Date Presented 04/20/2023

Literature suggests that adult learners with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may not be adequately prepared for higher education. This study analyzed perceptions of college faculty regarding the capacities of students with ADHD to inform the role of OT practitioners in support of people with ADHD.

Primary Author and Speaker: Zahava Friedman

Contributing Authors: Denise Nash

PURPOSE: College campuses serve an increasingly neurodiverse student body, though experiences of support for these students is not well understood (Dwyer et al., 2022; Goffer et al., 2019). Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), is a neurological psychiatric disorder with symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity (Barkley, 2006). Adults with ADHD more likely to struggle at college (Antshel, 2015). The occupational therapy (OT) profession is uniquely placed to improve experiences for students with ADHD in academic settings (Dwyer et al., 2022; Slamka et al., 2021). Therefore, the purpose of this study was to explore the perception of college faculty of learning capacities of students with ADHD, to improve understanding and experiences.

DESIGN: In this phenomenological study, thematic analysis was utilized to analyze in-depth, semi-structured interview responses. Participants were ten (10) college faculty members from across the U.S., with at least one year experience teaching students with ADHD.

METHOD: During virtual interviews, guided questions aimed to explore faculty perceptions of learning capacities of students with ADHD. This interdisciplinary study was co-led by nursing and OT faculty members. Following interviews, data was independently coded by each researcher, then rigorously analyzed for themes.

RESULTS: Upon qualitative analysis of interviews, the following themes emerged: (1) Strengths in Problem-Based Learning. (2) Lack of Mechanism for Time Management (3) Accommodation or Privilege? (4) Andragogy vs. Pedagogy.

CONCLUSION: A unique finding from this study was perceptions of faculty with regard to questionable preparedness of students with ADHD for andragogical learning in higher education.

IMPACT STATEMENT: Findings from this study can improve learning experiences for adults with ADHD. OT practitioners can use findings to prepare primary students with ADHD for higher education, and to consider OT expansion into college settings.


Dwyer, P., Mineo, E., Mifsud, K., Lindholm, C., Gurba, A., & Waisman, T. C. (2022). Building neurodiversity-inclusive postsecondary campuses: Recommendations for leaders in higher education. Autism in Adulthood.

Goffer, A., Cohen, M., Berger, I., & Maeir, A. (2019). Beyond academic outcomes: occupational profile and quality of life among college students with and without attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 82(3), 170–178.

Gormley, M. J., DuPaul, G. J., Weyandt, L. L., & Anastopoulos, A. D. (2019). First-year GPA and academic service use among college students with and without adhd. Journal of Attention Disorders 23(14), pp.1766–1779.

Slamka, M., Medina, S., & Kreider, C. (2021). Time Challenges and Well-Being for College Students With Learning Disabilities and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A Qualitative Study. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 75(Supplement_2), 7512505128p1-7512505128p1.