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If You Love Someone, Set Them Free (with Clorox and Masks)

ADHD in college is risky enough. Now we have COVID to worry about on top of forgotten papers, missed deadlines, and lagging grades. Here’s how we made the heart-wrenching decision to send our impulsive, eager young adult back to campus this fall.

Airplane heading back to college for ADHD teen

I put my son on a plane yesterday. Then I came home and cried.

He’s 20 years old and headed back for sophomore year of college. Considering there were so many points along his academic journey where we doubted he’d ever get into college, never mind want to go, never mind be able to manage it — this should be cause for celebration. But, of course, there’s the pandemic to worry about — not to mention my son’s ADHD.

Freshman year was a little rough. He failed a class. Dropped another. His grades were… not reflective of his intelligence. But he loved being in college. Made friends. A girlfriend. Stayed relatively motivated.

Then the pandemic happened. He came home halfway through second semester and finished the year online. He hated it. Still we decided that, due to his less-than-stellar grades and the less-than-certain direction of this pandemic, he would stay home for the fall semester. He was not happy, but he understood. He was a trooper, really. His university is in a state where the numbers are low, so they eventually decided to offer live classes in the fall. And, after some gut-wrenching discussions, we decided it made more sense for him to return.

So I put him on that plane. Never mind the sheer folly of hurtling through the air in an enclosed tube with potentially infected people. Never mind that, if he gets sick, I’m too far away to help. On top of all that, the boy still has ADHD. This is no longer a question of “Remember to do your homework, son!” or “Plan out your week on Mondays, son!” It is now a potential life-or-death “Remember to wear your mask, son!” and “Don’t impulsively get too close to people, son!” and “Please, please wash those hands!”

Did we make the right choice? He’ll tell you a thousand percent YES. And, so, I suppose it is the right choice for him. It’s his life, after all.

Read This Next: “The Story of My Not-So-Empty, Very-ADHD Nest”

He may feel like a 15-year-old to me, but my son is actually an adult and he needs to take steps toward being responsible for himself. His ADHD will never go away. It is his albatross, and he will find ways to bear its load. Sometimes it will drag him to the ground. Other times it will help him soar. I just hope it will help him avoid the illness at all costs.

But, of course, the illness is not the only risk for a kid with ADHD out there on his own. I could spend plenty of sleepless nights worrying about the various dangers awaiting a college-aged kid with impulsivity problems. But that would help no one. We’ve scaffolded for long enough now. It’s his turn to fly. (Please, son, just fly straight away from anyone who’s coughing.)

ADHD in College: Next Steps

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