Guest blog post by Cindy Goldrich, Ed.M., ADHD-CCSP, ADHD Parent Coach and Teacher Consultant
If you are concerned about your child’s ADHD and how they will perform in college, you are not alone.
Whether your teen is about to start college or you are in the process of searching for the “right” fit, I know that the stress and decisions can be overwhelming. Ensuring that you find the proper support to help your child manage ADHD and college are likely at the forefront of your thinking.
You have likely played an active role in either providing or facilitating the support your child has received for many years, and college is a time when the stakes are higher than ever. As a parent, you may have concerns about how to ensure that your child will be successful as they embark on their college career.
What support do you feel your child needs vs. their perspective?
If you are like many of the parents we work with, you and your child may have had disagreements about what accommodations or modifications are helpful or perhaps desirable while in high school. Whether it is preferential seating, extended time on tests, assistive technology, or a separate location for tests, it often is not just a matter of qualifying for the accommodation. Additional points of discussion are that the service(s) are implemented appropriately and that the child is willing to make full use of the service(s) offered.
When your child goes off to school, keep in mind that some students look at college as a “fresh start,” a time when they can break away from how they view themselves and how others view them as students. It is essential to help them take stock of what they want from their college experience and how they feel about themselves as learners. Remember, to them, college is likely not just about what they will be learning in class, but how they will fit in with their new peers. Therefore, it is important to balance your perspective (which might include using all that the college has to offer in terms of services) and their concern with balancing the added time required and perhaps, for some, the desire for anonymity regarding their learning needs.
For advice for students on determining what accommodations they will need in college and finding colleges that will meet their needs, see Sara Zessar’s guest blog post on Cindy’s website, College Search Considerations for Students Needing Accommodations.
How to talk to your child about getting the proper ADHD support in college:
Ideally, your child is willing to share with you how they feel about needing extra time, support, and accommodations. Regardless of what they share with you, keep in mind that your logic and wise lectures may do nothing to convince your child that services are necessary if they don’t genuinely feel part of the process and that you truly hear their concerns and perspective. Your child may have what I call “magical thinking,” where they believe that since they will now be so motivated, they won’t need any extra support or guidance. They may feel that “college will be different” since they will have complete control and “plenty of time” to manage. It’s sometimes hard to find that balance between wanting to be supportive and encouraging when your gut has concerns. It’s essential to address your concerns, but how you do so is sometimes tricky.
If your child is reluctant to share their concerns or perspective, then the chances are that they may also be hesitant to advocate for what they need at college. Keep in mind – advocacy is a developmental skill – and not everyone feels comfortable speaking up, let alone knowing who to approach and what the proper process or protocol may be. You may want to consider role-playing or scriptwriting to give your child something to lean on as they anticipate speaking with professors and advisors. If they are not comfortable talking about themselves regarding their challenges and needs, be sure to help them learn the language commonly used to speak about how they learn and what they need to succeed.
What role will you play in monitoring progress and involvement?
I get it; it’s hard to think about your child going off to college and not being able to see what they are doing and how they are performing.
FERPA laws prevent schools from communicating with you once your child is 18, unless your child gives written permission. Perhaps more importantly, if your child is to succeed at college, they will need to feel ownership over their time, actions, and outcomes. My advice to parents is to discuss your involvement in advance, even if you have permission from your child to “sign-in” to their school portal. I believe it’s essential to have transparency and trust, so I generally recommend that if you are looking at the portal, you agree on when and how often you will check the portal and that you only do this with your child present. This way, they are there to discuss and reflect on the information.
Be patient. Sometimes a rocky start can alert a student that they do need to make some shifts. And it may take time for them to adjust, so it might be best for them to take a lighter/easier load their first semester as they adjust to their new life and work through some of the inevitable kinks (managing laundry, food, social life, and, oh, studying!)
If any of this seems stressful or overwhelming, please remember that we are here to help you. Whether working with a Parent Coach or having your child work with one of my Student Coaches, guidance and support can make all the difference.
Cindy Goldrich, Ed.M., ADHD-CCSP, is a mental health professional, certified ADHD Coach, and teacher trainer. Founder of PTS Coaching, LLC, Cindy is a leading authority on parenting and teaching children with ADHD, Executive Function, and Learning Disabilities. She coaches parents, provides professional development for school districts, and trains professionals to become ADHD/Executive Function Parent Coaches. To learn more about Cindy, visit her website, www.PTScoaching.com, or email her Cindy@PTScoaching.com.