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Coaching ADHD College Students To Coach Themselves

Contributed by: Dr. Steven Richfield

Parents write: Our ADHD college student won¡¦t read books about ADHD but needs guidance. What are some key tips that he could quickly read in a rush like he reads everything else?

The challenges of balancing a rigorous academic schedule with the lure of relaxation and social temptation can push even the strongest college students to the breaking point. Add to this mind-bending mixture the presence of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and life at college is even more of a struggle. Without proper preparation, college students with ADHD may find themselves trapped within a cycle of misses: missed classes, missed deadlines, and missed opportunities.

Astute parents send their ADHD students off to school hoping for the best, but aware that success at college requires planning, routine, and self-discipline. Since these are not in abundance, here are some tips to help your ADHD son or daughter correct their college course:

  • Students need to directly address how to manage their ADHD at this critical life juncture. Even if diagnosis was established years ago, and medication has been in place, ADHD can not be ignored. Students must understand how college life is the perfect environment to allow the self-defeating thinking of ADHD to sabotage success due to the daily autonomy and delayed measures in place. It is very easy to avoid regular reading (“It’s not for a grade”), sleep late instead of attend class (“The professor doesn’t take attendance”), and put off long term assignments (“I work best at the last minute”). These and other thoughts undermine the will to achieve long term goals, and emphasize the critical need for ADHD management at college.
  • Management begins with a declaration to identify and overcome self-sabotage and commit to assertive actions to keep ADHD under a ‘daily watch.’ Since ADHD creeps into thinking and behavior, the key is to develop an ‘awareness of ADHD’ mental preparedness. Visual icons such as crossed out encircled ADHD letters is one way to keep vigilant. Another idea is to readily ask oneself, “Is this ADHD controlling me or am I controlling it right now?” These approaches require college students to retain a respect for the way ADHD does not simply go away and can be viewed as the “ADHD Adversary” to be contained and controlled.
  • Establish simple self-checks that help students self-coach to en sure that academic life is under “coaching control.” For example, suggest the acronym D (Deadline) E (Efficient use of time) QC (Quality Control). By asking themselves if their day is passing the ‘DEQC’ test, the ADHD college student is covering many of the critical daily areas that ADHD compromises. Deadlines can easily be pushed out of mind if they are not pressing, time may be wasted by spending too much of it on passionate subjects and free time pursuits, and quality sacrificed by poor time planning and disinterest in subject areas. See if they will allow you to help them calibrate how best to use DEQC in their daily dealings at college.

ADHD can lead to serious co-existing troubles at college such as addictive behaviors, depression, and anger management problems. Under the earlier watchful guidance of parents and teachers, many students with ADHD avoid these troubles while living at home. It is only when they leave home and are exposed to the myriad temptations of college life that other issues come to the fore. College students with ADHD must be on guard for this possibility and take preventive action before these problems intensify. A visit to the college counseling center should be the first self-check if signs suggest another serious problem is brewing.

Dr. Steven Richfield is an author and child psychologist in Plymouth Meeting, PA He has developed a child-friendly, self-control/social skills building program called Parent Coaching Cards now in use in thousands of homes and schools throughout the world. His book, “The Parent Coach: A New Approach To Parenting In Today’s Society,” is available through Sopris West (sopriswest.com or 1-800-547-6747) He can be contacted at director@parentcoachcards.com or 610-238-4450. To learn more, visit www.parentcoachcards.com

Posted on December 30, 2008