How to Navigate ADHD in College
All around the world, many college students encounter various social and academic problems. Among these problems are attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. Students who are diagnosed or experience ADHD symptoms may struggle with other mental health concerns. Because of this, students may have a challenging time navigating college and the new changes that come with it.
Over the past 20 years, the number of college students with ADHD has greatly increased. According to a study done by the American College Health Association, the amount of students with ADHD has increased 2% to 11.6% of the student body population. With this new statistic, it can be determined that over 1 in 10 students suffer from ADHD. Outside of the United States, ADHD is even more prevalent, with around 16% of college students having a diagnosis. Scientists and researchers have been focused on studying and analyzing how college education programs can be more effective to meet the needs of students with ADHD.
ADHD and Education
Students with ADHD often have difficulties long before college begins in academic settings. Students may encounter hurdles such as academic and social impairments. Factors such as a low GPA in high school can deter students from attending certain colleges by making them feel that they are inadequately prepared for higher education. Students may also have trouble socializing with peers due to issues in executive functioning, leading them to struggle with social cues and communication.
Next, another risk factor of ADHD is the presence of comorbidities. Those who struggle with ADHD are more likely to develop mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression. These disorders add another level of stress and academic struggle for students. The existence of anxiety and depression can lead to students seeking outside care and resources, such as their University’s mental health center, disability services and tutoring services. However, many students do not utilize these resources; only about a third have used tutoring services, and under one fourth have used disability services.
Lastly, students with ADHD may experience higher levels of school disengagement. This can cause them to have a difficult time interacting with peers who do not have ADHD and create feelings of discomfort in social settings.
There are many programs that can accommodate students with ADHD in academic settings:
1. SUCCEEDS ADHD Clinic
The SUCCEEDS ADHD Clinic (Students Understanding College Choices – Encouraging and Executing Decisions for Success) supports students with ADHD and mental health challenges. The main goal of the program is to help clients with ADHD- specific deficits, such as executive functioning skills. So far, preliminary evidence has suggested that SUCCEEDS has been successful. More than half of the participants in the program reported that they experienced a change in organizational skills, and all of the participants who entered with a moderate baseline of ADHD reported clinically significant changes For the future, SUCCEEDS hopes to navigate the complexities of varying cases in patients.
2. Organization, Time Management, Planning (OTMP) Interventions
A pilot study found that skill and knowledge building interventions also helped students with ADHD. This program is 8 weeks long and focuses on organization, time management and planning. Students have the opportunity to attend weekly, in-person group sessions that emphasize planning, creating a list of tasks, addressing procrastination and how to take good notes. Additionally, other programs focus on psychoeducation and discuss the impacts of ADHD. The results of the program have proved to be promising, with most of the participants showing improvements. 30 participants reported that they experienced improvements in regards to inattention and in overall ADHD symptoms compared to the baseline. Additionally, participants reported satisfaction with the program and had high weekly attendance rates at about 87% per session. If these results continue to show positive results, then this could be a viable option for students with ADHD.
Parents and ADHD
There are many other factors that can impact a student’s learning as well. Parents play an important role in the education of their children. It has been shown and studied that a positive parent-child relationship can lead to adaptability for the child, but a negative parent-child relationship can lead to adverse outcomes. Children and teens with ADHD are at risk for harsh and inconsistent behaviors from parents. These behaviors can give way to other troubles for children, such as substance abuse, anxiety, and other mood disorders. On the other hand, in situations where there is a positive parent-child relationship, the child is more likely to be exposed to higher levels of warmth and more knowledge of safe activities. The parenting style of authoritative parents is often looked at as the optimal way of disciplining because of its balance between strictness and leniency.
Overall, ADHD is a common learning disability that will continue to affect thousands of children and teens. In settings like school, these challenges can rise to the surface and create a difficult environment for students to navigate. With proper support and care, those dealing with ADHD can create a manageable routine to navigate their education. Researchers are currently testing out different programs and methods to best support those with ADHD in a beneficial way. While dealing with ADHD may be difficult, it does not have to be impossible due to resources and support systems that one can put in place.
Kevin Antshel, P. D., Anne Stevens, P. D., Michael Meinzer, P. D., & Will Canu, P. D. (2022, June 15). How can we improve outcomes for college students with ADHD? ADDitude. Retrieved July 6, 2022, from https://www.additudemag.com/college-students-and-adhd-improving-outcomes/#:~:text=College%20students%20with%2n.d.HD%20face,a%20trend%20that%20is%20changing