What is it Like as a Student with ADHD?

Lily McDonald, Writer

Around 9.8% of children ages 3-17 in the US have been diagnosed with ADHD. I talked to a high school student about her experiences with ADHD and how it affects her school performance. 

Mikenna Shepherd, a ninth grader here at Canyon, shared that, “ADHD definitely affects my school performance.” She elaborated by stating that it’s hard for her to focus in classes, with her type of ADHD it’s easier for her to get stuff done by multitasking. But, teachers often get mad when students are doing things other than the assigned work. She explains, “I’m the type of student who has to be doing some other assignment or working ahead while a teacher is giving a lecture because I genuinely just don’t have the attention span to listen to a lecture and I never have had that ability.” Typically, students can receive accommodations when they have a diagnosed disorder, but it depends on the situation. 

In Mikenna’s situation, she didn’t qualify for a certain accommodation called a 504 plan. According to the CDC page on ADHD in the classroom, “a 504 plan provides services and changes to the learning environment to meet the needs of the child.” Mikenna didn’t qualify for this plan because she had straight A’s, despite her struggles in the classroom. Getting straight A’s in middle school was very different than getting A’s in elementary school, middle school proving to be more stressful. She says, “Just because I had straight A’s didn’t mean I was doing fine in school. It was a lot more stressful than it should have been and I had to receive a lot of help from my parents.” So the school’s system isn’t exactly fair, but Mikenna does receive some help. While she doesn’t have a 504 plan, she can request from teachers verbal check-ins (to make sure she understands and is paying attention) and ask to have written versions of verbal instructions.

This isn’t the reality for every child with ADHD. Some plans get approved, some don’t, not even considering kids who are undiagnosed. Even children without ADHD or other disorders struggle with school, so it’s important to consider how schools can better help students. Mikenna doesn’t feel like she receives enough support at school, which is a common feeling amongst kids with disabilities. The school often assumes things based on external factors like grades but doesn’t always consider what the student is feeling and struggling with.