Most people with ADHD do not have a good time in compulsory education and sadly my story is no different. When I was in school, most of the stuff I learnt didn’t seem relevant at the time to every day and now that I’m older; I find my initial thoughts to be absolutely correct. Combine that with the fact that I just could not learn in the way, which was expected, then school life held very little interest for me.
The sad fact is that most schools or education systems are not set up to cater to children with ADHD. In a lot of schools, it’s still all about sitting on a chair in the classroom, while somebody tells you a lot of information. Also, most subjects are also taught in a linear fashion, where maths is separate to English and science has no bearing on PE. That’s not how our brains work!! Our brains are built to make connections across all subjects, linking one thing to another like a beautiful and brilliant jigsaw.
Of course, there are special education schools for those who may have a more severe form of ADHD, but statistics show that the majority of children with ADHD have a moderate version, which means they only qualify for mainstream education. 10,500 children born each year in England are likely to receive a diagnosis of ADHD. 90% of these will attend mainstream schooling and my guess is that most of them will not have a positive experience ( Satisitical Research from Centre for Mental Health, 2014).
My question for the Education Secretary would be how can you make mainstream education compulsory for children who cannot access it? Let’s face it, not many parents can afford to home school their children, no matter how much they would like to. I’m not saying that there is an easy solution, but it does seem incredibly illogical.
“Is the lack of creative the reason for ADHD in schools?”ADHD Girl
The support available for children in schools with ADHD is also very limited, only the pupils who disrupt the class the most get 1-1 support and this is when it is available according to funding (a whole other issue in itself). Of course, there are fantastic teachers out there who do make all the difference. I worked alongside one such teacher whose nephew had ADHD, it made him incredible empathetic to his pupil and I saw the impact of that support.
Medication is the most common treatment for ADHD, and while I am not against it, it does not overcome the many obstacles that mainstream education presents. While it may ensure that a child is able to focus, it does not mean they will find the actual learning easier to access. Still, at least it gives them that choice. After, observing a child with ADHD, while on medication and off medication in the classroom environment, I found that at least with medication they had a chance of accessing the learning available.
Sir Ken Robinson, who was part of the Creative Council Associated once did a TED Talk about how schools are not fit for the future, because they are preparing children for a world that will not exist by the time, they are ready to leave school. He briefly touches on how schools are run like factories and theorising that the lack of creativity/ connection-making may be the reason why ADHD has been on the increase over the previous decade (Robinson, 2007).
“I got the most support when I went to university, which is ironic considering most people with ADHD never reach that level of education.”ADHD Girl
While I don’t believe schools are directly causing ADHD, as in they are the reason behind it, I do believe that most schools systems are set up to fail people who have ADHD, because the bottom line is they just don’t know what to do with them? What do you do with someone who is intelligent, but cannot learn in the way that you have been prescribed to teach them? I’m not sure even I have the answer to that.
The one thing I do know is that if the education system allowed for more practical authentic experience learning instead of sitting down for the majority of the time and made it cross-curricular, then people with ADHD would probably find it a lot easier to access education.. I suppose the experiences I had while at school did help to shape me into the person I am today. Still, I do constantly wonder what would have happened if I had received the right support. Where would I be now? I’m pretty sure this blog possibly wouldn’t exist for one.
“Schools and the whole education system need to do more to accommodate people with ADHD.”ADHD Girl
The irony is that it was only once I attended university, did I manage to access education due to the support given by my incredible university. Once I was assessed for ADHD, I received lots of things to help including a voice reader and mind mapping software, a 10% allowance for my spelling and grammar plus an audio recorder for class notes. However, the most helpful of these things was a study skills tutor for an hour a week who basically held me accountable and stop me making connections that were just too big for my word count. For the first time, at university, I was not only doing something I was passionate about, early childhood studies, but it had relevance in the real world. By this time I was a grown up and I knew something about my strengths and weaknesses, so I just needed guidance and understanding.
It’s possible that the only thing we can really do in life is work with what we are given and what we have got, but that shouldn’t ever stop us from wanting to make things better for others, in the future. I just hope one day, the school systems and even the education system starts to recognise that perhaps for ADHD, they have long way to go in terms of being inclusive.
Centre for Mental Health (2014) The lifetime costs of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (Online) Available at:- https://www.centreformentalhealth.org.uk/sites/default/files/2018-09/adhd.pdf (Accessed 25/08/21).
Robinson, K. (2007) Do schools kill creativity?
(Online) Available at:- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iG9CE55wbtY (Accessed 25/08/21).