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Postsecondary educational institutions of all types have seen increases in the number of enrollees diagnosed with ADHD. Despite such increases less in known about ADHD among college students because the majority of research has focused on children and adolescents. This qualitative study conducted in the tradition of phenomenology, explored the lived experiences of ten students attending a community college. Personal interviews were conducted for the purpose of gaining insight into how students with ADHD experience higher education in a community college environment; what support services were most/least useful; challenges faced and successes enjoyed; factors influencing success or failure, and the role of family supports.
Analysis of the data resulted in the establishment of nine typologies and 25 themes that helped to illuminate student experiences and resulted in a number of conclusions. The challenges experienced by students were largely due to ADHD symptomology and deficits in executive functioning resulting in an inability to manage time effectively, organize tasks, and effectively plan/strategize. The successes described by students as part of their community college experience varied in magnitude but all were viewed to be important factors in academic persistence, motivation and self-esteem. Supports and accommodations provided by the office of Disability Support Services had little impact on the experiences of the study participants because students were not aware of services, chose not to utilize them or the services needed were not available. Social impairments were a common theme across typologies indicating that such issues played a significant role in the overall experience.
The factors most influencing success and failure included previous educational experiences, strategies employed by students to manage ADHD symptomology, instructional styles used by faculty, and study areas selected by students. Family supports were foundational but not deemed important in managing and living with ADHD and therefore not attributed to having a large impact on the college experience.
Advisor: Sheldon L. Stick