ADD/ADHD: The ‘A’ Stands for Autonomy
It’s hard to succeed in college under the best circumstances. Balancing classes, a social life, and sometimes a job can be overwhelming, but imagine on top of all that you have ADD or ADHD. Some symptoms of ADD/ADHD cause difficulties behaviorally, cognitively, and mood-wise, and can can even be link linked with some learning disabilities. While the effects of these disabilities can cause students in college to fall behind, there are many methods they can use to be just as successful as their peers.
The reason many students with ADD/ADHD have so much difficulty in college according to Teresa Vance and Lisa Weyandt is the fact that while there are “few studies examining ADHD in adulthood exist, even fewer studies have been conducted on college students with ADHD” (Vance, Weyandt, 303). This is strange considering college students are at the most difficult part of their educations. However, studies focus more on children at the lower levels of their education because it’s important to have the basics of their education and they focus on adults because being able to function in day to day life is necessary. And while this reasoning is sound, it completely disregards the fact that college student were those children at the elementary level at some point and they soon will be the adults that form the average population. This is why it’s important for college students with ADD/ADHD or any other disabilities to take action into their own hands and independently shape their education.
Due to the fact ADD/ADHD are viewed as disabilities, the abilities and strengths of these students with them are often overlooked when trying to find solutions to their weaknesses. It’s important for students with ADD/ADHD to have self-knowledge of what learning and thinking styles work for them in order to develop unique ways to manage their lives academically and otherwise. Two things that could help students do this are the theory of multiple intelligences and the three learning styles. The three learning styles are auditory, visual, and tactile-kinesthetic; the theory of multiple intelligences elaborates upon these with eight different types of intelligences. These intelligences are musical, logical-mathematical, verbal-linguistic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, naturalistic, and bodily- kinesthetic. The eight intelligences can also be broken into three categories: personal, academic, and the arts. If students with ADD/ADHD knows which of these work for them they are able to independently work to tailor their education towards their strengths and weaknesses. For example, if students knows that they are auditory learners and are musically intelligent then they could record lectures and turn the material they need to remember into songs. These actions towards becoming more independent are rather important as Connor quoted a college student with a learning disability as having said that, “It’s not like high school. Most classes are so big nobody cares about you; they don’t even know who you are. Nobody will say anything until they are ready to kick you out.” (qtd Trainin & Swanson, 2005, p.271 pg.17).
Another simple thing that students with ADD/ADHD can do is ask for help. This according Patricia Quinn is something most students with ADD/ADHD have not needed to do during their high school career and feel reflects failure on their part, which they think they have to hide from others (Quinn, 16). This mentality can actually be cause for further failure as in their attempt to hide students end up isolating themselves from the assistance they may very well need to prevent further failure in the future. Some may ask why they should be asking for help though, when autonomy is so important in their success. However, asking for help is actually one of the most autonomous things a student can do not only due to the actual act, but the steps leading up to it as well. This is because by asking for help it shows that the student has acknowledged that there is a problem, tried to solve the problem on their own, and come to the conclusion that the best course of action would be to acquire assistance before further attempting to solve the issue.
There are many different types of assistance offered by college campuses to students to help them on both the academic and social level. Most colleges have academic services and testing centers that help students with test accommodations, tutoring, and provide other tools for academic success. This is very important because according to Elizabeth Hamblet, “the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEIA) does not apply to the postsecondary level, so students’ IEPs have no legal bearing once they graduate from high school.” (Hamblet, 10). So, that means students who previously have been given testing and class accommodations would have all that taken away unless they went and to some sort of center like this to see what services they are entitled to and need. For example, most colleges offer tutoring as well as peer tutoring which helps students not only excel academically, but learn to ask for help and forces them to associate with their peers. Also, all schools have many different testing accommodations not just for major tests like in high school, but for all tests in all courses ranging from extra time to alternate location testing. These centers can also provide students with testing by a doctor or psychologist that can provide them with proper documentation to get all of these accommodations.
Another thing students can also do is go to therapy specifically according to Meghan Lee Amyx cognitive- behavioral therapy. Cognitive-Behavioral therapy which is a short-term, goal-oriented therapy that takes a hands-on, practical approach to problem-solving. The goal of this kind of therapy is to change patterns of thinking or behavior that are behind people’s difficulties, and so change the way they feel. This type of therapy is helpful because it increases the student’s sense of autonomy and self-knowledge. Also, this type of therapy gives students a lot of the tools they need to overcome personal obstacles, learn to manage their time, as well as manage the symptoms of their ADHD.
Lastly student can take medication not to cure their ADD/ADHD, but to help them control the symptoms of it. Specifically according to Meghan Lee Amyx stimulant drugs like Adderall and Vyvanse (Amyx et. al. 48). These medications work by increasing the amount of dopamine in the brain which communicates feelings of pleasure and enhances motivation. This helps because the increase motivation helps students try to do better in classes, as well as, being motivated to work harder to better themselves. Also, on top of the increased sense of motivation the dopamine causes increased feelings in the pleasure center of the brain which makes them more likely to try and accomplish more in order to have an increased sense of self-worth.
It’s hard to succeed in college under the best circumstances, especially for students with ADD/ADHD. However, there are many methods that these students can use to succeed along with their peers. The most important tool these students have is autonomy as it lead to the ability to seek help, therapy, medication, and everything else they need to come out on top.