Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in adolescence: the experiences of young women and second-level teachers in Ireland
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There are numerous aspects of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) that are underexplored and which we do not fully understand. This is particularly true when the condition is considered in relation to the academic and social experiences of adolescents and young adults. As such, the purpose of this study was to address these deficits and to explore ADHD through the perspectives and experiences of young women (ages 13 to 20) who are formally diagnosed with ADHD, and second-level teachers who support these students. The use of a mixed-methodology consisting of semi-structured interviews and online questionnaires produced extensive qualitative and quantitative data which provided a rich insight into the challenges that young women in Ireland can face in relation to obtaining a diagnosis, and finding understanding and support, particularly within the context of their second-level schools. It was found that young females may experience the symptoms of ADHD in ways which are different from young males, and that they are often diagnosed later in life. Additionally, this study discovered that young participants sensed a pervasive lack of understanding and acceptance of ADHD within Irish society, but most especially within their own schools—and this lack of consideration appears to have compromised their relationships with teachers and the level of support they received. Data collected with teachers revealed that they continue to feel unprepared to support students with ADHD and to meet the demands of inclusive classrooms. It was also found that negative attitudes exist in second-level schools towards students with ADHD, as they are often viewed as disruptive in the classroom, and as preventing other pupils from learning. Additionally, this study more broadly considered the various barriers which some teachers face in creating schools that are truly inclusive and welcoming of all students with special needs. This study raised critical questions in relation to the level of legitimacy that ADHD receives in Ireland as a result of pervasive stigma towards mental illness, the influence of gendered assumptions within the classroom context, and the ability of the Irish educational system to fully embrace inclusive practices. The findings and related implications of this study hold particular insight and benefit for those affected by ADHD, and the families and teachers who support them. The results of this study may also be of interest to clinicians who are responsible for diagnosing ADHD, providers of special education services, and administrators and legislators who create and influence educational policy and practice, particularly in relation to the support of students with special needs.