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Individuals with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder can at times find schoolwork to be more difficult, but with the right approach and assistance, the path to a college degree can be made significantly more manageable. As all colleges and universities are required to comply with the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, students with ADHD are guaranteed access to the assistance they require to succeed. Whether you are looking for a college for yourself or someone else, it’s important to understand how ADHD is treated at universities and colleges in order to get the best possible results for the student.

ADHD Explained: What it Is and How it Affects Students

ADHD is a brain disorder that is most visible as difficulty staying focused and hyperactive behavior, such as fidgeting or verbal outbursts. Individuals with ADHD are also more prone to impulsive behavior. It is possible to look for signs of ADHD in an individual’s daily life that can assist in the process of diagnosis, including inattention to detail, not appearing to listen when spoken to, frequent fidgeting, constant talking, and being easily distracted. Although these indicators do not on their own constitute a diagnosis, they should be discussed with a health professional.

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Although ADHD and ADD are often treated as synonyms, the two disorders are not exactly the same. ADD is a subtype of ADHD, and individuals with ADD do not display the same hyperactive tendencies as those with ADHD. Although tasks requiring extended focus often still present a challenge to an individual with ADD, they are more likely to display their disorder in the form of apparent disinterest or daydreaming than physical or verbal outbursts.

Building a Platform for Success at College With ADHD

The key to earning a degree at a college or university while dealing with ADHD is to treat the disorder seriously and attain the assistance that will help the student to succeed in class. Prior to the start of classes, the school’s office for student disabilities should be contacted in order to ascertain what resources are available to students with ADHD and to ensure that those resources are in place when the school year begins. Although all schools offer assistance for students with special needs, the specifics available will vary by school, so be sure to check with the office at each institution being considered to help determine the best fit.

It is likely that documentation of the student’s ADHD diagnosis will be requested in order to best prepare an effective accommodation plan. This may include a note from the student’s doctor regarding the ADHD diagnosis as well as information from prior schooling pertaining to any individualized education program or Section 504 plan. This serves both as verification of the student’s need and a framework from which the school can determine what has and has not worked in the past for the student.

Finding the Right Resources for Success

Just as no two individuals’ ADHD will present exactly the same, no two individuals’ assistance needs will be identical. A wide range of possible accommodations are available to students with ADHD, and the goal is the build the best possible plan to help the student earn a degree.

Test-taking is often an area of difficulty for individuals with ADHD, who can struggle with time limits due to attention problems and be distracted in a busy classroom. Possible remedies include additional time for tests as well as changing the time or location of the test to create a setting more conducive to academic success. If a student has difficulty focusing during lectures, a note-taker may be assigned to take down important information during class so that it is available for the student to study later, or a tutor could be made available to assist with supplemental studying. A student may even be eligible for a structural change to the format of the class, including alterations to assigned work or time commitments.

The most important thing to remember when seeking the best fit for a student with ADHD is that the school and professors also want the student to succeed. If struggles occur, the student or a representative should always attempt to discuss them with the school or professors directly in order to find potential solutions. Nobody at a school wants any student who comes through the door as a freshman to leave without earning a degree, so when a student is trying their best, they should be able to count on the school to do likewise in assisting them. By working together to find the right plan, the student and the college’s staff can all achieve the end goal everyone is looking for: the joy of the student’s graduation day.


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