‘Teachers unpreparedfor ADHD students’ research study finds

Second-level teachers say they are unprepared to teach students who have ADHD or other special educational needs, because of “inadequacies in initial teacher education programmes”.

Many adolescents who have ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) said they had only been diagnosed in their teens, which impinged upon their education and the supports they might have accessed sooner. The findings are contained in research conducted by Andrea Lynch, for NUI Galway’s School of Education.

Entitled ‘Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in adolescence: the experiences of young women and second-level teachers in Ireland’, it includes answers from 239 teachers to an online questionnaire. Ms Lynch also conducted in-depth interviews with eight teachers who had taught adolescent girls and boys who had ADHD, and 17 adolescent girls who had been diagnosed with ADHD.

Ms Lynch said the findings indicated shortcomings in resources for both students and teachers, and, in some cases, a lack of understanding of ADHD.

According to the findings from teachers: “Participants strongly felt they were unprepared to teach students with ADHD, and other forms of SEN, as a result of inadequacies in initial teacher education (ITE) programmes.

“Dissatisfaction was also expressed in relation to continuing professional development (CPD), which was often viewed as irrelevant to their work, or inaccessible. Participants had a strong desire to increase their knowledge of ADHD, and other related SEN, through additional training.”

It also said: “Although some participants were able to identify positives of teaching students with ADHD, the conversation generally focused on negative aspects. Teachers raised concerns about ADHD being used as an ‘excuse’ for academic underachievement and behavioural difficulties. Additionally, many believed that students with ADHD can compromise the learning of other students in the classroom.”

While the majority of teachers reported having substantially more experience teaching males who had ADHD, than females who had, many “suspected” undiagnosed ADHD in their female students, based on behavioural observations.

As for the student input, they perceived a lack of societal understanding and awareness of ADHD in Ireland, fuelled by the belief that some people do not accept the condition as medically valid.

“It appears that difficulties often surfaced, because they felt misunderstood by their teachers, who often misinterpreted their behaviours and underestimated their academic capabilities. Additionally, participants felt largely unsupported in second-level and believed that some of their teachers didn’t take their diagnosis seriously, while others simply didn’t want to help them.”

Ms Lynch said: “The teachers were definitely saying ‘we were not prepared for this’. That is not a new finding. They are continuing to say it. In a way, it shows, maybe, a longitudinal problem. It has been an issue and it is still an issue.”

  • See: https://aran.library.nuigalway.ie/handle/10379/6509

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