Date Presented 04/21/2023

A qualitative examination is presented of experiences of LD and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) challenges and symptom manifestation among college students negotiating young adult daily tasks and social, work, and academic roles and contexts that may inform OT practice and anticipatory guidance.

Primary Author and Speaker: Consuelo Kreider

Additional Authors and Speakers: Anya Klumpp

Contributing Authors: Sharon Medina

PURPOSE: College students with learning disabilities (LD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) must learn to cope with disability-related challenges while learning to manage new adult roles and contexts. Occupational performance is impacted by LD/ADHD symptoms and related challenges. This study describes attention symptom manifestations and impacts across young adult roles and contexts for undergraduates with LD/ADHD.

DESIGN: This qualitative phenomenological study examined experiences of attention symptom manifestations and challenges.

METHOD: Data were existing transcripts (N = 30 transcripts; N = 52 undergraduates with LD/ADHD) of group discussions from a larger study. Data were originally collected to evaluate a model of LD/ADHD campus supports and related experiences. Thematic analysis began with structural coding to identify symptom-related data segments. Axial and selective coding was used to categorize symptom type and related challenges and to specify dimensions of each symptom type/challenge. Constant comparison of the data to coding was used throughout; frequent peer discussions clarified and confirmed emerging understandings.

RESULTS: Attention symptomatology included experiences of difficulty ‘gearing up’ (i.e., initiating tasks) and difficulty focusing on one task at a time. For participants who had successfully learned to focus attention, challenges remained in reasoning through what to attend to. Participants were concerned that attention symptoms made them appear as if they did not know how to accomplish tasks.

CONCLUSION: Attention symptoms were nuanced in their manifestations across young adult roles and contexts. Attention challenges impacted performance and were experienced in daily task, social, work, and academic contexts. Understanding attention symptom manifestations and related challenges may be useful in informing OT practice and contributes knowledge needed for providing anticipatory guidance to younger clients.


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