Academic journal article Canadian Psychology

ADHD in Schools: Adopting a Strengths-Based Perspective

Academic journal article Canadian Psychology

ADHD in Schools: Adopting a Strengths-Based Perspective

Article excerpt

Prior to World War II, broad psychological study had three primary foci: alleviating mental illness, enhancing the productivity and satisfaction of the lives of all people, and supporting and building high talent (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). The emphasis was on not only intervention and amelioration of mental health concerns but also building positive characteristics in individuals so as to allow and encourage them to live happier, more fulfilling lives. However, postwar psychology has instead focused on pathology, with a greater emphasis on understanding how and why people struggle (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000), and appears to have forgotten the initial emphasis on life satisfaction and building talent. Indeed, in contemporary psychology, the vast majority of research efforts have been directed toward deficit and remediation, rather than furthering the understanding of positive human attributes.

At the turn of the 21st century, prominent psychologists began to call for a return to the prewar focus of building capacity, satisfaction, and talent in the general population (e.g., Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000; Sheldon & King, 2001). Thus began a revival of positive psychology, the scientific study of human strengths and virtues (Sheldon & King, 2001). Positive psychology builds on the abilities of the "average" person, with a focus on understanding what is going right and what is improving (Sheldon & King, 2001). Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi (2000) note that the aim of positive psychology is "to begin to catalyze a change in the focus of psychology from preoccupation only with repairing the worst things in life to also building positive qualities" (p. 5). In addition, Seligman (2011) emphasizes five key elements to building and maintaining personal well-being, including positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning, and achievement. For a recent review of positive psychology and its tenets, please see Lopez, Pedrotti, and Snyder (2014).

Building on the initial positive psychology movement of identifying and developing talent in the general population, it is also important to consider a reconceptualization of how individuals facing challenges are assessed, diagnosed, and treated. Taking a more "strengths-based" perspective of these individuals recognizes that there are many components in their lives that are working and areas in which they are achieving successfully (Climie, Mastoras, McCrimmon, & Schwean, 2013). This greater emphasis on what is going well may allow educators, practitioners, and parents to capitalize on an individual's strengths and abilities to help ameliorate and compensate for areas of weakness. Indeed, the strengths-based perspective would argue that in addition to remediating deficits, effective intervention must place equal weight on nurturing strengths and developing core facets of well-being recognised within positive psychology frameworks (Lopez et al., 2014). This emphasis may be particularly useful for individuals who continue to face challenges due to a chronic underlying disorder, wherein an emphasis on strengths and well-being can help to promote resilience and effective coping that may continue to support them throughout their lives. One population that may benefit significantly from a refocus toward a more positive ap- proach to assessment and intervention are children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Current Conceptualisation of ADHD

ADHD is one of the most common disorders diagnosed in childhood, with prevalence rates estimated at 5-10% among school-age children in Canada and internationally (Faraone, Sergeant, Gillberg, & Biederman, 2003). ADHD has been the focus of substantial research efforts that have contributed to a comprehensive understanding of the neurocognitive deficits associated with the disorder. Core deficits of this disorder have been identified primarily in the area of executive functions, incorporating the underlying cognitive processes that control movement, planning, organisation, and inhibitory control (see Barkley, 2014, for review). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.