Too late for accommodations?

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    • #104858

      I’m currently a senior in high school, and I’ve never had any accommodations. Of course, back when I was on the right medication, I didn’t really need them. Currently I’m taking classes way below my level or intelligence, but i’m still in over my head with the adhd and workload. I’m not planning on getting any help this year, of course. Even though it’s incredibly difficult, I still have what appears to be good grades. (no one knows I’m way behind in my online class, though) And it’s my last year of high school. I know a lot of colleges have accommodations, but I have no idea how to navigate something like that, or even what would help me. Should I just go to a community college and work extra hard? Go to university and request accommodations of some sort? Wait until I find meds that help me? Skip college altogether? Would accommodations help bridge the gap that my medication used to fill? How do accommodations even work? I’ve always felt that it was kind of unfair to ask for extra help, even when I felt it was unfair that my brain was different. I don’t know. Do I even need them? I don’t know what a 504 plan or IEP is, and my mom never tried to get any accommodations for me because meds and taking home anything I couldn’t get done used to work okay.

    • #104891

      When you’re in elementary-high school, there are a lot of accommodations available to help students with ADHD. 504 plans and IEPs are the documents that K-12 schools use to outline what classroom accommodations are helpful for each individual student. In college, accommodations are more generalized and limited, but, as the work is harder and lengthier, they can also be very helpful.

      Any college will be required by law to give you basic accommodations, so don’t be afraid of asking for them. Needing accommodations is common, and your school will have a plan for handling it. There’s no need to struggle unnecessarily with the work. Most schools have a department that deals solely with learning and physical accommodations. After being accepted to the school of your choice, you can contact that department to find out what their requirements are. Usually, they need to have a letter or official documentation from the doctor that made the diagnosis. They will tell your professors what you need, but they will keep everything confidential. None of my friends in college noticed that I was getting any accommodations.

      Common accommodations are: taking tests in a distraction-free location, extra time on writing assignments, and extra time on tests.

      These accommodations don’t really provide any advantage over other students. They just allow ADHD students the time and space required to organize their thoughts well enough to “show what they know”. Most ADHD people are very bright, but they can be overlooked in school because they have trouble expressing it and get overwhelmed easily.

      Your next steps after college are up to you and your family. You know yourself best, and only you will know what you can handle. If you don’t feel like you know what you can handle, that’s okay. Take baby steps, and back off if you feel yourself getting overwhelmed.

      I will say that the transition to college work and living on your own can be a BIG adjustment for anyone with ADHD, especially if you need to work while going to school. Because we struggle with balance and time management, it can be helpful to focus on one set of skills at a time: either “learning how to adult” or college coursework. Once you’ve developed skills in one, it’s easier to succeed at the other. It can be a lot to juggle, but with support and time, it’s manageable. 🙂

      Based on my college experience, my advice would be this:

      a. Be easy on yourself. Take a manageable course load (especially in the beginning), learn from your mistakes, and give yourself grace. If it’s not working, take a step back to evaluate why. Don’t just “push through” like I did. You want to get the most out of the experience.

      b. Have a direction before going in. College is an expected next step after high school nowadays, but it’s also very expensive. If you’re interested in a career path, try getting a part=time job or volunteering in the field for a few months to see if it’s a good fit. Knowing what you’re going to college for can help you stay focused on the goal of graduation. Plus, it’ll be easier to complete the coursework if it’s interesting to you. It’s okay to change your mind, most students change their majors several times. But having an idea can help you make the most of financial aid and keep you from graduating with too much debt.

      c. Get support. An ADHD coach or therapist can help you with time management, accountability, and managing the stress of the transition (it’s stressful for all students, not just those with ADHD).

      d. Take care of your physical health. Your brain will function SO much better if you have a regular sleep schedule, eat fruits, veggies, and protein, and exercise every day.

      ADHD students tend to take a little more time to adjust to adulthood. “Adulting” utilizes a lot of skills that we naturally struggle with. Personally, I wish I had taken a year or two off to work and develop some life skills. But, I was very immature and naive at 18. 🙂 I had no direction. It took me a little extra time (I was diagnosed during college), but I made it through! Now, I’m a little older and wiser and making As in grad school without meds. 😉 You can do it, you just have to find the path that works for you. 😉

    • #104892

      Also, if you feel like the medications help, keep working to find the right fit. I’m not on any now, but I would not have made it through my undergrad without them. I’d recommend getting with a good ADHD coach or therapist, too. Learning new skills can be just as helpful as medication sometimes. 🙂

      • #104897

        Thanks for the advice! I’m still not really sure what I’m going to do, but I guess I’ll have to wait and see what improvements I can make on my adhd. I’ve never visited a coach or therapist, probably because of money, to be honest. Do they help a lot? I feel like being able to take a test or timed writing in another room would be amazing, so if there is a way to be able to do something like that I may try to see if I can get a little help. 🙂

    • #104967
      Penny Williams

      You will be much more likely to get approved for accommodations in college if you had accommodations in high school. If you don’t try to get at least a 504 plan now, you may have a much harder time getting accommodations in college. Now, if you appear to be doing well at school, you may not get approved for accommodations right now — that’s not supposed to be the only criteria, by law, but it’s often what schools use to measure need.

      In college there’s a whole department for challenged learners to help them navigate and succeed. They will tell you how to go about getting accommodations.

      The Inside Scoop on Getting College Accommodations

      ADDconnect Moderator, Author on Parenting ADHD, Mom to teen boy with ADHD, LDs, and autism

    • #105603
      Dr. Eric

      Didn’t get diagnosed or accommodated until college.
      Glad that I got them when I did.

    • #106280


      My daughter is a junior. I just put her on the 504 plan. It’s something that is initiated by parents. We go through the school counselor. Her teachers are aware of the ADHD. She gets extra time for tests and assignments. I have to say it’s really helpful. Her counselor did say that in college, it is also available. But it is the college student that starts the process on that level. Not the parents. In your case, I recommend that you talk to your school counselor to see what can be put in place to help you. It’s never too late to put steps in place that will help you.

    • #106298

      The very first thing you do is make a trip down to the Office of Disability Services at the college or university your are to attend or are attending. Quite often the Office has an online screening “application” that makes the process a lot smoother. You will need to have copies of your IEP / 504 and documents from health care providers if necessary (this is usually the case with issues you are currently receiving therapy or medication for).

      You are on the right track asking for help. As a student success advisor I work with a lot of students who thought they could make it on their own and it just doesn’t happen.

    • #106347

      I’m a therapist with ADHD inattentive type. Most colleges have a handicapped department that can help with accommodations that have been described above.
      In my own case, before I was ever diagnosed, I found that sitting on the front row and asking questions helped in maintaining my attention.
      I once had a wristwatch with lots of buttons on it, and using that I discovered that at exactly 4 minutes my eyes would be going over lines in a book, while I was thinking of something else. The watch would beep and I would return to my reading. You might be able to find one at radio shack.
      If you are hyperactive, it might help to take a soft rubber ball to class and squeeze on it at the same time you are writing. That might dissipate some of the energy and help you to concentrate.
      E. E. Douglas, M.Ed. LPC LMFT

      P.S. In college you do most of your work out of class. Nobody pesters you to do better, and whatever grade you make is not something the prof. worries about. You attend class 3 days a week (usually) and it looks like you have lots of free time (Not.) Everything is a distraction. Your friends want to go somewhere, somebody is playing cards, somebody wants to come in and shoot the breeze, there’s something on TV, etc. There is noise in the hallway, you want to go out with your girl, and so on. Watch out for the distractions. They’ll affect you more than the average guy. Watch out for procrastination. It’s seductive, and you’ll seem to have plenty of time, until you don’t.
      Notice that a lot of your friends who seem to have lots of time first semester aren’t there second semester. Notice that if you’ve studied well for a test and ace it, if the prof puts a distribution of grades on the board, there are lots of C’s and some D’s and F’s. Those are the ones who seemed to have a lot of free time to fool around.

      • This reply was modified 3 years ago by genedoug. Reason: added signature
      • This reply was modified 3 years ago by genedoug. Reason: Had some additional thoughts
    • #106437


      First off I agree with what has been said so far.

      I do wonder why you don’t want to get any help this year, even though you are feeling overwhelmed by coursework which is below your intellectual understanding? And why do you feel that is an “of course” decision? Would you feel the same if you were deaf or blind?

      “Should I just go to a community college and work extra hard?” In my opinion a community college is a good option for most people just out of highschool because you typically pay less money while learning how to navigate college culture and coursework. Plan on that for two years and then transfer in to a typical 4 year university. And expect to work extra hard no matter what, that is the college experience whether you need accommodations or not. The caveat here is that there are more scholarships available for freshman than transfer students. That might be a consideration if you know exactly what you want to do and have the portfolio to get accepted by your target school. That could be plan A and then compare offers to what you would spend by going the transfer route.

      It is very helpful if choosing community college route to have an idea of where you want to graduate from and with what degree. That way you can check with the target school on what courses from where will transfer. And until you have an idea of that, stick to electives of interest and the basic gen eds that everyone requires like english comp etc. In some states community colleges have agreements with the state 4 year schools for exactly this purpose. You do need to check which programs transfer to which schools.

      “Go to university and request accommodations of some sort?” If you decide on university absolutely request accommodations and stay in close contact with your advisor, the disability department (I lack a proper term), and your teachers throughout each term. You don’t necessarily have to take advantage of all the accommodations all the time. You can use as needed but only if you set them up ahead of time and notified the teacher when the semester starts.

      “Wait until I find meds that help me?” I would not wait on this. Meds can help give you the necessary focus to stay in your seat and learn skills. They do not give you the skills you need to succeed.

      “Skip college altogether?” Maybe, but not because of ADHD. This option is viable if you have a deliberate alternative plan. Maybe you feel you need more time to mature and discover what you’d like to go to school for. There are structured programs available to young adults for that purpose. They often provide room, board, a small stipend, and funds for education later on. Maybe you just want to work, make money and take a break from academics. No problem with that, but I would apply to entry level positions in larger companies that reimburse for eduction (or a part of it) in fields that you have an interest in even if it is a remote interest at this point. That way when you feel ready you’ll have funding. Maybe you want to enter a particular trade and an apprenticeship is a better option. The trades don’t get the respect they deserve, they are high paying jobs that require intelligence.
      check your states employment security website or office, they know of programs for young adults specific to your state

      Also there is no law that you have to get a degree in the minimum amount of time. You can accumulate credits before becoming a matriculating student. It is very helpful though to have an idea of where you want to graduate from and with what degree. That way you can check with the target school on what courses, from where, will transfer. And until you have an idea of that, stick to the basic gen eds that everyone requires like english comp etc. Even so, if you make a mistake and take a class of interest in what eventually becomes your major and it does not transfer; it is usually not a total waste of time or money you will just end up with a better grade in the degree program.

      “Would accommodations help bridge the gap that my medication used to fill?” Possibly, and if not they would fill a different and very necessary gap. It all depends on what skills are lacking and what effect your meds had. For instance, an accommodation of class notes provided would replace meds if the meds allowed you to actually stay present long enough to take the notes yourself.

      “How do accommodations even work?” Have you ever heard of a handicap in golf? Regular people use them so people of differing abilities can play the game and enjoy doing so. That is what school accommodations do.

      “I’ve always felt that it was kind of unfair to ask for extra help, even when I felt it was unfair that my brain was different.” Exactly why it is not unfair.

      “Do I even need them?” Maybe not. Interview your friends and ask how much time they spend on homework and what kind of grades they are getting. If you are spending the same amount of time or more and getting poorer grades ask them about their study habits. Maybe all you need is to change your strategy. If that doesn’t seem to be the problem or if even knowing what good study habit’s are, you can’t achieve them whilst trying then yes, you probably need accommodations. At least while enrolled in academics.

      “I don’t know what a 504 plan or IEP is, and my mom never tried to get any accommodations for me because meds and taking home anything I couldn’t get done used to work okay.” They are both descriptions of the issues and a plan for overcoming them. A 504 plan is easier to get and usually related to medical issues, but an IEP has more teeth and clout. ADHD can fall under either plan.

      Don’t fault yourself or your mom, people accommodate for themselves until the expectations exceed they’re capabilities or their willingness to put in extra effort. It seems you are just getting to that point. It is very good your realizing somethings not quite right and are pursuing a solution. And it is not too late to ask. It is a process and if successful it may be too late to use the accommodations this year or maybe everyone is quick and they are in place for final quarter. If not, you will have the documentation you need for college/university and any other formal program (ex Americorp) you might try.

      Go to your guidance department and convey your concerns about getting formal accommodations in place for your last semester and eventually college. If you get push back and probably a good idea even if you don’t ask for an evaluation through “Child Find”. The school is required to do evaluations if parent OR TEACHER suspect a learning disability and request one. This is important because it is very expensive to have this kind of testing done. Ask exactly what you or your mom needs to do to start the process. Talk to your mom and tell her you need her help and this is what the school is asking for.

      If for any reason you reach a roadblock with your parents as an advocate, you can advocate for yourself upon reaching 18. And this is not to dis your parents, there are many reasons why a parent might not be able to pull this off this late. Not least inexperience with the process and managing work & home.

      Is an IEP or 504 Plan Best for Your Child?

      It will be very helpful to have a doctor letter stating the ADHD diagnosis and examples of and teacher reports of discrepancies between grades and visible knowledge/ intellectual capabilities. For example tests versus project grades on the same material, verbal output versus written output etc.

      Best Wishes,

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