Preparing Your Adolescent with ADHD for Success in College: Part I of II
January 8, 2019
From doctor’s visits to meetings with school officials, it is undeniable that parents play a key role in helping their child succeed in school. But what do you do once your child goes to college?
Once children legally become adults (age 18 in most states), federal laws such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) limit parents’ access to their child’s health and academic information. This can leave many parents feeling “shut out” and worried about their child’s ability to successfully manage their attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) on their own.
These worries are further heightened when parents learn that their child’s academic accommodations do not automatically transfer over to the college setting. In this two-part series, we provide tips to help your child prepare for and succeed in higher education.
Make a list of all of the things you do to help your child manage their ADHD. This may include scheduling medical appointments, monitoring medication levels, ordering refills, and reminding your child to take their medication each morning.
Assuming your child will be living outside of the home, these are all tasks you will need to teach your child how to manage on their own. It is important that you teach them these skills and that they assume full responsibility for them well before they move away to college.
In our conversations with parents of college students with ADHD, many told us they wish they had started preparing their child sooner. Likewise, college students with ADHD told us that abruptly taking on responsibility for their ADHD treatment just before moving away to college was too overwhelming. Both parents and college students wish they had approached the transition of ADHD management from parent to child much more gradually.
Work with the College
As soon as you have identified the school your child will attend, contact the school’s office for students with disabilities to determine what is needed to get your child academic accommodations for ADHD. Schools may require specific documentation of the ADHD diagnosis, such as a psychoeducational evaluation conducted within the past five years, before granting accommodations.
As many young people with ADHD are diagnosed by their pediatricians as young children, they may not have had formalized testing to confirm the diagnosis. In this case, parents may need to arrange for testing with a local school or clinical psychologist. As many providers have waitlists for such services, it is important to arrange for an evaluation as soon as possible.
Stay in Touch
Maintain regular contact with the office for students with disabilities to ensure your child’s academic accommodations are approved before the start of the semester. Keep in mind that just because your child has been approved for accommodations does not mean that they are automatically in effect once your child starts school.
Often, accommodations do not take effect until your child meets with their class professor to discuss the accommodations needed. Thus, your child will need to set up a meeting with each of their professors as soon as possible.
We recommend that this meeting occur during the first two weeks of school, as accommodations cannot be applied retroactively. Your child’s diagnosis is protected information, and thus professors are only informed of the accommodations needed, not that your child has ADHD.
In the next article we will discuss specific challenges students with ADHD face during college and how to prepare your child for them. This includes taking ADHD medicine regularly, communicating with parents, alcohol and drug use, dealing with pressure to share medicine, and stigma about ADHD.
Dr. Wendy Gray is a pediatric psychologist at Children’s Hospital of Orange County. In her former role as a professor at Auburn University, her research program focused on the experiences of students with ADHD as they transitioned to college and independent ADHD management