Self-efficacy, ADHD and Coaching

“My daughter would always rather play video games than do homework!”
“I do great in the classes I enjoy. But the others? I can’t seem to get the work done.”
“I love film-making. I wish I could just make films instead of write papers and do science labs!”
Why do many students with ADHD avoid their schoolwork?
One reason is low self-efficacy related to academic challenges.
What is self-efficacy?
Self-efficacy is a term used in psychology to indicate a person’s belief in his or her own abilities.
Self-efficacy impacts how individuals feel about themselves and their lives, how they behave and what their levels of self-motivation will be.
It is also task-specific, meaning that one can have self-efficacy in certain areas of life (for example, sports) and not in others (say, academics). High self-efficacy in an area leads to motivation and to seeking challenge. Low self-efficacy, on the other hand, can lead to low motivation, frustration and avoidant behavior.

What is the relationship of self-efficacy to students with ADHD?
In areas where individuals typically struggle – for many students with ADHD, academics is one – self-efficacy is typically low.
Although students with ADHD or LD are often of average or above-average intelligence, their struggles with academics often leads to low self-efficacy in relation to school work.
Low self-efficacy can lead to avoidant behavior and low motivation for tasks, a vicious circle contributing to academic challenges.
So, what can help?
Research demonstrates that ADHD coaching is an intervention that can boost student self-efficacy:
  • Coaching is not didactic, but, rather, uses an inquiry approach that fosters student self-determination. 
  • ADHD coaching also supports students in developing self-awareness around strengths, challenges, avoidance patterns, and alternative options for approaching difficult tasks. 
  • It helps students clarify goals, identify steps toward meeting them, and break challenging tasks into manageable bits to encourage small successes. 
The self-determination, self- awareness, and step-wise successes promoted by coaching help boost self-efficacy in students, leading to less avoidance, less frustration, and more success in academic endeavors. 

Want to learn more? 

1) ADHD Coaching for Teens & Young Adults: 

2) Further reading on Self-Efficacy: 
3) Further reading on ADHD Coaching, Students and Self-Efficacy:
Costello, C. A. and Stone, S. L. M. (2012). Positive Psychology and Self-Efficacy: Potential Benefits for College Students with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 25(2), 119-129. 
Parker, D. R. and Boutelle, K. (2009). Executive Function Coaching for Students with ADHD and Learning Disabilities: A New Approach for Fostering Self-Determination.  Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 24(4), 201-215. (abstract)

Photo Credit: Stuart Miles,

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