College Supports for Students with ADHD

If you are sending your teen off to college this August, now it the time to make sure that the proper ADHD supports will be in place when they arrive. Even though your teen about to gain a great deal of independence, they will likely need help and encouragement to get their ADHD supports in place before college beings. Research campus services with your teen, and help them send emails and make phone calls if they need to schedule appointments. Aim to create a solid plan that covers each of these areas:

  • Academic Accommodations. Think about the academic supports that your teen has accessed during high school. Did they have a 504 Plan, an individualized education plan (IEP), or an informal plan that allowed them to have things like extended time on tests or the ability to take exams in a separate room with no distractions? These accommodations and others are available to college students with ADHD who need them. In order to qualify, colleges require documented evidence of an ADHD diagnosis. At most schools, this means recent results from an evaluation that includes cognitive and achievement testing, as well as an assessment of ADHD symptoms and impairments. Often a signed letter from a pediatrician or psychiatrist is not sufficient. Contact the college’s learning support center to find out about their requirements. Also find out about other academic supports on campus, like tutoring services and writing centers. Encourage your teen to sign up for services when school starts – rather than waiting until they are struggling. It’s all about preventing academic problems before they happen.
  • Medication Management. If your teen takes medication to manage their ADHD, find out if the psychiatrists on-campus provide ADHD medication management services. Some colleges and universities require students to see doctors and psychiatrists off campus to have their ADHD medication prescriptions filled. Others require a diagnosis from an off-campus physician before they will begin prescribing medications. The campus medical center will be able to answer questions about the services provided on-campus, and will give referrals for off-campus providers if one is needed.
  • Social Success. All college students, and especially those with ADHD, have more success socially when they join clubs and participate in extracurricular activities. Have casual conversations with your teen about the activities they’d like to participate in on campus. Encourage them to learn about the clubs and sports available at their school. Just don’t take over and do the research for them unless they ask for your help (and even then, do the online research together)! They’ll be more likely to join if they feel like participating was their own idea and not something their mom or dad told them to do.
  • Talk about Alcohol. My own research and that of my colleague’s has shown that college students with ADHD are more likely to experience problems with alcohol on campus than students without ADHD. Even if students with ADHD drink the same amount of alcohol as their peers without ADHD, they are likely to experience greater negative consequences. Plus, if school is already difficult to manage with ADHD, adding alcohol to the mix is only going to make it harder. Make sure your teen knows the risks, and that their risks are greater because of their ADHD. If your teen isn’t going to be receptive to this information coming from you, have them talk with another trusted family member who they look up to, or an older friend, or a therapist or teacher who they respect.
  • Counseling Services. If you think your child may have difficulty with the transition to college, help them preemptively schedule a few sessions at the school’s counseling center. Counseling center therapists are experts when it comes to the college transition. If your child needs ongoing support, they’ll be able to provide referrals to off-campus providers who specialize in ADHD.

With proactive supports in place, your child can begin their college career on the right foot and help ensure four years of success.

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