Félixpier is a Grade 12 student with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and other learning disabilities. He was diagnosed as having ADHD in elementary school after undergoing numerous neuro-psychological assessments. But this did not come as a surprise to Félixpier and his family; he wasn’t the only one dealing with this disorder. While Félixpier has had to overcome a number of challenges at school, he has also had a number of successes. From the perspective of Félixpier, his mother, and the resource teacher, a student who is experiencing learning difficulties and other challenges can succeed with the support of the school team and the family.
Félixpier’s Strengths and Needs
Félixpier has a number of strengths in terms of his school subjects and communication and socially and emotionally. His academic strengths are primarily in subjects that involve handling visual information such as Mathematics, Physics, and Astronomy. Félixpier communicates well and knows how to express his strengths and needs to his teachers, which means that he has developed skills in self-direction and is able to defend his rights and interests at school. In terms of his social and emotional development, Félixpier is very empathetic and knows how to support his friends when they feel discouraged. Félixpier’s strengths have enabled him to overcome some of the challenges that he has had to face with respect to learning.
According to the resource teacher who works with Félixpier, his working memory is affected and his executive functions require special attention. Félixpier has learning needs, particularly when tasks require these skills. Félixpier acknowledges that he has difficulty, especially with Chemistry and English; however, through the use of several pedagogical strategies, Félixpier has overcome these challenges at school. His mother says that he understands and is aware of his challenges and he agrees to use the strategies and/or interventions that are suggested to him. As he explains, Félixpier has discovered his own strategies:
I discovered that it’s easier for me to concentrate if I listen to music in class. I also learned that, if I don’t understand a subject, I just need to ask my teachers more questions or leave the classroom for a few minutes so that I can get up and move around a bit.
As the resource teacher who works with Félixpier has attested, the strategies that he has adopted have supported his progress:
Félixpier has become a good self-advocate: he understands his strengths and his needs and is able to share them with his teachers. He works continuously on being better organized and ensures that he plans out his work. As soon as he thinks that he might miss a deadline, he communicates this to his teacher and tries to find a solution. If necessary, he makes a request for an adaptation and respects the agreement made with the teacher. In the event that the issue cannot be resolved, Félixpier contacts the special education department, tells them about the situation, and asks for advice. The fact that he is initiating and accepting help, which he is entitled to, demonstrates that he is both mature and wants to succeed.
With these strategies and adaptations, Félixpier is now able to adequately manage a variety of academic situations and maintain the level of importance that he has placed on his education in order to reach his ultimate goal, which is to work in the field of aerospace engineering.
Message to Teaching Professionals
With the ongoing support of the school team and his family, Félixpier is on his way to reaching his goal of pursuing studies in aerospace engineering. His story shows the positive effect that teaching professionals can have if they acknowledge their students’ strengths and needs and implement pedagogical strategies that can support their learning. Félixpier’s mother has this message for teaching professionals:
Teachers need to know the strengths and needs of this type of student. Then, they can provide any adaptations that are required to help the student progress.
Teachers also need to know which ‘personality traits’ or ‘behaviours’ are a result of the student’s learning disability. This will enable the teacher to know whether the requirements are adequate. For example, a student with an attention deficit may find it difficult to remember to do or hand in work. The teacher should not perceive this type of behaviour as being disrespectful of the rules or as bad faith.
Félixpier has a simple message for teaching professionals: The key to understanding your students is to listen to them.
 While professionals consider ADHD and learning disabilities to be two separate issues, there seem to be challenges common to both, such as low working memory and/or executive function. Moreover, many students have both LD and ADHD.
Félixpier was recognized as an outstanding student at his high school in 2014-2015. His excellent grades earned him admission to the program of his choosing at Université de Laval.