ADHD and Success in College
In this episode, Eric Tivers shares his expertise in working with students with ADHD:
- Works with students with ADHD and students on the Autism spectrum with the college process.
- Wasn’t diagnosed himself with ADHD until sophomore year of college because he didn’t exhibit the hyperactivity signs at a younger age.
- Began working with ADHD and Autism spectrum students on study strategies.
Being Successful with an ADHD Diagnosis
“It doesn’t mean you can’t be successful; there are many people that are successful with ADHD, but the thing I think is really important to know is you’re going to need accommodations and supports and you may need to do it at a different pace,” said Tivers. Doing something that you love to do and knowing what you need to be successful is key. You have to be your own advocate because college professors might not be familiar with a 504 plan or an IEP. They won’t know how to help unless you speak up for yourself.
Parents can help prep their children by:
- Knowing ADHD has been shown to have about a 3 year delay on the brain. Sending an 18 year old to college is like sending a 15 year old to college.
- Community college is a great option for those core classes.
- What is your child very interested in? It is much harder to focus on tasks that aren’t centered around something they are passionate about.
- If your kid is successful right now, how much of that is from the support of parents?
It is very important, especially if your child is a senior, to start stepping back and letting them take more responsibility on their own and figure some things out. It is, however, so individually based; you have to know your child and what they can handle.
College Selection Process for Students with ADHD
Mr. Tivers recommends Landmark College, which is specifically designed for people with ADHD or other learning disabilities.
Some things that help with being accepted into college:
- Writing a great entrance essay
- Being involved with other activities to take the pressure off only having great grades
- Being a leader and showing you can overcome adversity
The kids who tend to struggle the most in college are the ones with high IQ’s that can get by in high school just doing enough to pass.
Students should be Involved in Their College Choices
Again, Tivers stresses the importance of allowing students to pursue their passions. “For kids with ADHD, or any other learning difference, you gotta love what you do or you’re going to struggle. One of the worst things for someone with ADHD is to have a job they don’t like,” explains Tivers.
- Allow your child to explore what is interesting to them, even if it isn’t a traditional job or career path
- Encourage creativity
- Community College is a great opportunity for your child to explore without it costing a fortune
- Have your child contribute what they can towards tuition so they are more invested
There is a Spectrum of ADHD
ADHD often goes unnoticed and undiagnosed. “85% of people who have ADHD don’t know it,” Tivers says.
There are 3 main areas with clear characteristics:
- Inattention- distractibility, disorganization, or being “spacey”
- Hyperactivity- having 2 speeds of fast and faster
- Impulsivity- interrupting people, blurting things out, and doing things without thinking about the consequences.
Combined presentation of ADHD is when more than one of these areas is present. As children get older, the hyperactivity decreases as the brain matures. Math, writing, and reading comprehension are areas of particular struggle for these kids. It is a real condition and treatment is important for success with college coursework.
The Difference between a Messy Kid and having ADHD
Tivers insists that, “A full-scale evaluation is the only way to ensure a proper diagnosis. A 10 minute questionnaire isn’t going to be sufficient. Finding someone who specializes in ADHD is critical because many people in the medical community aren’t fully trained.” If you are concerned about your child, the organization CHADD (Children with Hyperactivity and Attention Deficit Disorder) is a great place to start.
There is no definitive test. It is a combination of diagnostic and evaluative tools that are used to appropriately diagnose someone with this disorder by an expert in the field of ADHD.
Positives to having ADHD
While this is considered somewhat controversial and there is not much research on the topic, Tivers believes that there might be a few positive things that are associated with the ADHD brain:
- Creativity, particularly in music
- Seeing a big picture more easily, but struggling with the details
- Drawing connections between seemingly unrelated concepts
Being Successful in the Career World
The right career path is one that someone with ADHD is passionate about, “As soon as something gets boring,” Tivers warns, “the brain is shutting down and it’s not going to work.”
Some suggestions for future success:
- Know your strengths. If you struggle with paperwork, make sure you consider that when interviewing.
- Consider the tasks. If you are great at something, such as math, try to find work that incorporates that.
- Look at the work environment. Constant movers shouldn’t go for a desk job and consider noise levels if easily distracted.
Quick Tips For Helping Your Child with ADHD and the College Process
There are several things that children with ADHD will particularly struggle with when it comes to actually applying to colleges. Here are a few things for parents to consider:
- Don’t let your child give up on filling out that application. Your child might need some handholding to get it done
- Seek out specific scholarships
- College Coaching (even virtually)
- CHADD for more information
- Medication diversion and talking about it ahead of time
“The best thing for ADHD outside of medication and behavioral management is to learn as much as you can about it,” Tivers says.
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