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Examining Intra-Personal and External Support Factors Supporting Academic Success in Post-Secondary Students with ADHD Open Access


Other title
Post-Secondary Students
Qualitative Research
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Sulla, Erin
Supervisor and department
Dr. Alison McInnes, Educational Psychology
Examining committee member and department
Dr. George Buck, Educational Psychology
Dr. William Whelton, Educational Psychology
Dr. Christina Rinaldi, Educational Psychology
Dr. Emma Climie, Department of Psychology, University of Calgary
Dr. Alison McInnes, Educational Psychology
Department of Educational Psychology
School and Clinical Child Psychology
Date accepted
Graduation date
2017-11:Fall 2017
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Young adults with ADHD are less likely to graduate from high school and pursue post-secondary education than young adults without ADHD (Barbaresi et al., 2007; Barkley, 2006; Molina et al., 2009). University students with ADHD, given their enrollment in postsecondary education, have likely experienced relatively greater academic success and have good compensatory skills (Glutting, Monaghan, Adams, & Sheslow, 2002). Yet, little is known about those students with ADHD who persist in school and do well academically, specifically with regard to understanding their lived experiences with academic persistence and success. To begin to address current gaps in research in this area, this study explored the question “What is the experience of persisting in school with a diagnosis of ADHD?” Factors influencing the experience of academic success were explored from a developmental assets framework, specifically, potential internal and external assets that helped students with ADHD to persist through high school and university, despite the academic challenges and high dropout rates in this population (Young, Toone, & Tyson, 2003). Purposeful sampling was used to recruit ten undergraduate students with a confirmed adult diagnosis of ADHD, who completed semi-structured interviews. An exploratory, qualitative interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) design was used to explore the research objectives in the transcripts (Smith, Flowers, & Larkin, 2009). Analysis of the data revealed six superordinate themes emerging from the participants’ interviews, three reflecting internal assets: interest in academic subjects and love of learning, awareness of learning style and individual study strategies, and internal drive and perseverance, and three reflecting external assets: technology as a double-edged tool, engagement in treatment (e.g., medication, therapy), and supportive relationships and environment.
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