As a parent choosing a college is an extremely important step for your child when they are ready.
It’s important to note that many kids who have ADHD are not ready at 18 or 19 for college. We know children who have ADHD have brains that lag in social and emotional development. So while your child may be 18 or 19 chronologically, they may be more like 14 or 13 emotionally. Many children may take a few years before they are ready to commit to going to college and some kids may never go.
IDEA is the law that entitles high school student to a free and appropriate education under the American with Disabilities ACT. In college children with ADHD are protected under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation ACT. This is a civil law not an education law. It protects individuals from discrimination. College is required ONLY to provide access to education. The student is required to do much more work. Each college will vary in their willingness to help and the scope of services they provide.
The process of finding your child the best ADHD college accommodations starts with finding the best college for them.
One important factor to consider is the level of support provided by the college to students with disabilities.
Colleges can be divided into those that provide four levels of support according to Judith Bass , who runs a company of educational consultants who specialize in this area.
Those that provide:
1. Basic ADA compliance: These colleges have the most basic services and provide only the minimum necessary.
2. Moderate support services: These colleges have a sensitivity to students with learning disabilities. They have many services and accommodations available to your child including learning centers with professionals, tutors, study assistance, organization and study skill assistance, and distraction-free testing environment. Your child likely still needs to initiate everything.
3. Comprehensive support programs:
These schools offer Specific program for students with learning differences and/or ADHD fee-based services.
4. Social/life skills support programs: These schools have excellent programs available to students on the Autism Spectrum and those with social anxiety/awkwardness related to ADHD.
A child with ADHD will likely need at least a college with moderate support services, and depending on the cooccuring condition may need a more comprehensive social life skill program.
The Importance of The College Learning Center
One important factor in choosing a college when your child has ADHD is checking out the learning center. The learning center is usually the place where your child might receive extra help in tutoring or organization and other services.
Once you assess that the college has an adequate learning center, and apply and are accepted to the college you are free to start the process of determining what accommodations your child will get.
It’s important to start the process of planning ADHD college accommodations early, before college. Many of the young adults I work with don’t start this process until well into their freshman or sophomore year when they have already experienced failure.
You will need documentation of your child’s disability so they have evidence of it. Usually, the documentation must be current. Contact the disability office immediately upon admission and ask them what documentation they need.
That document will likely be a full battery of testing done by a psychologist. That doctor will know what to do and will determine what needs to be done based on what they find. This documentation can spell out accommodations that you want your child to have and what this professional thinks would be necessary.
Once your child is 18 you have little access to advocate for them and won’t be included in the process at school ( except for that initial meeting). Remember to encourage your child to sign a release ( and do this for all of their mental health information as well). Students will need to drive the process of their advocacy at college, from meeting with a learning specialist to advocating for their accommodations.
Each semester, during the first week of class, your child will need to share the accommodations letter with his or her professor to get those accommodations.
Additionally, many kids will be provided with learning specialists to meet with or tutors. Your child will need to take advantage of those sessions, as well as make those appointments and attend those meetings.
Should my child disclose ADHD in their application?
A note about disclosing during the application process. Some applicants do not disclose their ADHD until after they have been accepted. Your child may choose to disclose his or her ADHD if he has grades or struggles that are apparent on his transcript or that he would like to explain, with the provision that he has received coaching or treatment and now understands how to help himself with it. Judith Bass recommends that you do this in a separate letter rather than in the application essay.
Two resources great resources for parents of kids with ADHD who are trying to get get find appropriate colleges.
Leave ADHD and college accommodations for Child ADHD treatment
Most of this information is from a workshop at the 2018 CHADD conference
Judith Bass (2018, November). Range of Postsecondary Support Services for ADHD workshop presented at the CHADDA International Conference St Louis 2018
Shaw, P., Eckstrand, K., Sharp, W., Blumenthal, J., Lerch, J., Greenstein, D., Clasen, L., Evans, A., Giedd, J., & Rapoport, J. (2007). From the Cover: Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is characterized by a delay in cortical maturation Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104 (49), 19649-19654 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0707741104
Medical information obtained from this website is not intended as a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you have a problem, you should consult a healthcare provider.
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