Leaping from the home nest to the independent life of a college student is exciting but it brings new challenges and self-management responsibilities. If that student has ADHD, the transition can be daunting. The old understandings about ADHD as a behavior disorder are no longer tenable and for many years it was essentially considered a disorder of childhood. Research in the last decade, especially from neuroscience and brain imaging, have helped people to understand ADHD as an unfolding developmental pathway and not just a static disorder. Many of these impairments can continue into college and adulthood.
To that end, professionals from the Whisler Center for Student Wellness (WCSW), Sanda Gibson, and Jennifer Vestal from the Academic Resource Center (ARC) decided to pool their respective resources. They created a psychoeducational/skill building group that helps students with ADHD to develop habits and strategies to function in academia. “Many students still don’t understand the diagnosis and they often experience an internal sense of frustration and failure,” says Gibson, a mental health counselor. She adds, “We help them understand this is a brain-based diagnosis that affects executive functions. In college, executive function deficits show up in behaviors such as disorganization, chronic lateness, forgetfulness, sporadic attention to classroom activities, uneven academic performance, sleep difficulties, relationship difficulties, and poor time management. It can be very overwhelming and discouraging.”
Vestal, a learning specialist, remarks, “In addition to psychoeducation, we try to teach them skills and strategies that aid in time management, organization, goal setting, self-advocacy, and resilience.” Each week students reflect upon their own unique challenges and set specific goals for change. Group leaders offer support to help them execute these tasks.