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ADHD and College and Higher Education

Staying in School - HELP

Hey there! I’m nineteen, female and about to be a sophomore at an elite liberal arts college and I am on the most severe form of academic probation possible. I was diagnosed with ADD and language processing disorder in December so I just recently started getting accommodations, but unfortunately my school has not been very supportive of me and they really suck at making sure I actually get them. I think I need to explain my whole situation which is kind of long, so I apologize. If this is too long, just skip to the questions below. Here goes:

I knew I had a learning disability since around 7th grade but it was unknown what specifically I had until I just got retested last year. I got retested because I noticed that my grades were erratic despite putting forth a strong and even effort so I figured that my learning disability might be causing problems. My diagnostician then informed me that I had moderate to severe inattentive ADHD and language processing disorder, so I told my school and was issued a new ADA letter. I had gotten extra time ever since my initial testing but now I also get a note taker, priority class pick, a smart pen and extensions on projects or essays assigned with short notice. Because I was only recently diagnosed I did not know how my rights were different in college (I think I’ve mostly got a handle on it now) and I ended up fighting my school quite a lot to get them to give me my accommodations. In the end I only ended up getting a note taker in one class because my other professors were stubborn and as a result of that I ended up getting a C- in two classes, a D in one and a B- in the last one. I was already on academic probation come spring semester so at the end of the year my school threatened to kick me out - luckily I narrowly avoided that outcome.

The problem I have now is three pronged. The first problem is that I do not at all know how to manage my ADD. My family is not the most supportive and I can not take any medication because of a heart condition I have. The research I have done tells me that coaching is a good option but I do not have the means for something like that. The second problem is that I do not have a support system. As I have said, my family is not the most supportive - my mother is a little but she is the type to tell me that I blame all my shortcomings on ADD, school in particular. My school is not helpful for a few reasons: when I try to work with them to get the accommodations I’m entitled to they tell me to stop wasting so much time on trying to get them and to just focus on doing my work (which is incredibly difficult, if not almost impossible without the accommodations) and they don’t really offer disability specific help. They have an office of academic resources but I have found that I need more help than they can give me. The third problem is that I am not in the proper frame of mind to handle anything independently - I’m 95% I’m depressed and I have been seen February and I wouldn’t be surprised to find out I have an anxiety disorder as well. During spring semester just the thought of reading one chapter could make my hands shake, cause my heart to race and sometimes even make it hard for me to breathe.

Now that the year is almost here it’s starting to hit home just how much trouble I’m in and I am in dire need of advice. So here are a few questions:

1. How can I do a better job at policing myself? When I was told I could stay it was under the condition that I be more self-aware and notice when I’m slipping before it’s too late. I thought I was doing this, but apparently I wasn’t doing it well enough.

2. Any cheap alternatives to ADHD coaching or medicine, like something I could do myself to help me plan, prioritize and time manage better? My mother is strongly opposed to medicine, not that I can take any of the stimulants anyway.

3. Any suggestions for not beating myself over every little mistake? I’m pretty sure behaviors like this are 80% responsible for my depression and anxiety. There was about a month when I had to talk myself into eating because I was never hungry and I slept less than 30 hours a week because I didn’t think I deserved sleep.

4. How do I make sure I am on time? To class, on homework assignments - for everything. Part of academic probation is that I can’t be late or miss class or get extensions on assignments - ever. This was a huge problem for me last year. Mostly because I was not receiving proper accommodations but that seems to be a losing battle so I will take any suggestions for what I can do myself to succeed.

PLEASE HELP. I’M FREAKING OUT.

Thanks if you managed to read all of this!

Replies

Hello Yubbles!

I apologize for any weird typings in this.. It’s 1:30AM and I’m on my phone!

First off don’t freak out! It’s when we panic that we fall apart or are not able to focus properly.  I know that my be easier said then done but first just take some deep breaths and then let’s walk through your questions one at a time.

A little about me, I’m 29, with bad adhd since 7, a high school drop out and now a university honor student.  Not easy by no means but I’m making it happen!

1) Learn about yourself! Find out what are your best study times, how long before you need to take a break, are you a visual learner etc.  when you understand yourself you can make yourself a plan that will greatly help you succeed.  We with ADHD absolutely can thrive when routine and a plan is involved.

2) While my meds are doing awesome for me, there are non stimulant ADHD meds out there and many many organizations that help cover the cost of some of the meds to the entire amount. 

Furthermore I know there are many people who claim to have great success with a home remedy of ADHD called Synaptol.  May be something to consider. 

Fish oil is also supposed to be absolutely wonderful for ADHD.  You can find ample articles about this on any search engine.

Another item I have heard about is Natural Calm.  It’s a powder you add to drinks.  This may also help with your anxiety you get.

Also have you looked into Vocational Rehabilitation?  Sometimes they have resources the school doesn’t.

3) I was the king of beating myself up! Dropping out is a pretty stupid decision!  However I have come to realize some real truths in life.

A) It’s never too late to be what you could have been.

B) Never never never never give up.

C) Those who give up never realize how close to success they are.

With these in mind realize that your best way to overcome is to learn and conquer the challenges you encounter.  Coming to these forums is a great start. 

Realize also that your not alone in your struggles with ADHD and College.  You can with the right plan conquer in ways never imagined.  Believe in yourself, trust yourself and most of all never tell yourself your a failure.

Let these little bumps in the road be a diving force to keep you on a path of success.  Something Anthony Robbins says that I like is CANI.  Constant And Neverending Improvment.  Let each new day be a day to become better then you were the day before.

4) As my pastor loves to say, he subscribes to the KISS philosophy.  Keep It Simple Stupid!  I tried the organizers, the steinograph, and even using many many organizing apps and in the end, I simply resorted to using the inside flap of my note book for the class I’m in to lists assignments, test dates, etc. with the date assigned, due date and any other crucial small tid bits.  Then when that was done I crossed it out.

What works for me may not work for others but all in all I’ve learned that some of the best plans in life are also the most simple to implement.

Remember as I said before, learn about yourself and upon having a routine ADHD individuals can thrive greatly.

If you need some one on one encouragement, feel free to message me.

You can do it if you put your mind to it!

Chris

—something I forgot to mention is worst case scenario if they are not following your disability office accommodations plan, sounds like you have a good case of Academic Malpractice.  I’m sure if you spoke with a pro bono (free) disability attorney or your attorney generals office, I’m sure they would assist you in making sure your school honors federal law and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Posted by Born2Discover on Aug 21, 2014 at 6:57am

The university I go to has an equity office that helps with mental health issues, and protects me under discrimination laws. How can they put you on academic probation when you have a learning disability and your needs are not being met adequately? That sounds like discrimination. Maybe look at state level laws about that.

Can you lessen your work load? I’m doing three units instead of the usual four, it will take me longer to finish my degree, but it’s how I need to do it. This all seems overwhelming because you are being so hard on yourself. Remember to put yourself first, you deserve help, and you deserve to be at that college.

When I started studying as an ‘older’ student, I had all these issues, but five months later I am managing them, just through practice and determination. I turned my ADHD and OCD into working for me, not against me, and now study is an addiction.

I used to be late everywhere (if I even went at all), and couldn’t handle deadlines. Then I decided I had to prove I could do it, to shut up the critical voice in my head, and shut up people who don’t get me. I realised no one else cares if I succeed or not, not even my family really, but I should care, because I’m doing it for me.

Now I’m always early to places, and get started on assignments early. It took practice, it took a couple months, but the level of control I feel over my own life is amazing. Acknowledging struggles, and then finding a way to control and manage them yourself, helps self-esteem.

Look after yourself, and consider what you need to be happy, without influence from anyone else. When you hear that critical voice in your head, yell at it to shut up, and remind yourself you are doing the best you can in this moment. That voice will eventually change to a encouraging one, and you won’t get depressed anymore. (I used to be chronically depressed).

Look up time management skills, and mind mapping skills on YouTube. I take Ginkgo and krill oil for my brain, multivitamins, and medication. I also follow positive affirmation posts on Instagram (The zen lotus, The positive psychologist, etc), by reading them daily they help to change neural pathways in the brain into positive thinking patterns.

Just keep going forward.

Hope this helps?!

Posted by 1AmandA1 on Aug 21, 2014 at 8:43am

Thanks so much! I’m definitely going to look into Synaptol and I have been trying various fish oils but I haven’t noticed much of a difference. I’m starting to try out mind maps and they seem to be a better method than the ones I have taken in the past. I also just got the lady who diagnosed me to write me a request to take fewer classes so hopefully that gets approved.

As for legal things, I will see if I can look into that. They seem pretty adamant that they gave me the minimum required accommodations and that my difficulties are entirely my fault. I know they are not but when it comes down to them threatening to kick me out there’s not much I can do except agree with them and promise to do better. I’ve started saving all the emails and things that prove that my accommodations were not honored and I think I will look into state laws on the matter, Thanks!

Posted by Yubbles15 on Aug 21, 2014 at 2:25pm

Hi Yubbles!

First, there are some alternatives to stimulant medication for ADHD—some common ones are Straterra, Intuniv, and Wellbutrin. Talk with your doctor about options on that.

ADDitudeMag.com offers some great advice for college students. Check out these articles for effective strategies to succeed in college with ADHD:

http://www.additudemag.com/slideshow/11/
http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/1793.html
http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/1018.html
http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/898.html

There are alternative treatments for ADHD as well. You can read many articles on those options here: http://www.additudemag.com/topic/adhd-treatment/nutrition-diet.html
http://www.additudemag.com/topic/adhd-treatment/alternative-adhd-therapies.html.

Good luck to you!

Penny
ADDconnect Moderator, Author & Mom to Tween Boy with ADHD and LDs

Posted by adhdmomma on Aug 21, 2014 at 3:16pm

Exercise and mindfulness help as well. I find a few minutes of yoga/thai chi/pilates in the morning help calm and center me. There are lots of free workouts that require no equipment but a mat on youtube. Going for a brisk walk at lunch near some green space helps as well.
    Smartphones help- you’ve got your scheduler with alerts built in, timers, alarms, voice recorder in case you zone out during a lecture…use what you can find.
  As for your mom’s approval-you are 19 and adult. You need to make your own decisions with your doctor directing your medical treatment. Certainly listen to her concerns, and have fact based discussions about them, but in the end its your decision. Certainly medications have side-effects, some worse than others. I haven’t experienced any problems with concerta but maybe I was just lucky. Not taking meds has a side-effect as well: an unmanageable life and all the emotional upset that brings.

Posted by MorrisFluffyTail on Aug 30, 2014 at 11:51am

I also have a heart problem (HCM) I have an implanted defibrillator (due to arrythmias). I was diagnosed with ADD the beginning of this year. After, carefully weighing the options with my psychiatrist and my cardiologist we started out on the smallest dose available of Ritalin. I drink a lot of green tea (decaf) as well and it seems to help too and exercise taking a 30 min walk can give me the same kind of focus as a dose of meds!

The difference it has made is astounding! I graduated with my B.S in Psychology last year without any medication with a 3.46 GPA and let me tell you it was a feat that took over 10 years! Well, technically the A.A took 8 of those years due to heart failure. But, the last two were at a major university and were an adventure. Looking at my papers now I wonder how I managed that GPA. It is like looking through new eyes!

This is what I did before diagnosis I took as many in person classes as possible! I also did them on the regional campuses because if I had taken them on the main campus the sheer amount of people would have drove me up a wall. By having at maximum 20 people in class there was less to focus on. I also sat in the front of the class. When I sat in the back I watched everything but the professor. Speaking of professors I had a meeting with them after the first class and explained to them what was going on (didn’t know about the ADD part but still explained my symptoms thinking they were due to a medication). At the University level all of my professors were amazing at the CC level not so much!

But, the number one thing that helped me is I never did my school work at home. Every time I attempted it it took 4 times as long. So, I started doing my work at the library. I also used the library’s computers because they prohibited FB and YT! It is astonishing the amount of time that gets sucked into those websites. I also invested in a great set of noise cancelling headphones. This took out a lot of distractions.

At the beginning of the semester I programmed all of my assignments into my Google calender which then populated it into my desktop, my cellphone, and my tablet. Each one had 3 reminders, 1 week, 1 day, and 1 hour. This ended up being 9 notifications! I also wrote it all down in a paper planner.

While I know stimulants are contraindicated in heart problems have a good talk with your cardio and see if you can try small doses. For me the difference it makes in my life is well worth the occasional arrythmia. They do suck not going to lie but with my defib and cardio’s assurance they are not much more than an annoyance. But, only do this under the guidance of a doctor that really knows you!

Hope this helps!
The Goof

Posted by Toogoofy on Sep 12, 2014 at 5:02pm

Hi Yubbles,

You are not alone, my daughter just got suspended for academic reasons.  She has severe ADHD and she is also Deaf.  Her choices for college were only two and she has been stuck at a school where the Disability Officer said if I gave you accommodations then I would have to give it to 5,000 other students.

She academically qualified to attend the college and she also received 3 scholarships.  Within a year they had mentally beat her down to nothing.  I step in and with the help of an advocacy group we got her suspension removed and she got accommodations, she received a 3.5 GPA in semester and a 3.0 another semester.  Then all it took was one bad professor to send her down the deep hole of shame and guilty to the point of not being able to function.

I have been fighting with the school for accommodations for the last 3 years and when I finally got some of them the professors refused to give them because it would not be fair to the other students.

I have tried to find an attorney but it’s hard without any money.  I have filed complaints and sent out emails but a disability not seen must be a disability that doesn’t exist.  Most of the professors think that ADHD and the learning disabilities that accompany ADHD are not real and if the student tries harder they can achieve.  It’s like asking someone to squint harder so they can see.  The school did nothing about or to the professors as they mentally abused and tormented my daughter, I have the emails to prove it.  I have filed a complaint with the US Department of Education Office of Civil Rights.  But the process is too long and the proof lies with the victim.  Make sure our voices are heard, please help me shout the demand for our rights under the ADA law.

October is ADHD awareness month and I would like to call on everyone out there that believes to send a message to Arnie Duncan Secretary of the Department of Education.  Send him a message that they need to start being more forceful to Colleges that receive Federal Funds to provide accommodations and most of all to treat us and our children with dignity and to stop making us feel guilty and ashamed for having a mental disability. 

If we send enough messages someone will listen, so I am looking for support to making this October a true Awareness Month.  United we stand and we united we make a difference.

PLEASE HELP US and HELP YOURSELVES.  Send a message to these colleges that they can’t treat us like this.  I am also ADD and have accomplished but still have the many scrapes on my knees.

The website is :

What cutting-edge programs are your local schools undertaking?

What would you like to see them do?

Share your story, and it might make its way to Secretary Duncan.

The link:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/webform/tell-secretary-duncan-what-innovative-things-are-your-local-schools-doing?utm_source=email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=email368-text2&utm_campaign=education&utm_expid=24505866-41.Nhr7n28jQwGBETCwqQ-kbQ.0

Posted by angie859 on Sep 22, 2014 at 12:32pm

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