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The Student Experience: ADHD/ADD

In considering the student experience we first need to accept that this will differ from individual to individual and at the same time vary depending on the context where the student may find themselves. For the purposes of this case study we have broken these contexts down to:

  • General organisation, timekeeping, attendance etc – students with ADD/ADHD are likely to face challenges in all three of these areas and this can impact day to day attendance and other areas such as keeping on track with independent study. Students with ADHD can appear disorganised and may miss appointments, misplace items and forget why they are doing things.

Hyper focus and working under pressure may have a positive short-term impact in productivity at times but maintaining focus on tasks is often difficult so this is often not sustained.

An inability to filter out new ideas and thoughts can lead to overload and an inability to keep track of core tasks.   This in turn can lead to procrastination as tasks can seem inaccessible or overwhelming in the face of this overload.

Student writing on a whiteboard, headphones round their neck
  • Composition, referencing and proof reading – Planning, structuring, writing and proof-reading can all be impacted by ADHD. Inattention and distraction can lead to frequent breaks in productivity.
  • Exams and timed assessments – though some students with ADHD respond well to deadlines and pressure, exams and other timed assessments present challenges in terms of time pressure, understanding tasks, planning answers, writing, concentration and distraction
  • Placement, work experience and field trips - every student will be different but in selecting placements it will be important for the student and the placement provider to discuss how they might be accommodated within a workplace setting. Students are likely to have concerns about levels of support and guidance and how they may be perceived. 
  • Seminars/Tutorials – Attendance. Concentrating and following instructions can be impacted. Personal behaviours (see group work)
    • Group workPersonal behaviours and difficulties with interaction and communication can affect a student’s ability to fully participate in group tasks. Students may avoid situations where they feel their behaviours might be misconstrued.
    • Presentations – Organising and presenting thoughts in a coherent manner may prove challenging for some students.  
    • Lab work – Concentrating and following instructions may be problematic in some circumstances. Inattention and distraction may be a concern.

Though some aspects of online learning may on the face of it appear beneficial to students with specific learning differences (such as pre-recorded lectures that can be stopped when reviewing them), this format also presents challenges to these same students. This might include: understanding text, keeping up with content and instructions, note-taking, concentrating and following instructions, clarifying understanding, responding quickly to questions and taking part in group or Q&A sessions.

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