Nakaya (2009) describes attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as a kind of a disorder, whereby one cannot control his or her behavior due to challenges in processing neural stimuli, which is accompanied by extremely elevated motor activity. ADHD can occur in both children and adults although it is easier to recognize the symptoms when children reach the school age. There are various symptoms of ADHD and they differ from one individual to the other. The main ones include hyperactivity, inattention and impulsivity. Although ADHD often begins at a young age, it persists in to adulthood in 2 out of every 3 individuals diagnosed with it in childhood (Hammerness, 2009). Children diagnosed with ADHD experience difficulty in activities that require concentration both at homes and schools. They may also find it difficult to make and keep friends. If the condition is not addressed, it can interfere with one’s learning, work, as well as social and emotional development. ADHD is genetic; a child is 25%-35% more likely to develop the condition if born in a family that with at least one of its members experiencing the condition. People born from normal families only have 4%-6% chance of developing it (Nakaya, 2009).
Impact of Self-Efficacy in Addressing ADHD and LD
On the other hand, learning disabilities (LD) denote a sequence of disorders, which deleteriously influence learning. People with LD have problems acquiring, retaining or even understanding information (Bakken, Obiakor & Rotatori, 2013). According to the authors, LD can affect the quality of learning among individuals, who without it showed at least average abilities with regard to learning and reasoning. The level of severity of LD varies from one person to another but it may affect oral language, written language, reading and mathematics. Moreover, LD hampers one’s social life, discernment and his/her general perception of the world. LD commonly lasts throughout one’s life. Consequently, the life of an affected person maybe full of educational underachievement, which can be very discouraging (Selikowitz, 2009). LD usually results from hereditary or neurobiological reasons, which may lead to conditions like ADHD. In addition, LD may develop after injuries that affect the functioning of the brain, especially the processes involved in learning. There are various conditions that may develop alongside with LD. They include emotional disorders, attention and behavioral disorders among others.
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Self-efficacy refers to believing in oneself to the extent that one is able to take the required course of action to deal with various situations/conditions (Kernis, 1995). It is what everyone, especially people with ADHD and LD, needs to be able to deal with, including learning and other life’s challenges. It helps people feel empowered as they introduce various corrective measures to numerous limitations in their lives. Such people have more power to determine whether or not they succeed in achieving their goals. Self-efficacy can particularly help college students who are dealing with ADHD and LD challenges.
Many researchers have tried to investigate how self-efficacy can be used to assist college students with ADHD and LD learn better. Their work has also concentrated on how ADHD and LD affect college students due to the fact that such conditions disrupt one’s education. Current section will examine the impacts that self-efficacy has on college students with ADHD and LD and how it can assist them achieve high academic and other life’s goals.
According to Nadeau (2006), significant amount of attention is being given to college students with ADHD and LD. The number of individuals with such conditions joining higher institutions of learning has tremendously increased. The author goes ahead to explain that undergraduates with the conditions are more likely to be overwhelmed due to many academic demands. Many students having LD do not like to report their condition in addition to the fact that no authorized processes are available in institutions of higher education for the purpose of identifying such students or helping them. Therefore, some faculties have a problem determining if a student is experiencing the conditions, while others do not provide any help at all. Some students may not understand they have a problem, while others may choose to conceal it. Students who hide their disorders may adversely affect their education as they might not receive the required help. Nadeau (2006) asserts that students with ADHD and LD generally perform poorly in academics and receive lower grades. They are also at a higher risk of facing academic probation compared to the others. The author proposes a forum in which each of such students can be empowered to create an environment that could assist him/her perform better and achieve the set goals.
According to Mayes, Calhoun & Crowell (2000), one of the best ways of knowing if college students can perform well is by looking at their ability to sustain attention. It seems to be a problem to those with ADHD and LD. Loe & Cuttino (2008) agree with such point of view through their observation that during the first year of college, it is possible to predict the grade point averages of a student by pairing the response inventory of the student with that of their parent. They further explain that students who have high inattentive levels have a higher chance of receiving lower academic grades on average. Apart from the difficulties in processing and functioning that such students experience, they deal with stigmatization issue, as well. Self-efficacy can be included in existing practices to help college with ADHD and LD explore their potential to the maximum due to the fact that it affects how one feels, thinks, behaves and the way he/she motivate him-/herself. Nadeau (2006) explains that, with regards to learning, self-efficacy is the belief that a student has abilities to employ the learning strategies to deal with the various difficult learning conditions.
Lyle, (1998) supports the point by saying that the individuals who have not been trained on self-efficacy often doubt their capabilities. They try to avoid situations where they perceive failure to be the outcome. The author goes ahead to say that if such students experience several academic failures their self-esteem is bound to reduce significantly. With self-efficacy, students with ADHD perceive themselves to be in control and are more insistent and persistent in improving themselves. One’s self-efficacy, in current case, plays a great role in the environment, in which a student places him-/herself and also how he/she handles failures. The author proceeds by stating that professionals can continuously strive to improve self-efficacy in ADHD and LD college students through positively improving their learning environments. In addition, they should focus on the strengths that such students have. Additionally, counseling to motivate the students to accept and work to improve themselves is required. It directly impacts the student’s success and makes such students boost their confidence in self-efficacy. Students with ADHD and LD form the largest number of people with disabilities in colleges and may increase up to 29% in some of them (Bakken, Obiakor, & Rotatori, (2013).
Previous experiences of students are the strongest determinants of how academic self-efficacy is perceived (Lyle, 1998). It is caused by the fact that students examine their results after completing an academic task and equate the self-perceptions with their performance. The way one is able to interpret such performances greatly influences his/her personal beliefs, which lead to a change in their future actions. Therefore, the author comes to the conclusion that the relationship existing between the previous academic performance and the type of beliefs related to self-efficacy are reciprocal. It means that previous success leads to greater self-efficacy beliefs, which translate to greater future academic performance. According to Loe & Cuttino (2008), a repeated cycle of academic failures can make students have less belief in their abilities, which can reduce the expectations such people have for their future.
Success has been linked to academic motivation and positive beliefs (Stevens, 1996). Stevens notes that students with positive self-efficacy towards academics having the two mentioned conditions are usually more eager to deal with challenging tasks as opposed to the ones with negative self-efficacy, who may not try at all due to their fear of failure. A rewarding learning experience is the one in which the academic tasks are given in accordance with the student’s level. It should be applied in case of people struggling with ADHD and LD in order to reduce the level of anxiety associated with such task. Therefore, faculty and administrators are faced with the task of constructing a learning experience meant to motivate the students and enable them to achieve their fullest potential. ADHD and LD may have varying effects from one individual to another. Therefore, it is important for the faculties to understand the differences and challenges each individual face, which is crucial for improving the self-efficacy they have towards academics.
Self-efficacy is important in all areas of life, especially when using it to improve academic achievement (Rief, Hanson, Cassone, & National Professional Resources, 2008). The authors emphasize the need for paying extra attention to the subject areas, in which the students with ADHD tend to have problems. They argue that it is likely for learners to succeed in one area, for example reading, and still have inadequate self-confidence in others like mathematics. That is why higher education professionals are urged to make learning an individual experience for such students. Examples of the professionals who can do it include counselors, disability coordinators, even advisers and the support services staff among others. The authors state that most students with LD often associated success with external factors but considered failures as their fault. They normally reason that they fail because they don’t have the ability or skill required. Others feel like they have not made enough effort even when they have. In instances where such negative perceptions are countered, their self-efficacy rises and better results are obtained. Moreover, a change of attitude is noted, which is mostly followed by improved academic performance. Rief, Hanson, Cassone & National Professional Resources (2008) say that the level of confidence that one has in handling various situations greatly influences how one views that particular situation in terms of being a challenge, stress or threat. Self-efficacy serves to assist an individual to cultivate a positive attitude, which assists a person to develop coping strategies. Moreover, it assists such people to have a better perception of their challenges and have a ‘winning attitude’.
According to Farrar (2011), students experiencing ADHD and LD may have their learning experience greatly improved if the right approach is used; this can greatly improve their performance, as well. It is important to note that such students need a different environment and a different approach. That is why it is not advisable to put the two groups of students in one category when trying to help them overcome their challenges and achieve academic success. Many colleges do it but it yields poor results. The author explains that even students with ADHD should be assisted in a different setting from those with learning difficulties arising from other conditions. The ability to distinguish the two is important in dealing with the particular challenges that each group faces. For example, individuals with ADHD have lower levels of concentration, issues with time management, effective test taking strategies and choosing the main ideas compared to the students with LD arising from other conditions. The students without disabilities were better compared with the two sub-groups in all aspects. Being aware of the two sub-groups is important when training self-efficacy among students because the individuals with ADHD may not find it difficult to visit classes compared to those with LD arising from other conditions. According to the author, some students have multiple disabilities, for instance, a student may have LD arising from other condition and also show some characteristics of ADHD (Farrar, 2011). In such case, case by case evaluation is recommended to offer the support in line with the student’s unique needs. Despite the various challenges and conditions that some students have, training them on how they can assist themselves have shown the best results. In the midst of confusion that may arise after a series of discouraging academic performance, such students find relief and /or consolation in learning how changing their perception and attitude can improve their situation. Additionally, a sense of empowerment is cultivated among such students when they learn the practical steps they can take to improve their state. In addition to students’ efforts, self-efficacy is easily achieved when higher education faculty together with the support staffs apply individualized strategy instruction model as a means of providing a learning environment that is both constructive and challenging to the students (Mizutowicz, 2007).
Another way of promoting self-efficacy among students with either ADHD or LD is by setting suitable and realistic academic goals (Mizutowicz, 2007). The author explains that the goals decided upon should have some personal importance to the students in order to be successful. In addition to that, they should be short-term, achievable and very specific. Not every faculty and peer mentor has experience of effective coaching but they can use an approach that is effective in order to achieve the desired results. It involves having discussions with the students and finding out what is important to them in addition to the necessary steps that can be taken to achieve the set goals. Such approach leads to a higher level of optimism and satisfaction, which is necessary for the students to not only to do well but succeed in college, a well.
Baum, Owen, & Baum (2004) observed that presenting clear learning objectives to the students with ADHD and LD helped in assisting the students to cultivate a positive attitude. It also helped students identify the material they would study. As a result, students have more time to read and understand the materials, which results in better grades. It may boost their self-esteem and is also crucial in cultivating self-efficacy. Such strategy greatly increased students’ chances of passing tests and assignments, which further increased their level of self-efficacy leading to more success. Coaches and counselors in colleges can help lower the rate of anxiety and frustration among students through systematic demonstrations and explanations regarding the learning strategies to employ, including individualized strategies that cater for ones’ specific needs. In addition, there should be a conducive environment for the students to approach their instructors with any question regarding issues that may cause stress and anxiety. When they are relaxed, their self-efficacy is boosted, which can assist them to perform well academically.
Kernis (1995) suggests that higher levels of anxiety and depression are linked to lowering self-efficacy. The author states that students normally assess their emotional states in the same manner they assess their intellect. Strong emotional reactions give students signals concerning the success or failure they are expecting. It means that feeling upset or anxious in a particular situation can make students with ADHD and LD believe that they cannot perform the tasks well. On the other hand, when the same student feels physically and emotionally well, it gives him/her more confidence to perform the task well. For this reason, when anxiety is avoided, students with ADHD and LD perform better as their self-efficacy is boosted.
Students with ADHD and LD should continue using the common services and accommodation that is offered by colleges for students with disabilities. Examples of such services may include additional time given to complete tests and assignments (Loe, & Cuttino, 2008). They can also be supplied with copies of the lecture notes due to the fact that some of them may have difficulties with processing and making notes during the lectures. In addition, such students can benefit from tape recording in addition to being given alternate formats with regards to assignments and assessments. A good example is choosing of oral as opposed to written form for tests.
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Staff members should also be educated on such types of disabilities and how to handle such students. Mayes, Calhoun & Crowell (2000) are of the opinion that faculty should practice such kind of professional training regularly in order to help students understand their disabilities. Such type of training can encourage higher levels of interpersonal communication necessary between the students and the faculty members, making the students develop more self-efficacy, therefore, greatly improving their chances for success.
Synthesis and Analysis
Self-efficacy has been considered very effective in the motivation of college students with ADHD and LD. The reason for it is that self-efficacy leads to a change of attitude, where affected individuals take active role to improve themselves. It positively influences academic outcomes in terms of classroom engagement, grades, as well as one’s likelihood of having the determination to continue pursuing academic success. Their boosted expectations for success, as well as their willingness to try various self-regulatory strategies yield more success and determination. Additionally, a positive correlation exists between positive self-efficacy, positive perception towards the school and improved academic performance. Negativity, on the other hand, has been linked to procrastination, anxiety and poor academic performance: people with negative attitudes may fail to achieve many of their goals. The remarkable correlation between self-efficacy and improved academic outcomes demonstrate that the role it plays goes beyond one’s skills, knowledge or even intellectual ability.
The literature shows that self-efficacy is very useful among students with ADHD and LD. It assists such students to understand that academic performance is not solely based on the student’s capability but on the level of capability each believes he/she has. Promoting positive self-efficacy among college students with such disabilities helps providing them with more rewarding academic and life experiences. It is the responsibility of the higher education professionals to promote a learning environment that can enable such students to receive the best experience at college and continue implementing the same positive self-efficacy later in everyday life. Through positive self-efficacy, the focus is shifted from the impairments that such students may be having and is directed to their strengths. Many of them have experienced academic disappointments, especially before learning how self-efficacy can be helpful. Practices of self-efficacy are meant to encourage more perseverance, optimism and personal satisfaction. Students facing challenges of ADHD and LD can improve their academic and other forms of achievements in higher educational institutions through learning how to reveal their strengths through the use of self-efficacy.