lose ground on what they have accomplished this year?
Sandy Duncan
You can help your child develop good reading skills and encourage a love of reading. Fluent reading involves combining easily recognized words with words that, although not recognized at a glance, are blended together combining individual sounds into a whole and then using the context to make the process of recognition and assembly go faster.
Nicole Jaggard, B.A., MEd., Registered Provisional Psychologist
This article will discuss why children are drawn to screen time, how screens impact sleep, and the influence screens have on a child’s social, emotional, and behavioural development. It will end with strategies for creating boundaries around screens.
Cynthia Yoo, B.A., M.A., Registered Provisional Psychologist
It is easy to spot frustrated children. They often show their feelings in behaviour we can see (e.g., tantrums and meltdowns). When this behaviour happens occasionally, we can usually manage. But, what happens when challenging behaviour becomes more frequent, more intense, and longer lasting than the average outburst? We may feel frustrated, dismayed, helpless, and even hopeless at times. How can we make sense of what is going on with children? And, what can we do to help?
Melanie Reader, B.Sc. (Hons). MSc., Registered Psychologist
When the start of school is on the horizon, families begin to adjust their routines to welcome in the start of a new year. This transition can cause a lot of stress for many parents and families, but by engaging in a few things ahead of time, this transition can go much smoother.
Melanie Reader, B.Sc. (Hons). MSc., Registered Psychologist
The development of self-advocacy skills is of utmost importance to the successful transition of students with disabilities from school into adult life.
Melanie Reader, B.Sc. (Hons). MSc., Registered Psychologist
Social skills’ problems are just as, if not more, important than academic problems in the development of a child with Learning Disabilities and/or associated disorders (e.g., AD/HD, Asperger’s Disorder). Research suggests that adequate social functioning, including healthy peer relationships, plays a primary role in the optimal development of a child. Yet these children may show difficulties in reading and matching social cues, conversational skills, understanding the process of friendships, and personal space to name just a few of the areas that impact their development of peer relationships. Difficulties related to disinhibition (i.e., difficulty to control oneself), preoccupations, rigid thinking, and regulating emotions also impact these children’s ability to make and maintain friendships.
Melissa Yue, BSc. (Hons.), MSc., Registered Provisional Psychologist
Education opens the door, but how we step through it makes an impression. Will people want to be our friend or foe? Will they want to help us or not? Not knowing how to present ourselves can be a costly mistake. But, how do we learn this?
Kim Tackaberry, B. Ed.
“Tell me and I will forget, show me and I will remember, involve me and I will understand.” (Chinese Proverb). It is that time of year when teachers prepare to meet parents for the first time. Many of these meetings revolve around goal setting for Individualized Program Plan (IPPs) however, this concept relates to all students. Parent, student and teacher unite to set goals the child will aim to achieve that school year. After goals are set and IPP documents are established, it is at this point that the students’ engagement in the process wavers.
Tanya Keto and Ashley Barber
As we start a new school year, it’s a good time to reflect on what went well previously and what can be done better going forward. Student-parent-teacher communication can significantly impact student success, and there are a wide range of experiences with this dynamic.
Melanie Reader, B.Sc. (Hons). MSc., Registered Psychologist
Mornings, especially Monday mornings, can be quite chaotic for families. Lunches need to be made, shoes need to be found and homework needs to be completed and sent back to school. For parents of children with ADHD and other disorders impacted by executive functioning difficulties, these mornings can be even more hectic. These children need constant reminders, struggle to find those missing items on their own and forget that their social studies project is due that day. These issues occur due to the inherent difficulties of executive functioning weaknesses related to planning, managing time, adaptability, decision making, predicting consequences and generalizing from previous experiences. Thankfully, there are numerous strategies available to parents to create a calmer, more organized home environment. Of utmost importance is that parents become their children’s “external executive functions” so that the children can learn the skills to engage in such functions independently. This includes putting into place strategies and routines that work with their specific areas of difficulty.
Cynthia Yoo, B.A., M.A., Registered Psychologist
Attention-Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a brain-based disorder that impacts up to 12% of school-aged children. There are 3 types of ADHD: inattentive, hyperactive-impulsive and combined. Boys are diagnosed more often than girls because they get noticed for their behaviour problems. Girls tend to keep things to themselves, struggle in silence and get overlooked. We need to better understand girls with ADHD so we can support them with our care. They need our compassion and encouragement to develop a positive sense of self and maximize their full potential.
Kelsey Schreiner and Charis Falardeau
There comes a time, as a parent when you realize your child no longer needs your protection 24/7. We call this moving from ‘parenting to protect’ to ‘parenting to prepare.’ This movement starts as the child begins to recognize their own wants, needs, and voice in the world. However, this change is not always easy. As a parent, and especially as a parent to a child with an LD and/or ADHD, you have spent years advocating for the needs of your child. You have ensured that they are adequately cared for, educated, understood, and seen. Moving from ‘parenting to protect’ to ‘parenting to prepare’ doesn’t mean ceasing to advocate for your child; instead, it means advocating with your child.
Danae Laut, MSc., Ph.D. Student/Doctoral Intern at Foothills Academy Society
For any parent with a teenager, it comes as no surprise that the emotional lives of adolescents can be very different from adults. Teenagers tend to react to stressors (e.g., peer conflict, exams) more strongly, experience negative emotions more often, and experience more frequent and intense mood swings than adults.
Melanie Reader, B.Sc. (Hons). MSc., Registered Psychologist
“Nerves and butterflies are fine – they’re a physical sign that you’re mentally ready and eager. You have to get the butterflies to fly in formation, that’s the trick.” ~Steve Bull