Health

ADHD: Behind the Acronym

If you have a high school student with ADHD now is the time to begin considering how their diagnosis will impact their functioning in college.

By: Dr. Polly Dunn

If you have a high school student with ADHD now is the time to begin considering how their diagnosis will impact their functioning in college. Did you know that the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) requires colleges to provide reasonable accommodations to students with ADHD if their symptoms are significant enough to impair their functioning?  Unfortunately, many students don’t pursue accommodations until they’re in crisis (after a semester or two of failing grades). But you and your child can be proactive and have accommodations in place as early as the summer before their freshman year. 

What types of accommodations might your student with ADHD be eligible for in college? It depends on the student. Disability specialists at the college they attend review their documentation and history and determine what accommodations best fit their particular situation. For example, some students might qualify for extended time on tests. Others might need help provided by a note taker. While some may only need permission to sit in the front of the class and audio record lectures. 

In order to get accommodations, you must provide documentation that your child has a disorder that impairs their ability to function successfully in a college environment. Check with the college your child plans on attending to find out exactly what documentation they require. For ADHD, documentation typically includes a full psychological evaluation conducted by a licensed psychologist within the past two to three years, and the cost of the psychological evaluation is paid for by the student or their parents, not by the university. Also, a letter from a physician or pediatrician that the student takes ADHD medication is usually not sufficient to receive accommodations. 

To supplement their college accommodations for ADHD, encourage your child to participate in study skills training, tutoring or time-management seminars during their freshman year of college. Studying in a quiet environment free of distractions, sitting in the front of the class, recording lectures and checking notes for accuracy with a classmate are other tips that will help them get off to a good start. And if they do struggle with the transition from high school to college, get help immediately from the disability specialists at their school. 

 Junior Year of High School 

  • Make a list of the colleges you are interested in.
  • Find out what their documentation requirements are for accommodations for ADHD.
  • Begin to collect all documentation or find a psychologist to conduct an updated evaluation.
  • Check to see if you qualify for testing accommodations when taking college entrance exams.

Senior Year of High School 

  • When visiting prospective schools, ask to meet with a disability specialist so that you can learn about what accommodations you might qualify for.
  • After you have been accepted to a college, submit your application for accommodations along with all required documentation.
  • During your summer orientation before starting college, check to make sure all of your paperwork has been received and that you are eligible to receive accommodations beginning your first semester. 

Dr. Polly Dunn is a child psychologist, wife, and mom of four. She is the director of the Auburn University Psychological Services Center and offers her ‘Practical Parenting Solutions’ at www.ChildPsychMom.com.

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