Help! My child was diagnosed with learning disabilities.

Help, my child was diagnosed with learning disabilities. What does that mean? Where can I get help?

“My child’s teacher wants to set up a meeting: she says there are too many “red flags” all over the place concerning her performance at school. She thinks we might need to have her tested.”

In the “old days”, students with different learning styles  or learning disabilities simply didn’t fit it – they were labeled “dumb”, “slow”, or “lazy”. They fell between the cracks, fell behind, and ended up in vocational or trade schools. The Toronto school system decided early on what their outcomes would be, and that was that.

Today, students who are not achieving or meeting expectations in elementary school are discovered, but the way we deal with them has changed enormously. It is a good thing when teachers call home, letting parents know their child is having difficulty. It’s time to put heads together and see what’s up.

What the teacher might be seeing is behavior such as social withdrawal, nail-biting, fidgeting, poor attention, acting out “being the class clown” etc. At home, you may have bed-wetting, Sunday night stomache-aches, or even school refusal starting to kick in. All of these markers provide clues that your child may be struggling with regular grade-level work. On the flip side, it can also indicate your child is  bored – that the classroom work is beneath his/her abilities.

If you or the teacher suspect a potential learning disability, it’s time to join forces and request a meeting.

Gather information to share:

  • Is this new behavior?
  • Was your child having challenges last year?
  • How is your child doing socially, outside of the classroom?

Parents can provide an enormous amount of information to support the classroom teacher’s observations.

Pay attention to your child over a week or so, and take notes about:

  • His or her mood after school – is he wiped out? Stressed? Angry?
  • What else is he/she doing during the week – how many extra curriculars have you booked?
  • What subject areas does he/she love? Hate? Refuses to even look at?
  • Is he/she reading for pleasure – what level? Picture books, graphic novels, chapter books?
  • How much screen time is allowed at home? (computers, devices, TV, gaming systems etc)
  • Bedtimes.  How many hours of sleep does he/she get?

Bring all this to a meeting scheduled with your classroom teacher, and be open to what they have to share about what they observe in the classroom. Then, together you can decide if further investigation is warranted. In the Toronto public school system, the next step is asking for a “team meeting”. Your teacher can set this up for you.

To learn more about how to enlist my services, simply call or email to set up a free 30 minute telephone consultation.

Parent support for Asperger’s/ASD in Toronto

Group of People in Huddle in Field

If you are the parent of a child/adolescent with ASD, you may often feel isolated. It is a huge challenge to parent children with atypical development!

Parents need the support of external resource people who are knowledgeable about ASD, understand its impact on family life, and can point them in the direction of supports in Toronto for people on the ASD spectrum. Most importantly, parents need to meet other parents who share the same challenges. People who understand.

A new group is being offered this fall for parents of children with high functioning ASD/Asperger’s. It is a professionally led, mutual support group where you will have an opportunity to:

  • learn about your child’s strengths and challenges
  • improve your parenting skills
  • locate resources in Toronto for people with Asperger’s/ASD
  • develop plans for self care/ respite care
  • have a confidential space to share your feelings

The group will be held at an accessible downtown Toronto location/next to a subway station on a monthly basis. Please contact me for further information, and to hold a spot. Start date: October. Days and times TBA -weekday evening or Saturday depending on group preference.


To register. please call 416 875 9474 or email



Help, my child was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome. What does that mean? Where can I get help?

“My doctor just told us it’s confirmed: my child has Asperger’s Syndrome – an Autism Spectrum Disorder. I’m in shock. I don’t know what to do, what to think, or where to go for help.”

Many parents of children with Asperger’s are in this predicament: after years of wondering if, and what might be different about their child, they finally get an answer…but it’s just the beginning. After all the testing is done, doctors pull together a diagnosis: a medical term that best explains the symptoms, traits and behaviors you have been wondering about in your child. For most parents, it’s a relief.

The diagnosis means your child has one type of the newly classified Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) – on the continuum with other forms of autism. The syndrome best describes people who have social impairment, communication difficulties, and restrictive, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior. These challenges have likely impaired your child to some degree in the playground, at daycare, or in the classroom if he or she has started school.

Now, armed with a formal diagnosis, you are in the position to be able to locate and access services.

During this first conversation with your medical practitioner, you might have been given a few places to start – depending on your child’s immediate needs. It makes sense that you begin to seek treatment for areas where the need is greatest – at this point in time. Down the road, your child’s needs will change, and you will be looking for different resources or help from your community.

Here are a few areas to explore:

  1. Medical: ask the clinic where your child was diagnosed what follow up care they suggest and provide. They may have parent support groups, individual or family counselling, referral to a dietician, information on speech and language pathologists etc.
  2. Community agency: seek out the community agency in your area that serves children with ASD. For example, in Toronto, call the Geneva Centre, or the Toronto Chapter of the Asperger’s Society of Ontario.
  3. Childcare: if you are in a large municipal or agency run childcare, ask the manager for the special ed supports they have available to your child. The City of Toronto run daycares have a resource person who can provide extra consultation to your child if you are enrolled in their child care centres.
  4. Social: find other parents who have children with ASD – join your local Asperger’s organization. Contact me if you are interested in a parent support group that meets monthly in Yorkville.

If this is new to you, go slow, breathe and try not to get overwhelmed. Take one day at a time!

Claim social work fees for ADHD as medical expenses





As of September 26, 2012, counselling services provided by Registered Social Workers (RSWs) can be claimed as a medical expense tax deduction when you file your income tax return. In other words, Registered Social Workers are now authorized “medical practitioners” for the purpose of claiming medical expenses.

To access the CRA Chart list of professions in each province and territory so authorized, click on the following link: You can find more information at the following link:

ADHD Toronto study needs participants

ADHD (Young Adults, Parents, and Professionals) are interviewing young adults with ADHD, their parents, and professionals who work with young adults with ADHD. The insights drawn from these interviews will be used to develop health solutions and programs that better meet patients’ needs. Your personal information will be kept strictly confidential.

They are interested in interviewing individuals who meet the following criteria:

Eligibility Criteria:

Young Adults:   18-24 years old with ADHD   Canadian (both English- and French-speaking)   Currently attending or preparing to attend college/university   Available to be interviewed by phone between September 3 – October 17

Parents:   Parents of 18-24 year-olds with ADHD who are attending or preparing to attend college/university   Canadian (both English- and French-speaking)   Available to be interviewed by phone between September 3 – October 17

ADHD Educational Counselors, Student Support Services, or Health Care Professionals:   Professionals in a university/college setting who work with young adults with ADHD   Canadian (both English- and French-speaking)   Available to be interviewed by phone between September 3 – October 17

The interview will take about 45 minutes. The young adult interviews will be followed by 5 days of journal-writing (10 minutes per day). There is a financial incentive for this study.

If you are interested in participating, please contact

Thank you for your interest!

ADHD Treatment info at Toronto Danforth Ward 15 Community Program Fair

Come learn about how to support your family member with ADHD at this community hub event.

Mary Lynn Trotter MSW RSW will be on hand Thursday Sept. 27 from 3-7:30 to meet teachers, administrators and parents who are seeking supports for students with ADHD and related learning differences.

The event is sponsored by the Toronto Danforth Ward 15 Community Hub, and includes many local agencies serving children and families.

It is also a chance to let us know what services you need in your community.

The event is at Chester ES and Westwood MS – 114 Gowan/994 Carlaw Ave. (northeast of Broadview/Mortimer).


Please bring your questions about:

- what is ADHD

- how to find out if my child might have it

- where to get a proper diagnosis

-what are the treatment options

- how to work collaboratively with my child’s teacher

- how to include sports activities as key adjunct therapies

- what supports are available in the community for free

- what OHIP won’t cover

- how to find a parent support group

- how counselling helps ADHD

- how to improve my child’s behavior

- does mom or dad also have ADHD

-IEPs and IPRCs – what are they, and how do they help


ADHD at work

Adult ADHD is becoming more known, better understood, leading to improved lives for people affected by it. One area where ADHD can be managed is in the workplace. It can, and should be thought of as a disability. For those working for a progressive employer, it is hoped this is something  you are able to share. Just like in school, you should be able to ask for accomodations.

But for others, in more traditional settings, disclosing that you have ADHD may be more of a burden than a help. This is an unfortunate reality. Adult ADHD is a disorder that still carries stigma, much like disclosing you have depression or anxiety.

So, we rarely see people taking time off to deal with their ADHD treatment. What happens instead is ADHD comes to work with you each and every day. If you are lucky enough to be in a job that is a good fit, such as sales, or something with a lot of variety, you may have managed to be effective at work despite the challenges of ADHD.

Another solution is to learn how ADHD affects the tasks of your job. For many, it means getting a handle on organization, time management, deadlines, hyper-focussing, setting priorities etc. What you really need is an assistant.

That’s where devices, such as computers, smart phones, even alarms can help. There are many new tools to help ADHD’ers better manage their work demands. To find out more, put “assistive devices” into your search engine to see what’s available. There are now many apps to help you – whatever your challenge.

For example, some of the new technologies have timers and alarms connected to the calendar. Put an appointment in, and you will be notified before that appointment comes up. What a relief…you can dive deeply into that assignment, and not have to worry that you might miss your next appointment.

Do you have a favourite? Please comment on this blog, so others with adult ADHD can see what works. And if it didn’t work for you, it might work for someone else with ADHD.

ADHD is an employment barrier you can address

As a social worker practising in Toronto, I work with people who have ADHD, and other adults who face a variety of barriers to employment. (For those interested, check my other website, Because of my social work background, I bring a different focus to the area of career development, or career counselling.

Social workers are educated and trainined to help people understand and cope with their challenges – and we all have some! So, I decided to take that approach into my work with career counselling.

For adults with ADHD, understanding what your barrier is should not pose a problem. You have likely known since you were young that you had a type of disabilty that made school, and later paid work difficult. If you were lucky enough to pick a career well suited to ADHD, you already conquered one of the biggest barriers you migh have faced!

Career counselling for ADHD includes helping people understand the unique ways ADHD affects their work styles, productivity, and creative process. As you know, there is no clear cut career plan for an ADHD client – each person is uniquely different in terms of the way ADHD poses challenges, and indeed, what strengths in confers.

I have found that people with ADHD, like any other significant issue, have to go through a process of acceptance before they can become very comfortable talking about it in terms of their on the job performance. This is where working with a career counsellor trained in ADHD is very helpful.

Before any client begins to seek out interviews, or even dust off their resume, I like to work with them to be clear and confident about the impact of ADHD on their working lives. Today many workplaces have accomodations in place to support you. Researching your local job market – talkiong to people who work in H.R. is a good place to start. Often, magazine reviews of top companies will point out who has excellent HR policies in the area of disability.

Rather than think of ADHD as a hurdle to be overcome, work to see it as a way of describing how you behave in certain situations – and how you manage it – well.

For more information on workplace disability and accomodations, please contact me.

Hire a coach with credentials

I offer both counselling and coaching services.

What does that mean?


As a counsellor, my background includes 15 years of clinical social work. I have provided counselling, or therapy, to individuals, couples and families. Counselling provides a holistic understanding of how ADHD affects the client. I help people look at their ADHD as a strength, but also as a challenge. We learn together how to compensate for the challenges. Counsellors provide advice and guidance. As well, I have training in areas such as treating depression and anxiety, common to people with ADHD.


For those looking for coaching services, I will provide you with assessment, goal setting, direction and follow through. I will ask you for your commitment, and help you stick to your plans. Coaching service can be like a “right hand” for any length of time you need it. It is less formal than counselling treatment, you set the agendas, and you advise me how you would like a coach to support you.


If you are looking for an ADHD coach or counsellor, do look into their credentials. Currently, ADHD can be well supported by counsellors trained in CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.).  Coaches need to be certified by the ICF, or working toward certification.


I have advanced training in cognitive behavioral therapy, and use it to help address clinical issues. My coaching skills are gained through the ADD Coach Academy, where I am training toward ICF accreditation. Please feel free to contact me to learn more about my background.

Thank you!



ADHD included as exceptionality

Here is the link to the Ontario government memo that outlines the recent changes to ADHD as an exceptionality, which will result in changes in school supports:

This can mean big changes for parents with children who have an ADHD diagnosis, but no second diagnosis. In the past, many of these parents were not eligible for school support for their child’s learning challenges relating to their ADHD. Only if a child had a second exceptionality, such as a learning disability, would their needs be addressed.


Now, it is up to the school districts themsevles, through superintendeants, principals, and classroom teachers to support the intent of this policy change, and ensure children with ADHD receive all the help they need!


Here is another link to a terrific resource to provide your classroom or resource room teacher, also done for the Ontario government:

If you need help advocating for your child’s rights at school, call me today to book a consultation.

We are lucky these changes have been made, let’s ensure our children get their full benefit.

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