Reply To: Doctoral Student with ADHD

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Thank you all for the contributions on this thread, as it is exactly what I needed to hear right now. I am a 49 year old PhD student that was not diagnosed until 40 (while completing my undergrad at UC Berkeley), I’ve now completed a masters at Cambridge and am currently part way through my PhD, also at Cambridge. Based on it taking me longer to progress through the design of my study (my PhD is purely research based) it was recommended by my supervisor that I not continue. Although I have a great deal of respect for him in many ways and believe that he actual means well, I fear he has lost faith in my ability on the back end of challenges with completing tasks to the traditional timeline. Although I have been utilising an ADHD coach and study skills tutor, my Disability Resource Centre advisor has now recommended that I be giving an additional 50% time to complete my PhD (6 years, rather than 4). As the quality of my work is not in question, simply the time it takes to complete the written linear portions of it, my college is strongly supporting this and I am hopeful that my department will take this on board.

There have been moments where I have been prepared to give up and it can sometimes be profoundly difficult to advocate for oneself in the face of very well meaning professors not being in full support. But I have already successfully completed 2 degrees at top universities and know that I am capable of successfully finishing my PhD and having a meaningful contribution to the research, if given the appropriate support and additional time necessary to complete my studies. It is encouraging to hear the stories of others studying at this level and overcoming similar challenges in various ways.

I can’t help but think many of us more mature students with varied life experiences are better equipped to stand up to the road blocks that might at times impede our progress and this might in the end benefit those that follow. But I am truly concerned that some of the younger students with ADHD and other disabilities, attempting graduate studies, might simply be falling through the cracks. As there is still virtually no research on appropriate support for postgraduate students with ADHD, particularly regarding guidance for supervisors and standards for extended terms of study, even the DRC here and the university as a whole admits they struggle with determining appropriate support of graduate students with disabilities. I am encouraged by the fact that they are trying and there are people here helping me fight my corner, but I am painfully aware that we still have a long ways to go. Thus, at present I think self advocacy, pulling the resources where available and a bit of tenacity are crucial to success.

p.s. Regarding the mention of medication, I have begun using medication at a low dose for the first time in my life about a year ago and it is helping. It doesn’t make everything easy, but in combination with other adaptive approaches it is helping me progress more effectively.

Best of luck to all!