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Just Try To Focus

“Just try to focus.” I can’t begin to explain how many times I have heard that in an academic sentence. I’ve heard it from my parents, teachers, tutors, and sometimes even friends. As someone who has Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, “just trying to focus” isn’t as simple as it sounds.


One of the main struggles modern student faces, compared to students in the past, is the availability of things such as smartphones, television, and the internet. In “Hyper and Deep Attention: The generation divide in cognitive modes” an article by Katherine Hayles, she discusses  the idea that media has transformed how people living within developed countries conduct their business, social lives and even how they think. What I was more interested in though was Hayles analysis and distinction between Hyper Attention and Deep Attention. 

Deep Attention displays itself by being able to focus on a single task for an extended period of time and the ability to ignore outside stimuli. Oppositely, Hyper Attention displays itself as low tolerance for boredom, switching focus rapidly between tasks, and the inability to focus on non-interactive tasks. The article discusses a “generational divide” in these two cognitive modes, implying that the modern student tends to lean towards Hyper Attention. If this generational divide is true, one would assume that the educational system has adapted to accommodate this change in cognitive behavior, but this is simply not true.     


Tests and projects are stressful enough, but with someone who has ADHD, the stress can truly push them to their limits.  At SJU, there are multiple resources and guidelines to help students who are diagnosed with this disorder, but there are still many areas that need improvement. 


If you are someone who has ADHD and are either an SJU student or are thinking about attending school here, the Student Disabilities Services website is a good place to start if you are worried about how ADHD will affect your ability to succeed.


The Student Disabilities Services home page states that “The Office of SDS is responsible for promoting access to facilities and programs, ensuring equal educational opportunities, acting as an informational and referral source, and serving as a liaison between faculty and student.”


This is reassuring information, but it then goes on to say, “However, the University is not required by law to change the “fundamental nature or essential curricular components of its programs in order to accommodate the needs of disabled students.”


To me, this is where the problem lies, not only with SJU, but the entire educational system as a whole. How can a university expect a student with a learning disability to achieve as much success as a student without one without changing any of the curriculum or learning methods, especially with this generational divide in cognitive modes that Hayles presents. 


I am not suggesting that I take completely different classes than the majority of students at SJU, but I do think it is important that the university gives it’s professors options in order to accommodate students who struggle with certain learning aspects due to their ADHD. I  believe that professors should have an open conversation with a student with ADHD about their disorder, and then formulate a plan from there regarding certain assignments so that the student doesn’t feel hopeless. This could include making classes more interactive and having more activities planned so that it keeps the Hyper Attention mind active.


If I were to ask for the university to make one change to their policy, I would make it so that professors have the final call as to what assignments a student with ADHD needs to complete, and how much time they have to do so. I have always found that every professor that I have been open with about my struggles has been more than understanding and has helped me succeed in every way possible. I think now is the time that SJU changes their policy to reflect the attitude of both their students and professors.  

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