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ADHD and Education

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is something we have all heard a lot about, but how does it fit into education?  With so much information being thrown around it can be difficult to get things straight.  As far as disorders go, ADHD is very closely tangled with education.  School is where ADHD separates those who are affected from those who are not, and as education is not structured to cater to a minority of students (Slavin, 2006), it poses a particularly great challenge for ADHD students (as well as their teachers, parents, and peers).  Though students do spend much of their time either at school or doing work for it, it is not necessarily a natural situation for them to be in, and one in which the symptoms of ADHD are magnified.  In fact, many students would not even know they had ADHD if it were not for how it affects them in school, since that is the only place it gets in the way (Rafalovich 2005).

Though some students with ADHD are affected outside of school, homework, and studying (i.e. driving, behavioral problems), ADHD mostly rears its ugly head when education is involved (Rafalovich, 2005).  This is true for a number of reasons, including its associations with learning (poor information processing, metacognition [Miranda, Presentacion, Soriano, 2002]), as well as general academic problems like underachievement and failure to complete assignments (Ried, Schartz, Trout, 2005).  For example, in our book Slavin (2006) discusses the results of a study which showed that children with ADHD have a lot of problems resisting interference, making them more prone to forgetting, often by retroactive or proactive inhibition.  ADHD students have this problem because they have trouble focusing and screening irrelevant information and stimuli, while Slavin reports that the ability to do so effectively, according to Dempster and Corkhill, is possibly “at the heart of cognitive performance” (Slavin, 2006: 183).  That is just one of the basic learning principles that puts ADHD students at an educational disadvantage from the start.  Another way in which ADHD is crippling to learning is through its effects on motivation.  When compared with controls, students with ADHD were found to display a significant lack of motivation (Booth, Canu, Carlson, Shin, 2002), which we know is central to learning (Slavin, 2006).

In this web site, I aim to not only discuss what ADHD is and how it is diagnosed, but also explore special topics on the subject, such as its controversy, discriminations, the involvement of education, and ways it can be helped.  A large part of my project includes personal accounts from teachers and a parent of an ADHD student, as well as my own story.  And while it is very important to take into account research and academic perspectives, it is also crucial not to ignore what popular media is saying, as that is what reaches the largest population.  Though many scholarly articles I have read for this project use interviews, I use my own to give a more personal perspective on an issue overrun by statistics and opinions. 

Contact Information:
Sarah Lesser