Although many people learn they have ADHD in their childhood years, often it isn’t until the teen years that ADHD issues begin to present a real problem. Transitional school years, such as starting high school or the first year of college, are often the time symptoms become more troublesome or apparent. This may be when the student himself realizes something isn’t altogether right. Even as late as the first year of college, ADHD may just be rearing its unfocused head.
Many times, hearing a diagnosis of ADHD in the teen years is a relief. Many of my student clients comment they were relieved to know there were options for assistance once they knew what they were dealing with. Oftentimes the person realizes that issues experienced several years prior were related to this diagnosis she had not known she had. She may have heard of her friends having ADHD, but she hadn’t thought about it as a possible explanation for her own challenges. For teens, it can be a “double-edged diagnosis.” On the one hand, it can be relief to find out that all the difficulties with memory recall, focusing, decision making, impulsivity, and lack of organization aren’t their fault. But the flip side could be that they may want to hide a diagnosis of ADHD, fearing that this label somehow defines them. Rarely have I heard of students who are singled out due to this diagnosis. It’s typically the symptoms they exhibit that get them unwanted attention.
I have heard concerned parents worry that their son or daughter’s diagnosis will generate negative feedback from teachers, school staff, and friends. In actuality a student with a diagnosis will often receive understanding and compassion. Accommodations are also available that create opportunities to make a difficult or stressful environment for success very doable. For example, in schools, a 504 Plan can now be put into place that gives the accommodation of extra test-taking time. This is very helpful, especially once one reaches college age. This helps someone with slow memory recall or difficulty reading information who may need additional time to process written material. Accommodations for test taking can also give a student a private place for the test in order to eliminate distractions, which can cause huge problems with focusing.
A diagnosis of ADHD does not negatively affect a student’s ability to get into college. Each college even has its own department of special services for students with a diagnosis of any kind. ADHD qualifies for accommodations and should be looked at early on and taken into account. It is actually against the law to discriminate against someone with ADHD. And rightfully so! The world may never have had Apple Computers, Kinko’s, or many other amazing items without the brilliance of so many who also happen to have ADHD.
ADHD isn’t about the inability to pay attention, it’s the inability to not pay attention!