Adult ADHD and education
In terms of ADHD, a person becomes an adult at age 18. This is exactly when some are leaving school and embarking on Higher or Further Education. Many of these young adults will have obtained high grades in school and will be looking forward to all that further education can give them through independence, future opportunities and a social life away from home.
For people with ADHD, further education can be overwhelming and challenging. Many struggle and, in some cases, drop out altogether.
Around 22% of people with ADHD probably also suffer from an autistic spectrum disorder.
Attention deficit symptoms
In Further Education, the attention deficit symptoms of ADHD can become significant and noticeable for the first time in a young adult’s life. The increased pressures and complexity of study and the exciting diversions of college or university social life come when a person is likely to need to be independent, self-managing and organised for the first time.
Students with ADHD often find it hard to concentrate throughout lessons or lectures and therefore miss important information. This can also be true for other aspects of college or university life, causing students to miss out socially.
Some students may struggle to complete critical assignments on time or do so, ineffectively, at the very last minute. They may fail to even get started on tasks, especially if these are more complex, and so issues can get worse as a backlog builds up and pressure increases.
Attendance may be poor or the student may be frequently late. They may be seen as lazy, appearing to show that they choose to not put in enough effort and not be working to their potential. Their grades may be inconsistent as they may be able to do very well in a topic they are interested in.
Many students become rapidly disorganised and ‘out of control’ with their studies but also in their domestic and personal lives when managing finances, home and social activities.
Research has shown that individuals with ADHD had higher scores in a higher education entrance test, when they were medicated compared to patients with ADHD not medicated.
Some ADHD patients have stated that the challenges and pressures of being attentive and organised while in further education, led to them failing to meet their potential, losing self confidence, feeling incompetent and becoming frustrated.
In further education, the hyperactivity symptoms of ADHD can combine with all the new things that a young adult is experiencing and all the many diversions and opportunities that they have. These can present some profound challenges for students with ADHD.
Students with ADHD who have hyperactive symptoms find it hard to focus on what they are being taught. Their restless mind may flit off in many different directions and lead them to become quickly bored, even in course subjects that they are passionate about.
Some become impatient in class discussions and make it hard for other students have the time to say what they want. It is common for students with ADHD to be the ones that butt in or talk over people. This may make them appear disruptive.
Others may say less and not contribute to discussions at all, as they have drifted off and don’t know where the topic has now moved to. This may make a student appear disinterested.
50% of people with ADHD also suffer from dyslexia.
It can be hard for students to remember what they wanted to say in discussions and debates as their minds race ahead to other thoughts and ideas too quickly. Losing track of what a person intended to say can make them lose confidence.
It may also be particularly difficult to listen in and focus on a conversation in noisy environments when it is hard to filter out the background noise eg in a college social area. The sights and sounds going on can be distracting.
Many students with ADHD feel restless and fidgety. They may be the first to get up from the table after lunch or the person who gets up repeatedly during a class, finding it too difficult to remain seated.
Impulsive behaviour, not thinking before saying or doing something, can lead to inappropriate or unkind words or to making unwise decisions eg playing pranks, that may be regretted afterwards and that can cause serious problems.
Hyperactivity can aversely affect relationships with class mates or tutors and lead to a reputation for being a trouble maker.
Mood instability symptoms
Students with ADHD who present with mood instability, leading to anger, irritability and wild mood swings can have a difficult time in further education. They can become disruptive in class and potentially have problems making and keeping friends or engaging in social activities.
Anger and irritability can mean that getting into arguments can be common in ADHD.
Studies show that between 15% - 39% of adults with ADHD also suffer from a substance use disorder.
It can be difficult to maintain co-operation with others in group or team work and this can lead to difficulty getting along with people and can jeopardize the success of a project.
Mood instability can lead to less successful relationships as friends may feel the person is unpredictable or hard work.
In some cases, people are excluded from social groups. If this happens repeatedly, some people with ADHD become frustrated, lose self-confidence and isolate themselves.
The Impact of ADHD
ADHD can severely affect an individual’s education, working life, home life, relationships and social life.
Who can be affected by ADHD?
ADHD occurs in both males and females and across all ages and all levels of social status, intelligence and capability.