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27-31 August 2019
Poznań, Poland
Europe/Warsaw timezone
programme last update: 23 August 2019
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Contribution Paper

Poznań, Poland - Morasko Kampus, room: 2.20

An innocent burst of energy or a state of insatnity requiring isolation? The Polish school children resolve the ambiguities of ADHD in everyday talk



Primary authors


Between 2015-2018, I worked on an ethnographic project about the Polish children’s experiences with ADHD diagnosis. My work was based in a middle size Polish town where I followed a few boys, some of them undergoing the diagnostic processes, some of them already holding an ADHD diagnosis. I observed them in various contexts – family, school and therapeutic spaces. In the two cases of boys holding the diagnosis, I undertook a couple months long participatory observation in the classrooms, which included conducting more focused conversations with the boys’ classmates (in smaller groups) using the participatory methods and the mosaic approach. This paper takes this conversational material as a starting point for the analysis of the ordinary lives of children and the ways in which the psychiatric vernacular penetrates them. I will show how the psy-sciences and medical and psychological practices provide new meanings that children can use while making sense of their lives, yet, also, I will bring to the front the ambiguity and uncertainty of such resource. I will argue that school children act in a vague landscape in which concepts like ADHD are made available to them, yet, their meaning remains obscure. In such a situation children take on themselves the task of ordering the reality by themselves, through conversations. Relying on the transcripts of specific, thematic interactions, I will portray children as actively engaged in negotiating various medical and non-medical interpretations of ADHD, as well as the practices that surround it (eg. pharmaceutical treatments).