Strategies for Surviving the First Year of College with ADHD

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Research indicates that college students with ADHD have a greater chance of failing and having to retake classes, getting lower grade point averages, and leaving college without graduating than students without ADHD. This can come as a surprise to some parents. Often these same kids have done well in high school, and scored well on standardized tests. But college life, especially when it is away from home, can be a difficult transition.

Bonnie Mincu, an ADHD coach, writing in her blog Thrive with ADHD, identifies 4 primary reasons for the problems ADHD students have – especially in their freshman year:

  • Disorganization
  • Denial
  • Distraction
  • Derailment

Denial can be a big part of the problem. An article in Education Week indicated that 69 percent of students with ADHD and other learning disabilities “no longer consider themselves disabled once they reach college.” This change in perspective results in low use of accommodations and support. This

Micah Goldfus surveyed student coordinators at a number of colleges and universities around the country to get their recommendations for ADHD students who are struggling in college:

  • Own your ADHD – don’t deny it or think you are going to leave it behind. Embrace your difference and make the most of it.
  • Use disability services and accommodations – Take advantage of the resources that are available to help. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to contact the disability office and ask for more accommodations if you need them. Don’t be afraid to ask your professors for help as well.
  • Understand how you learn best – It is worth taking the time to discover your particular learning style and what works best for you rather than trying to copy what everyone else does.
  • Connect with the wider LD / ADHD community – Many students (perhaps as many as one in five) is an LD / ADHD student. Seek them out and share – either in person or through online forums. You will realize you are not along and could some valuable advice from those who have been going through the same struggles.
  • Understand the policies of your school – Every school is somewhat different with respect to support, accommodations, and policies around LD and ADHD students. Be sure you understand the rules for your school to get the help you need.
  • Explore – College gives you the opportunity to break out of your academic comfort zone. You can try out new subjects and explore topics because they’re interesting to you (not because they’re easy or they’re what you’ve always been good at).

It can also be a good idea to engage an ADHD coach during the freshman year of college. This can help you stay focused and avoid the “4 D’s” that Bonnie Mincu identified.

Whatever your strategy, be prepared for the challenges that transitioning to college brings. Succeeding with that transition can make the transition to career easier.

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A Gap Year – The Right Choice for an ADHD Teen?

A gap year is an experiential year typically taken between high school and college in order to deepen practical, professional, and personal awareness. A gap year can be especially important and beneficial for students with ADHD. Here are some things to consider if you are thinking about a gap year for your ADHD teen.

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Becoming a Better Listener When You Have ADHD

 

Listening Problems for Adults with ADHD

For adults with ADHD, listening can be a challenge. Inattention and being easily distracted are two of the symptoms of ADHD that make focusing on a conversation or a lecture doubly difficult. This can often manifest in several ways. For example, Michele Novotni PhD at ADDitude.com identifies these common listening problems:

  • Non-stop talk where you voice every though in your (overactive) mind and no one else can speak
  • Not participating so the other person feels you are not interested
  • Making conversation a monologue about you
  • Frequently interrupting someone while they are speaking
  • Tuning in and out of conversations as your attention wanders

Tips for Being a Better Listener When You Have ADHD

There are a number of straightforward strategies you can use to help you become a better listener. Below are several recommended by Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. at Psych Central.

Paraphrase – Repeating back to your conversation partner what you heard them say reinforces the conversation in your mind, shows the other party you are interested, and keeps you engaged in the overall flow of the conversation.

Take notes – Writing down key points and questions you have is a great aid when you are receiving instructions or listening to a lecture. Alternatively, you can ask someone giving instructions to write them down or send them in email to avoid any potential confusion.

Avoid focusing on your next sentence – Avoid thinking about what you are going to say next when you are in a conversation. This can actually help you be better informed about what the other person is saying and you will be more likely to make an appropriate response when it is your turn to speak.

Ask for key points – It is easy to become distracted if someone is rambling or getting mired down in details that are not of interest to you. If that happens, ask them for the key points they are trying to make to get the conversation back on track.

Put the conversation in context – Try to connect what the other person is saying with something you already know. Making this kind of connection will help keep you anchored in the dialogue. If you are having trouble making such a connection, ask the person you are talking with to help you make one.

Visualize the story – Many who have ADHD are visual thinkers. Try imaging what the other person is saying like a movie playing. Let your mind create images of all the colorful details associated with the conversation.

Listening Sills Can be Improved with Practice

The good news is that listening skills can be learned. Two things you can do to help accelerate your listening learning curve, suggested by Laura Rolands, an ADHD Coach, include:

Practice listening with a friend or co-worker whom you know and trust – Take turns telling each other something about a recent event.  Make it short, but long enough to tax your listening skills, say 2-4 four minutes. When your friend is done talking, reflect the story back to him or her and ask for feedback.  Discuss what got in the way of your listening and brainstorm ways you can listen more actively in the future.  Then reverse roles and tell your friend something of interest.  Practice this a few times each week and keep track to see if your listening skills have improved.

Become aware of when you are listening or not – Often the first step to becoming a better listener is to notice when you listen well and actively.  By noticing when you listen, you can focus on recreating the positives of those situations in the future.  What is the environment?  How is the speaker speaking?  What did you eat for breakfast?  How much sleep did you get last night?  By noticing the positive listening experiences that you have, you can be more mindful of creating those experiences again in the future.  After you notice the positive of when you listen well, you might also want to take notice of when you do not listen so well.  How can you use the strengths you identified above to make the situations where you don’t listen well better?

Together, practice and awareness can help you hone your active listening skills.

Tips for Helping Your ADHD Child Calm Down

 

Hyperactivity is Both Physical and Mental

For many children with ADHD, sitting still is a near impossible task. Their constant physical activity can be frustrating for parents and difficult for teachers when a child’s hyperactivity disrupts a class. But, as Eileen Bailey at HealthCentral.com explains:

“… for children with hyperactivity, physical activity is not the only aspect. Their minds often don’t shut down. Thoughts go a million miles an hour and in many different directions. To help a child learn to manage or reduce hyperactivity includes strategies to help lower physical activity levels and to calm thoughts.”

Calming Suggestions

So what is a parent to do in these situations? She offers these tips to help parents keep their ADHD kids calm.

Yoga or meditation – It is important to teach your child methods for self-regulation. Some examples include: deep breathing exercises, yoga, tai chi or meditation. These can all help a child learn to slow down their thoughts and their bodies.

Daily exercise – Adding at least 20 minutes of exercise each day to your child’s routine can help reduce depression, anxiety and other ADHD symptoms. A short walk can be an excellent way to help your child calm down during periods of high activity. On days when outdoor exercise is difficult, try using video games that incorporate exercise to help your child keep moving and entertained.

Music – Soothing music, such as classical music, can help some children calm down. You can try out different kinds of music to find out what works best for your child. Use music in the background for times when activity levels should be low, such as homework time, dinner time or before bedtime.

Boredom boxes and fidget alternatives – When boredom sets in, your child may become especially hyperactive.. Create a box of activities which contains art supplies, Legos, models or whatever activity tends to hold your child’s interest. Switch items once in awhile to keep the activities novel and interesting. For children who are continually restless or must fidget whenever they are trying to sit still, provide a stress ball or other object they ca manipulate to help them release energy and keep moving without disturbing others.

Structure – Kids with ADHD thrive in a structured environment where there are rules and routines, and they know what to expect. Establishing regular, daily routines can help them to stay calm.

Finally, she recommends that you stay calm yourself. She says,

“Children react to your reaction. If you get upset, frustrated or angry, their hyperactivity levels may increase. Take a few deep breaths, go into the other room, and take a short break if you need one. Staying calm and reacting with a neutral voice will help your child remain calm..”

Other tips for helping ADHD kids calm down at home and in the classroom can be found at Understood.org. You may also find it helpful to engage a specially trained ADHD coach to help your child learn to stay calm and focused.

Help! How to Deal With ADHD Meltdowns

Hyperactivity has Positive Aspects

Hyperactivity can be the source of inappropriate behavior in some situations. However, many adults with ADHD appreciate their endless energy and feel they are able to accomplish much more than those without hyperactivity. You can turn hyperactivity into a positive trait, by helping your children learn to harness their excess energy and use it to help them accomplish their goals.

Outsource your willpower

Do you ever feel like you work so hard at school to keep focused and do a good job that you are exhausted when you get home? You’re so tired from school you just want to forget it all when the bell rings? And when it’s time to do your homework, you just … can’t … make … yourself … get … started? Scientists have been discovering there are limits to willpower. You don’t have to do it all on your own! Use your ADHD coach as a way to outsource some of your willpower. . … READ MORE

quit

Adolescents and Adults with Learning Disabilities and ADHD: Assessment and Accommodation

Most of the literature on learning disabilities and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) focuses on the needs of elementary school–age children, but older students with these conditions also require significant support. Comprehensive and authoritative, this book helps you navigate the maze of laws, policies, and scientific research relating to diagnostic and intervention decision making for adolescents and adults.

Leading expert Noël Gregg provides clear guidance on how to conduct and document evidence-based assessments and select appropriate instructional and testing accommodations. Featuring helpful case vignettes, decision-making flowcharts, and coverage of the latest assistive technologies, the book gives special attention to supporting students during the crucial transition from high school to higher education or vocational settings.

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Getting School Accommodations for Your ADHD or LD Child

Many children with ADHD / ADD experience significant academic difficulties. Parents need to be aware of the special educational services that public schools are required to provide by law. Children with ADHD / ADD may be eligible for special services under Part B of the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). There are essentially two paths that can be used to provide special services for students with learning disabilities: an Individual Education Plan (IEP) and the Section 504 Plan.… READ MORE