Turn Around Failing College Students with ADHD.  Educate the whole child.

Of all the student body of public 4-year colleges and universities, 29% have enrolled in remedial classes.  Consider, nearly 80% had a high school grade point average (GPA) of 3.0.  Worst of all, students with ADHD perform well below those levels.

How can this be?  What can we do?

Living in a global economy of the 21st century, students must be prepared to think both critically and creatively.  Students with ADHD struggle with the massive amounts of information to solve complex problems and communicate well.  They need support across many channels to succeed academically, personally, and professionally.

The first step is to define what is “successful” means.  How is it measured?  To address the specific needs of students with ADHD, teachers should create a safe environment where components work together (not in isolation).  Addressing the needs of whole child plays a critical role in making this possible.

  • Each student enters school healthy and learns about and practices a healthy lifestyle.
  • Each learns in an environment that is physically and emotionally safe for students and adults.
  • Each student is actively engaged in learning and is connected to the school and broader community.
  • Each student has access to personalized learning and is supported by qualified, caring adults.
  • Each student is challenged academically and prepared for success in college or further study and for employment and participate in a global environment.

Students with ADHD often present issues with physical and emotional health.  This is especially true when considering the impact of diet and sleep on symptoms.  Adolescents can experience the onset of mental illness as well.  Parents, educators, and professionals should form a community, taking care in addressing each issue immediately as presented.

When students don’t feel safe, they are less apt to concentrate in their studies or connect with their classmates.  As they are 4.5 times more likely to be bullied, students with ADHD should be encouraged to engage in social and emotional learning in the higher grades.

To learn at their best, students with ADHD must be motivated.  This can be a significant challenge as a result if the stigma associated with this disorder.  The situation is improved as they encounter substantial situations (exposed to) positive social attitudes.  After-school programs can promote achievement with targeted investment, focused academic support, quality programming, and continual improvement.  Seek it out.

Engagement is a challenge, especially for students with attention issues.  More than 60% of those surveyed reported being bored in every class, or at least every day,  Of these, 98% claimed that the content being taught was the main reason for their boredom.  81% cited uninteresting and irrelevant subjects as well.  It’s up to teachers and curriculum developers to turn things around.

Social interaction with peers provides a roadblock that impacts academic and emotional success.  Schools can be found to help prevent negative consequences including isolation, violent behavior, dropping out of school, and suicide.  Support from parents, teachers, and administrators, and other caring adults should be fostered by taking personal interest and creating a bridge to an open dialogue

  • Resolve conflicts through honest discussions.  Make connections to develop a common ground that shares essential values that focus on love and safety.
  • Learn by doing.  Take part in service activities, internships, and social actions that allow them to understand the relevance of what they learn.
  • Provide a sense of belonging.  Find a space to collaborate, supporting inclusive and democratic learning environment.
  • Create a well-rounded individual.  Use hands-on curriculum that is integrated with the arts, health and wellness, civics, and outdoor “adventure learning.”
  • Improve interpersonal skills.  Maintain positive relationships, demonstrate decision making, and responsible behaviors for school and life.

In 2015, 83% of US high students graduated on time.  That correlates with more than 4 of 5 graduated with a regular high school diploma within 4 years of starting 9th grade.  In comparison, teens with ADHD have the highest incompletion rates (more than 30%).

To succeed in college, postsecondary education, and the workplace, students with ADHD need higher-level thinking, communications, and problem-solving abilities.  These are not necessarily characteristics associated with their disability.  Taking remedial courses do not provide the rigor to be successful.  This raises deep concerns about the value of their high school diploma.

Teens and young adults with ADHD are more likely to experience loneliness, depression, and adjustment difficulties.  This can result in being prone to negative performance, both personally and academically.  “Our kids” are people with a variety of individual strengths and needs that create a whole.  Help them feel safe and secure, regardless of their age.

What do you think is the most important skill/knowledge to be successful in college?





2 responses to “Turn Around Failing College Students with ADHD.  Educate the whole child.”

  1. donna Avatar

    My son is 34 with three associate degrees. He has always wanted to have an office job, was hired on after his internship to support the colleges service learning center. He has great reviews and tried to go on for his 4 year degree but just dropped out because of a severe math phobia. When there is math involved, he panics and shuts down. The depression, loneliness, and adjustment difficulties you speak of are currently slowly drowning his hopes for a successful future.
    Early in his college years, he shared with his teachers that he was diagnosed with ADHD. The only adjustment they were willing to make was more time on tests. Since that didnt really address his issues he refused to share it with future teachers . He has been tutored, is on medication, and had counseling…all to no avail. Where do we go from here?

    1. Edie Brown Avatar
      Edie Brown

      You gave a lot of details. Being so involved will help you in the long run. The extended time accommodation is common in college/university. The colleges that I’ve worked with are less familiar with other alternatives. When’s the last time your son has been evaluated? Did the report include anything about math anxiety?

      I’ll look around on my end. Don’t give up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.