Irish colleges have seen a large increase in the number of ADD/ADHD sufferers being admitted, a recent report by the Association for Higher Education Access and Disability (AHEAD) has revealed. The report also stated a growing number of students with disabilities were not accessing disability services available to them that could potentially “have a negative impact on retention rates if not addressed.”
AHEAD’s report was based on figures provided by third level institutes across the country concerning the academic year 2016/17. The report aimed to examine the number of students with disabilities taking part in third level education.
Admissions of ADD/ADHD sufferers saw the largest increase of all categories, with a 70% increase from the 2015/16 academic year. ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) sufferers may sometimes find themselves having difficulties concentrating, reading quickly, taking notes or studying, which may cause them to feel stressed, isolate themselves from friends and family, or struggle to pass exams. With the help of disabilities services, students suffering from such issues can access aids and services such as a voice recorder for recording lectures, easier access to computers, and a smart-pen, which allows you to write, as well as recording and listening to lectures at a later date.
The AHEAD report also noted a 46% increase in the number of incoming students with a mental health condition. In total, admissions related to a mental health condition accounted for 14% of total admissions with a disability. Ann Heelan, Executive Director of AHEAD, says this increase was significant, but that the organisation was “not surprised.” There was a decrease in admissions of students with other categories of disabilities, with the number of students admitted with Specific Learning Difficulty falling by a notable 20% since 2010/2011.
The areas of study which admitted the highest number of students with disabilities were Education and Science, while the areas admitting the lowest amount were Agriculture and Veterinary Science.
The report also examined the number of staff responsible for supporting students with difficulties and the number of learning staff that universities employed. The figures showed that each disability support staff member had on average 167 students to assist, while each learning support staff member worked with an average of 475 students.
Commenting on the report as a whole, Heelan said that more effort was needed from third level institutions, but stated that: “Mental Health Matters research from 2016 indicated that creating a positive culture of disclosing mental health conditions is really important. Clear policies and procedures for college staff on what to do when someone discloses to them can also prove very effective in ensuring that students get the support they need.”