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Teenagers & ADD/ADHD

Getting Ready for College - Help & Advise for High School Students with ADHD


DEVELOPING SELF KNOWLEDGE

Successful college students with ADHD or learning disabilities, college advisors, as well as campus Disability Support Services staff agree that developing knowledge about one's self - the nature of one's ADHD or learning disabilities as well as one's personal and academic strengths and weaknesses is vital in getting ready for college.

Students need to become familiar with how they learn best. Many successful students with ADHD or learning disabilities acquire compensatory learning strategies to help them use the knowledge they have accumulated, to plan, complete and evaluate projects, and to take an active role in shaping their environments. They need to learn how to apply strategies flexibly, and how to modify or create strategies fluently to fit new learning situations. For example, compensatory strategies may include:

a. allowing more time to complete tests, papers, and other projects,
b. listening to audio tapes of text books while reading,
c. making up words to remind students to use the knowledge they have.

For example:

a. F.O.I.L. (First Outer Inner Last) to remember the sequence of steps in solving algebra problems when in school,
b. P.A.L. (Practice Alert Listening) when talking with friends and family, at work, and in school,
c. U.S.E. (Use Strategies Every day).

All students learn from experience. Those with ADHD or learning disabilities need to exercise their judgment, make mistakes, self- identify them, and correct them. Learning new information in a new setting, such as a college classroom or dormitory, can be frustrating. Setbacks are an inevitable part of the learning process, but can impair self-esteem, which is essential to taking responsibility for one's life. Self-esteem is built and rebuilt one day at a time. Students need explicit strategies to monitor and restore their self-esteem.

Some students have difficulty understanding or making themselves understood by their peers, families, and instructors. For example, some ADHD symptoms or learning disabilities may affect timing in conversations, or decisions about when to study and when to socialise. Students need to really think about how motivated they are. They should ask themselves these questions:

1. Do I really want to go to college and work harder than I ever did before?
2. Am I really ready to manage my social life?

In order to gain self knowledge check out the following ideas:

Become familiar with one's own difficulties. Since the professional documentation of the ADHD problems or learning disability is the vehicle for understanding one's strengths and weaknesses it is essential that each student has a full and frank discussion about that documentation with his or her parents as well as the psychologist or other expert who assessed the student. Students may want to ask questions such as:

a. What is the extent of the disability?
b. What are my strengths? How do I learn best?
c. Are there strategies that I can use to learn despite these disabilities?

Learn to be "self-advocates" while still in high school! Self-advocates are people who can speak up in logical, clear and positive language to communicate about their needs. Self-advocates take responsibility for themselves. To be a self-advocate, each student must learn to understand his or her particular type of learning disability, and the resultant academic strengths and weaknesses. They must be aware of their own learning styles. Most importantly, high school students with ADHD or learning disabilities need to become comfortable with describing to others both their difficulties and their academic-related needs. At the college level, the student alone will hold the responsibility for self-identification and advocacy.

Practice self-advocacy while still in high school. Many students with ADHD or learning disabilities develop self-advocacy skills through participating in the discussions to determine the Individualised Education Program (IEP) and/or the Individualised Transition Plan (ITP). Armed with knowledge about learning strengths and weaknesses, the student can be a valued member of the planning team.

Develop strengths and learn about areas of interest. Students with ADHD or learning disabilities, as do others, often participate in sports, music, or social activities after school. Others try working in a variety of jobs or community volunteer projects. Activities in which a student can excel can help to build the self-esteem necessary to succeed in other areas.

UNDERSTANDING LEGAL RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES

Recent legislation protects the rights of people with disabilities. In order to be effective self advocates, students need to be informed about this legislation. It is especially important to know about the Disability and SEN Act. High school students with ADHD or learning disabilities must understand their rights under Disability and SEN Act The school is responsible for identifying students with disabilities, for providing all necessary assessments, and for monitoring the provision of special education services. These special education services, which are described in detail in a student's Individualised Education Program (IEP) and Individualised Transition Plan (ITP), could significantly alter the requirements of the "standard" high school academic program.

The Disability and SEN also applys to higher education. Colleges and universities do not offer "special" education. Colleges and universities are prohibited from discriminating against a person because of disability. Institutions must provide reasonable modifications, accommodations, or auxiliary aids which will enable qualified students to have access to, participate in, and benefit from the full range of the educational programs and activities which are offered to all students on campus. Examples which may assist students with learning disabilities include, but are not limited to, the use of readers, note takers, extra time to complete exams, and/or alternate test formats.

Decisions regarding the exact accommodations to be provided are made on an individualised basis, and the college or university has the flexibility to select the specific aid or service it provides, as long as it is effective. Colleges and universities are not required by law to provide aides, services, or devices for personal use or study.

Understanding the Changes in Level of Responsibility

Students with learning disabilities need to know that the level of responsibility regarding the provision of services changes after high school. As mentioned above, throughout the primary and secondary years, it is the responsibility of the school system to identify students with disabilities and to initiate the delivery of special education services. However, while Disability and SEN Act requires postsecondary institutions to provide accommodative services to students with disabilities, once the student has been admitted to a college or university it is the student's responsibility to self-identify and provide documentation of the disability. The college or university will not provide any accommodation until a student takes the following two steps.

Step 1. The enrolled student who needs accommodative services must "self-identify." That means he or she must go to the Office of Disability Support Services, or the office (or person) on campus responsible for providing services to students with disabilities, and request services.

Step 2. He or she must provide documentation of his or her disability. For the student with a learning disability, such documentation is often a copy of his or her testing report and/or a copy of the IEP or ITP.

Understanding Your Rights to Privacy

Students and their families are often concerned about who will be able to see their educational records. They want to be sure that written records will be confidential and available only to those with a legitimate interest in them. To protect the privacy of student records the Education Act and also the Data Protection Act is there to enforce privacy. These give students the right to have access to their educational records, consent to release a record to a third party, challenge information in those records, and be notified of their privacy rights. This affects all colleges and universities which receive state funds. These rights belong to the student regardless of age (and to the parents of a dependent student). A "student" is a person who attends college or university and/or for whom the institution maintains educational records (former students and alumni, for example) but not applicants to the institution or those denied admission. The college must inform students of their rights, procedures to allow a student access to his or her record, and procedures to consent to release a record to a third party. Publishing this information in a catalogue or bulletin satisfies this requirement.

Any information regarding disability gained from medical examinations or appropriate post-admissions inquiry shall be considered confidential and shall be shared with others within the institution on a need to know basis only. In other words, other individuals shall have access to disability related information only in so far as it impacts on their functioning or involvement with that individual.

For example, tutors do not have a right or a need to access diagnostic or other information regarding a student's disability. They only need to know what accommodations are necessary/ appropriate to meet the student's disability-related needs, and then only with permission of the student.

Disability related information should be kept in separate files with access limited to appropriate personnel. Documentation of disability should be held by a single source within the institution in order to protect the confidentiality of persons with disabilities by assuring such limited access.

TRANSITION PLANNING FOR COLLEGE

Leaving high school is an eventuality that all students face. Under the the SEN & Disability Act preparing for this transition has been formalised by requiring that the IEP for each student receiving special education services include a statement of the transition services needed. In many locations the IEP becomes an Individualised Transition Plan, or ITP. It documents the student's disabilities, describes specific courses for the student to take, accommodative services for the school to provide, notes post-high school plans, and identifies linkages with relevant community agencies. Students with ADHD or learning disabilities planning to go to college are encouraged to take an active part in the transition planning process. Of particular importance in transition planning are the following:

a. College Options
b. Documentation of a Learning Disability
c. Course Selection and Accommodative Services

College Options

Students with ADHD or learning disabilities who are planning to go to college should make themselves aware of the general categories of post-secondary educational institutions. Knowing the type of college one will attend affects the student's course selections while still in high school. In addition to varying in size, scope or program offered, setting (urban, suburban, or rural), residential or commuter, and cost of attendance, there are several factors of special importance for students with ADHD or learning disabilities.

Two-year college courses are most frequently public community collages. Most are open admissions institutions and are non-residential. Community colleges attract students who choose to take either a few selected courses in their interest area, vocational courses to train for specific jobs, as well as those who pursue higher education courses such as A levels - BTEC and others.

Course Selection and Accommodative Services

Students with ADHD or learning disabilities should consider various college options as well as their academic strengths and weaknesses in planning their high school program. Students seeking admission to collage MUST meet the criteria set by the college.

Successful college students with ADHD or learning disabilities report that high school courses teaching keyboard skills and word processing are especially important. A high school record of achievement folder displaying successful completion of a wide array of courses (science, math, history, literature, foreign language, art, music) is attractive to the college admissions staff. Involvement in school or community sponsored clubs, teams, or performances also enhance a college admission candidate's application.

Accommodative services are essential to the success of most students with ADHD or learning disabilities. Prior to the ITP meeting, at which the services will be listed, students should try out various accommodations which have proven successful to others. These may include:

a. listening to a tape recording of written material while reading it,
b. using extended time to complete exams (usually time and a half),
c. using a computer to write exams or papers,
d. taking the exam in a quiet place without distraction from other students or intrusive noises.

In addition, students with ADHD or learning disabilities may benefit from mini-courses in study skills, assertiveness training, and time management. The importance of listing the accommodative services for each student in the ITP cannot be emphasised strongly enough.

COLLEGE APPLICATION PROCESS

For students with ADHD or learning disabilities to assume responsibility for college application processes, they need to have an accurate idea of what they have to offer colleges. They also need to have an accurate idea of the academic requirements and admission procedures of the colleges or universities in which they are interested. Successful college students with ADHD or learning disabilities advise that the actual college application process should begin as early as possible - in the final year of high school. That is the time to review the documentation of the learning disabilities and work on understanding strengths, weaknesses, learning styles, and accommodative services. In addition, the following activities are part of the process and will be discussed in this section.

1. Creating a Short List
2. Admissions Tests and Accommodations
3. Application and Disclosure
4. Making a College Choice

a. After the first version of the short list is created, bring disability-related concerns back into the picture. Now work to refine the short list by becoming familiar with the services that are provided to students with ADHD or learning disabilities at each of the colleges including the behaviour policy on the list. Most colleges today have a Disability Support Services Office (which may also be called Special Student Services, or Disability Resource Centre, or a similar name) or a person designated by the college president to coordinate services for students with disabilities. Some schools have comprehensive learning disabilities programs.

b. Personally visit, preferably while classes are in session, so that you can get an impression of campus daily life, or talk by telephone with the staff of the Disability Support Services Office or the learning disabilities program. Campus staff may be able to give only general answers to questions of students who have not yet been admitted and for whom they have not reviewed any documentation. Nevertheless, a student can get a good idea about the nature of the college by asking questions such as:

1. Does this college require standardised college admissions test scores? If so, what is the range of scores for those admitted?
2. For how many students with ADHD or learning disabilities does the campus currently provide services?
3. What types of academic accommodations are typically provided to students with ADHD or learning disabilities on your campus?
4. Will this college provide the specific accommodations that I need?
5. What records or documentation of a learning disability are necessary to arrange academic accommodations for admitted students?
6. How is the confidentiality of applicants' records, as well as those of enrolled students, protected? Where does the college publish Data Protection Act guidelines which I can review?
7. How is information related to the documentation of a learning disability used? By whom?
8. Does the college have someone available who is trained and understands the needs of young people with ADHD or learning disabilities?
9. What academic and personal characteristics have been found important for students with ADHD or learning disabilities to succeed at this college?
10. How many students with ADHD or learning disabilities have graduated in the past five years?
11. What is the tuition? Are there additional fees for learning disabilities related services? When do these need to be applied for?

In addition to talking with college staff, try to arrange a meeting with several college students with ADHD or learning disabilities and talk with them about the services they receive and their experiences on campus. Such a meeting can be requested at the time of scheduling the interview with the college staff.

While you will certainly be interested in the answers to the questions, the impressions that you get during the conversations will be equally important and may serve as a way to make final refinements to the short list.

Application and Disclosure

Once students have decided on the final version of their short-list, it is time to begin the formal application process. To apply to any college, candidates must complete a form -- usually one designed by the particular college -- formally requesting admission. Such forms cover basic information about the prospective student. The form may not, however, require the student to disclose whether or not he or she has a disability. In addition, the student must usually supply the college with an official transcript of high school exam grades.

At this time the student will need to decide whether or not to "disclose" the fact that he or she has a disability. However, should a student decide to disclose his or her disability, this information in and of itself can not be used as a basis for denying admission. Colleges can not discriminate solely on the basis of disability. On the other hand, colleges are also under no obligation to alter their admissions requirements or standards. This means that having ADHD or a learning disability, or any disability, does not entitle a student to admission at any college. Students with disabilities, like all other prospective applicants, must meet the admissions criteria established by the college.

Disclosure of a learning disability does not guarantee admission. It can, however, offer the student the opportunity to provide the admissions committee with additional insights. For example, in a covering letter, the student may explain his or her learning disability, and how the disability accounts for any discrepancies in his or her academic record. Students might convey an understanding of their ADHD and the problems this can cause or learning disability, and how academic strengths and weaknesses mesh with interests in specific courses and fields of study. Students may also go on to state plans for managing their ADHD symptoms or learning disability at the college level, and describe how they would work with the Office of Disability Support Services, noting their understanding of the student's responsibilities in making his or her college career successful.

Once students have decided on the final version of their short-list, it is time to begin the formal application process. To apply to any college, candidates must complete a form -- usually one designed by the particular college -- formally requesting admission. Such forms cover basic information about the prospective student. The form may not, however, require the student to disclose whether or not he or she has a disability. In addition, the student must usually supply the college with an official transcript of high school exam grades.

At this time the student will need to decide whether or not to "disclose" the fact that he or she has a disability. However, should a student decide to disclose his or her disability, this information in and of itself can not be used as a basis for denying admission. Colleges can not discriminate solely on the basis of disability. On the other hand, colleges are also under no obligation to alter their admissions requirements or standards. This means that having ADHD or a learning disability, or any disability, does not entitle a student to admission at any college. Students with disabilities, like all other prospective applicants, must meet the admissions criteria established by the college.

Disclosure of a learning disability does not guarantee admission. It can, however, offer the student the opportunity to provide the admissions committee with additional insights. For example, in a covering letter, the student may explain his or her learning disability, and how the disability accounts for any discrepancies in his or her academic record. Students might convey an understanding of their ADHD and the problems this can cause or learning disability, and how academic strengths and weaknesses mesh with interests in specific courses and fields of study. Students may also go on to state plans for managing their ADHD symptoms or learning disability at the college level, and describe how they would work with the Office of Disability Support Services, noting their understanding of the student's responsibilities in making his or her college career successful.

Making a College Choice

After understanding his or her particular academic strengths and weaknesses, narrowing down the short list, visiting campuses, taking standardised college admissions tests if necessary, and completing the applications, students will be faced with making a choice among those colleges which have offered admission. Students who have worked hard at getting ready for college will be able to identify the school which seems "right."

IN THE MEANTIME

In addition to becoming familiar with all of the tips and procedures discussed in this paper, there are a number of additional ways that high school students with ADHD or learning disabilities can prepare for college. In order to make themselves more attractive candidates, students should consider the following:

a. Take courses in high school that will help prepare for college. If appropriate, take foreign language credits and computer training while still in high school.
b. Consider aprentiships, or part-time jobs, or volunteer community service that will develop necessary skills.
c. Consider enrolling in a summer precollege program specifically designed for students with learning disabilities in either the summer before or after the high school senior year. Such short-term experiences (most programs are designed to last anywhere from one week to one month) have been shown to be incredibly helpful in giving students a feel for what college or university life will be like.
d. Become familiar with, and practice using, the various compensatory strategies identified earlier in this paper. For example, students may want to practice talking to their high school teachers and administrators about their academic strengths and weaknesses and the ways in which they compensate for their ADHD symptoms or learning disabilities.

A MESSAGE TO STUDENTS

Awareness of your strengths, your advocacy skills, and persistence are among the most important tools you can use to build your future through education. You can maximise the range of colleges that may admit you by playing an active role in high school, getting appropriate support, continually assessing your growth, and carefully planning. Students may be admitted only to colleges to which they actually apply.

A MESSAGE TO PARENTS

One final thing is that parents play a very important part in the whole process of choosing a collage or collage course for their young person with ADHD or Learning Difficulties. You can help by talking openly and frankly about their strengths and weaknesses and how they can use their strengths to help them choose the right course.

Parents can asls help by checking through the collage prospectus and helping the young person to choose the right course for them. Along with looking and advising on the admissions criteria and by helping to check out the collages policies for special needs - data protection - behaviour and other things which may be of need for the particular young person.

Perents can also help and advise with the application forms to help ensure that the full information requested is actually written on the forms. They can also attend the visits to the collage to ensure that all of the correct questions and information is given.



adders.org 2004

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