The start of a new school year brings many different emotions for students and their families. Positive feelings such as hope for a new start, anticipation of seeing old friends, and excitement of new back-to-school clothes can be mixed with anxiety of a new school, dread of a difficult course load, or sadness at saying goodbye to summer freedom. For students with academic or behavioural challenges, the negative feelings can overshadow any positive ones.
It is well documented that students with ADHD can experience school problems in a number of ways. Recent research has identified that ADHD is directly related to school discipline such as being suspended or expelled due to unacceptable behaviour, and it is also related to difficulty completing schoolwork (Martin, 2014a). In addition to these problems, students with ADHD often struggle with learning disabilities and social relationships. Put together, it’s no wonder that the start of September is a stressful time for many students. So how can parents, teachers, and students themselves prepare for the next ten months? What can be done to end a cycle of trips to the office and bad report cards?
Rather than hope for the best and wait until problems arise, it is important to focus on how we can prepare our teens and young adults for success at school. There are many research studies on the problems that students experience, particularly when they have a diagnosis such as ADHD, but research is starting to focus on how students are succeeding despite adversity they may face.
Andrew Martin describes the idea of “academic buoyancy” as “students’ capacity to successfully overcome setbacks and challenges that are typical of the ordinary course of everyday academic life” (Martin, 2014b). Basically, he looks at how students deal with day-to-day problems in school such as deadlines, timed tests, and tough assignments. Characteristics of academically buoyant students include seeing themselves as capable, having a plan for their work, persisting despite difficulty, and having lower anxiety about schoolwork. Martin found that students with ADHD (as well as students without) who show academic buoyancy have better outcomes at school for their achievement, enjoyment, and participation.
Here are some ways to promote academic buoyancy:
It’s natural to be sad about saying goodbye to sunny beach days and warm evening campfires, but starting a new school year can be an exciting beginning and by preparing students for facing challenges, this can be the most successful one yet.
By Kristi MacDonald
Martin, A. (2014a). Academic buoyancy and academic outcomes: Towards a further understanding of students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), students without ADHD, and academic buoyancy itself. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 84, 86-107. doi:10.1111/bjep.12007
Martin, A. (2014b). The Role of ADHD in Academic Adversity: Disentangling ADHD
Effects From Other Personal and Contextual Factors. School Psychology Quarterly, 29(1), 395-408. doi: 10.1037/spq0000069