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By Pauline Tam, The Ottawa Citizen July 10, 2010


Jordan Pinard was six when he was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactive disorder. He was prescribed Ritalin, a stimulant that led to severe mood swings and violent outbursts.


He attacked his mother and lashed out at other children. School suspensions came frequently. By Grade 1, he was in a modified learning program.


As Jordan got older, his symptoms got worse. He became anxiety-ridden and bound by routine, irrationally frightened of anything new and perpetually afraid he would be abandoned by his mother. His moods switched from excitedly chatty to inconsolably distraught.


Unable to sleep at night, he would clean the kitchen and bathroom obsessively. His insomnia left him too exhausted for school.


Psychologists diagnosed Jordan with oppositional defiant disorder in addition to ADHD. Psychiatrists prescribed an ever-changing list of stimulants, anti-anxiety and anti-psychotic drugs.


Jordan’s mother, Kris Winter, pushed to have him withdrawn from school and placed in a psychiatric treatment program. The specialized class, run by Ontario’s Ministry of Children and Youth Services, has teachers, social workers and a psychiatrist working side by side to offer therapy and schooling to children whose medical conditions make it difficult for them to socialize.


Winter wondered if her son would ever return to a regular school.


Last month, looking poised and handsome in a grey pinstriped suit and red graduation cap, Jordan accepted his diploma from the treatment program. In the front row, with a camera, were Jordan’s beaming mother and Alexandre, 10, who had permission to skip school to watch his 12-year-old brother graduate from sixth grade.


To stand proudly — in front of his family, classmates, teachers and social workers — was a major accomplishment for Jordan. His teachers choked back tears as they spoke about his courage and determination.


Come August, when the new school year starts, Jordan will finally be allowed to attend the same Grade 7 classes as other students his age — the goal of Ontario’s “mainstreaming” policy to give children with special needs as normal an education as possible.


Jordan is matter-of-fact about his desire to leave “the mental system” for the school he has been attending part-time, in anticipation of his full integration in the fall.


“I just like it better,” he said of his new school. “You can stay in class all day. You make a lot more friends.”


At the luncheon after the graduation ceremony, one of Jordan’s teachers marvelled at how far her pupil had come — in controlling his temper, in listening, following instructions and being aware of how his behaviour affects others.


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