PORT WILLIAMS, NS - Seana Collins is worried Nova Scotia’s education system has forgotten about her son.
Collins, whose 13-year-old son Jack attends Evangeline Middle School and was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of six, heads the ADHD Families Annapolis Valley, a Facebook support group for families whose children have been diagnosed with the disorder.
She says while the addition of six new specialists to the education system is a welcome change, there is little clarity on how far these resources will stretch. She worries that with these limited resources, students like her son – whose disability is not always apparent – will “slip through the cracks.”
“There is a huge group of children affected by ADHD. Classroom adaptations are not sufficient – our kids need to see psychologists,” she said.
No guarantees positions will all be filled: minister
Education minister Zach Churchill has confirmed that six new specialists will be hired by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development through regional education centres – local hubs of the new provincial school board – and will be non-union, contract-based positions.
He also confirmed all of these positions may not be filled by September.
“There are no guarantees these positions will fill by fall, but the terms and conditions for how they work will be there,” said Churchill.
He says the positions were created following recommendations from the Commission on Inclusive Education’s report, and to resolve the “backlog of psychological assessments,” he said numbers are in the hundreds.
But Collins worries her son, along with others with ADHD and other spectrum-based disorders, will not be prioritized – especially if less than six specialists are hired, she said.
That’s why Collins spends nearly $1,000 per month on private counselling for her son.
“I do this because otherwise, my son would not get the help he needs. I’m lucky I’m able to afford it - many Annapolis Valley families cannot afford that price tag,” she said.
‘Simply not enough’: Collins
Collins said she and other parents fail to see how their kids will be included within the new system since she said consultation has been lacking since these changes were instituted.
But Churchill disagrees with Collins and others who criticize this, saying consultation happened during the commission’s research stage.
“These come directly from recommendations from the commission – it has made all the recommendation to support to help improve inclusivity,” said the minister.
The commission recommended that 12, not six, new specialists be hired in Nova Scotia to adequately meet the needs of the province’s students.
And while Collins says any supports are better than none to help with “the dramatic deficit of professional supports” within the school system, this is “simply not enough.”
“My son has been missed by this system. As parents, we’re trying to be positive, but it remains to be seen how our children will be included within this new system,” she said.