School Services – The Critical Difference for Students with ADHD

A recent study about kids students aged 4-17 with ADHD examined whether they were receiving adequate support at school. The  findings contained some disturbing facts, including:

  • Fewer than 43% of students with ADHD had an individualized educational plan (IEP)
  • Fewer than 14% had a 504 accommodation plan
  • One in five students with ADHD did not receive any services despite experiencing significant academic and social challenges
  • Middle and high school students were less likely to receive services than younger children
  • Often times, whatever services kids receive in elementary school are discontinued as they mature.

These trends were especially prevalent for kids from non-English speaking or low-income families.

High school students with ADHD are at higher risk of lower academic achievement and dropping out of school and school support services and interventions can make a critical difference. They have been shown to improve academic performance and social relationships. Too often, when services are made and available and students are doing better, the services are later withdrawn because of their success. The study results underscore the fact that these interventions need to remain in place to help with the increasing executive functioning demands for independence in middle and high school. When students receive appropriate levels of support during these years, it makes the transition to college or trade school more successful.

Sharon Saline, Psy.D., a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice, and a top expert in ADHD, learning disabilities and mental health issues, offers these suggestions to students and their parents:

Go beyond a simple diagnosis and get psychological testing – She argues that these assessments will identify your cognitive strengths and challenges. Knowing this information will help create an educational plan that fits your specific profile.  Schools can help you arrange to get these assessments.

Ask for help – Saline says, “College students with ADHD, who have to navigate learning support systems on their own and show the initiative to use them, there’s a tendency to muddle through on independently rather than ask for help. Today, most colleges provide executive functioning, ADHD and writing assistance and tutors. But, it can be embarrassing for people who need these services to ask for help. Sometimes, the support they receive isn’t what they expected or they don’t find it very useful. Too often, college students wait until they’re in dire straits before reaching out.”

Make a plan for support services with your college bound child – Parents of a college student with ADHD need to talk with their son or daughter about academic support. If they are not receiving services or getting services that are not helpful, discuss what changes they would like to see and make a plan for following up. This is all about working together to problem solve and find effective solutions.

Be an advocate for getting your middle or high school child school services – The process begins by meeting with their guidance counselor or the learning specialist at the high school to discuss what’s being provided and how to obtain more effective interventions. There are also educational advocate to assist you in navigating the school’s bureaucracy and making sure your child’s education rights are being met. Saline also emphasizes that seeking a consultation with an outside psychologist who specializes in ADHD and co-occurring learning challenges can also be useful.

The evidence is clearly there that too many students with ADHD are not receiving the school services they need to be successful with their academic studies. The executive functioning demands only become greater as they progress through middle school, high school and on to college and these services can make a tremendous differences in how these student fare.

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