Tomorrow Is a Brand New Day

Tears roll down the cheeks of a girl sitting on her bed, staring into the air in despair. “Mom, I can’t take it anymore. I really can’t. My brain is breaking.” She’s in her first year of the economics program in high school. While she managed through middle school quite well, high school has become overwhelming. The constant demand for studying, homework, and exams has left little room for recovery. The emphasis on completing tasks rather than focusing on learning is a pervasive issue in Swedish schools, affecting all students but particularly those with neurodevelopmental disorders (NDs), like ADHD.

As students’ progress, the workload increases, and this is especially challenging for girls with ADHD who are adapted to high performance. Unfortunately, this heightened pressure can lead to deteriorating mental health and increased absence from school. ADHD in girls often goes unnoticed until they can no longer cope with daily life, leading to extended absences.

Teachers unintentionally contribute to this stress by prioritizing task completion over genuine learning. Instead of asking, “What have you learned?” the common question is, “Have you completed the tasks?”

Girls with ADHD face extra challenges due to their struggles going unnoticed. In a school environment influenced by a male-centric norm, girls with ADHD often go unseen. Disruptive boys get attention, while non-disruptive girls blend into large classes. With up to 30 students per class, it’s challenging for teachers to manage.

Another stress factor for older students is the risk of losing their financial.  High school students get a monthly allowance, and repeated absences can lead to losing it. How schools report absences is crucial in supporting students. It’s essential to distinguish between a stressed student at home and one intentionally skipping school. Reporting absences for a student that crashes from stress can push a student to give up on school.

It’s time to acknowledge and support girls with ADHD. Teachers play a crucial role by understanding that these girls may not work the same way as others. Their executive functions might be impaired, affecting their ability to plan and execute tasks. Teachers need to align their teaching with expected learning outcomes, providing clear explanations and support.

Understanding how the brain works, using effective teaching methods, and being aware of the challenges girls with ADHD face can make a significant difference. It’s not just about changing teaching methods; it’s about making sure these girls feel seen and heard. Teachers need mandatory education on neurodevelopmental disorders during training, with comprehensive courses instead of occasional workshops. Creating a culture where girls can be themselves without silently struggling is vital for a positive and inclusive learning environment.

For students silently facing challenges, a tough day doesn’t mean everything is lost. Tomorrow is a new day.

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