The Writing Center’s Lack of Focus: Tutoring Students with ADHDElizabeth Hughes, The Catholic University of America (
Though the writing center is uniquely situated to help students with disabilities because it is able to provide individualized attention, little research has been done on how the writing center can best serve students with specific disabilities like ADHD. Because of this lack of research, it remains unclear as to whether traditional writing center pedagogy is effective for students with ADHD. My research, conducted at Catholic University’s Writing Center, in conjunction with the Office of Disability Support Services, makes recommendations to improve tutoring effectiveness not only for students with ADHD but for all students.

5 Thoughts to “ The Writing Center’s Lack of Focus: Tutoring Students with ADHD”

  1. Jessica Pinkerton

    This is an awesome presentation! As an undergrad tutor with ADHD, I definitely agree that there should be more research in ADHD within the writing center–I did my final project for our writing center class on disabilities in the writing center, and I really couldn’t find anything on it, two years ago. I decided as a tutor, in my tutor description on our website, I included my disabilities and disorders in order to make it more “normal.”

    In your presentation, you included the question, “Why should the Writing Center focus on ADHD?”. I’d like to include another reason, based on the article by Julie Neff, “Learning Disabilities and the Writing Center”. In the article, Neff compares having a learning disability to having a physical disability, and she brings up making an elevator for students with these disabilities. This elevator not only helps students with physical disabilities, but any student, including those who may have broken their leg, or may not be disabled, but may have less severe trouble, like being tired or the like. The field of education is really new, and there isn’t much known about good ways to teach, or what’s helpful–this is especially true for women, people of color, people with disabilities, and others who have traditionally been excluded from higher academia. By expanding ADHD research, I feel this can lead to more “elevators.”

    You also brought up disclosing disabilities, and I feel this is really tricky, but I think you covered it pretty well. It really shouldn’t matter. Flexibility’s what’s needed in the writing center, and it doesn’t matter if the student has a disability or not, and if the student discloses this disability or not. A fear of disclosing a disability (outside of making sure it’s done ethically, as no student is ever required to disclose this) I’ve seen is how a tutor can become fixated on what strategies they’ve learned for this particular disability.

    Overall, excellent presentation! It’s given me a lot to think about, and much of what you described with students with ADHD is how I feel. There are two times with ADHD: “now and not now,” which makes doing assignments and keeping deadlines near impossible. Plus, executive dysfunction. Ugh. Anyways, thank you for your presentation!

  2. Zoë Whittle

    Thank you for the presentation! As a writing tutor with ADHD, I find that the suggestions in this presentation mostly describe the things I already do. I’ve had to work to where I know what works for me as a student, and so I tend to ask questions to make sure what I’m doing works for the students I work with. On more than one occasion, I’ve needed to completely change my approach when working with a student whose mind works completely differently from mine, and I think that’s a good skill to practice. I definitely think that having ADHD myself helps me navigate those situations, but I definitely think that anyone can learn to ask students what works for them and to adjust accordingly.

  3. Lindsay Sabatino

    Your research adds a wonderful dynamic to writing center work on students with disabilities. Your survey was very informative and hearing the feedback from students with ADD/ADHD was helpful. I could see using this presentation to complement our discussions of Julie Garbus’s piece “Tutoring Mentally Disabled Students” in the tutor training course. I hope you continue to develop your research into a publication. You should consider submitting this work to The Peer Review.

  4. Meghan Nadzam

    This was brilliantly thought out, the presentation, your paper, all of it. Honestly, when you opened with the scenario of you working with one of your friends with ADHD, it felt so familiar. Being an undergraduate myself at Wittenberg University, I have friends with ADHD that have come to me asking for help with their writing, and I have found difficulties and problems when working with them.

    With your informative talk, I feel like I can better understand my friends and other students in the Wittenberg community with ADHD and disabilities. I was taught, when going through advisor training, to be flexible and to not be there as a fix-it shop, but to work with each student as an individual case. Each student and their writing will be different, so you are entirely correct that tutors cannot just have general way of going about a session.

    I learned a lot about ADHD, and I think that with this, I will be more informed and ready to work with such students with ADHD. Thank you.

  5. Gabe Ferguson

    Elizabeth, thank you for sharing this insightful presentation! I think you’re absolutely right that more research on ADHD in the writing center needs to be done. Although your first suggestion about asking students if they would like to read aloud makes sense in the context of ADHD, I wonder whether it might have some unintentional negative effects as well. Personally, when I had my first meeting as a tutee, I read aloud and ultimately found it really useful. However, if I had been asked beforehand whether that would be useful I would probably have said no because I didn’t yet understand what the benefits might be, and I was apprehensive. Do you have any thoughts on how to encourage some students like me to step outside of their comfort zone while also being more accessible to students with ADHD? Thanks!

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