At the Brighter Margins: Teaching Writing to the College Student with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
Cooper, Barbara Graham
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Composition studies has paid a great deal of attention to student differences in identity, including gender, race, and socio-economic status. It has also considered the generic problems of writing anxiety and of so-called "basic writers." But composition studies has almost completely neglected the problems and needs of college students with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD). This dissertation argues that college students with AD/HD face a unique set of challenges as writers; these challenges need to be acknowledged, explored, analyzed, and addressed. The rhetorical construction of the individual with AD/HD is examined in both contemporary culture and in the document which authoritatively defines the disorder--the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders-IV Training Revision (2000). Results of a qualitative study of four current college students and of six college graduates all of whom have been diagnosed with AD/HD are presented. This study explored six areas of inquiry in personal interviews with the participants: 1) How does the AD/HD identity affect their self-image as individuals and as writers? 2) How does AD/HD affect their writing process? 3) What positive experiences have they had with writing? 4) What negative ones? 5) What coping mechanisms have they developed for the challenges imposed by AD/HD on the writer? 6) What is or has been helpful to them in the college English class? Further, this paper analyzes how impairment in executive functions of the brain affect the writing of college students with AD/HD. Finally, pedagogy, which is based on the principles of Universal Design for Learning, is suggested to address the challenges faced by the college writer with AD/HD.