Ask Dr. Nadeau
Growing Up is Hard to Do!
(In the following email and response, details and identifying data have been changed to protect the privacy of the family involved. We are sharing this email and response with our readership because it touches on a very common and often difficult problem for mothers raising a daughter with ADD – helping her make a successful transition from school to independent living as a young adult.)
Dear Dr. Nadeau,
I attended your session about girls
who have ADD and clung to every word you said and ordered your book as
soon as I got home. I learned that so many of my daughter's symptoms can
be attributed to ADD. I've had her evaluated many times and specifically
asked about ADD, but they all said "no -- she doesn't have it."
I am appalled and discouraged that so many professionals were wrong. Now
-- they finally agree with me! And the psychological exam she had recently
agrees too. I still cannot find a psychiatrist who has expertise in ADD,
especially in girls.
Don’t Set Her Up for Failure – Like
all adolescents, she may not have a good sense of how much independence
she can manage with success. When she gets to the point of wanting to
move out of the house, it’s critical that she not be expected to
handle too much too soon. She may need financial help now and for many
years to come in order to living independently in her own apartment. Choice
of a roommate is critical. You’ve already seen how her impulsive
and emotional reactions to others can blow up and create big interpersonal
problems. As she lives at home, she needs to gradually take on the responsibilities
that she will have once she moves out – meal preparation, laundry,
maintaining her own personal space.
You need to gradually shift responsibility for these tasks
to her, doing them together for a period of time until she feels comfortable
Other Resources In our new book, Understanding Women
with AD/HD, there is a chapter on young women with AD/HD that contains
much more detailed information on the challenges and solutions of making
a transition to independent living.
Dear Dr. Nadeau,
Hi, I am a 45-year-old woman with ADD who is having a ton of trouble completing my college degree. In particular, Im having difficulty getting the understanding and help that I need with depression and ADD. This semester, my biggest problem is in a class on learning disabilities! The professor doesnt seem to have any sympathy for my difficulties and isnt helpful at all. Im only two courses away from graduation, but feel that Im at the end of my rope. Please help!
Congratulations on being so near to completion of your college degree! Its taken a lot of hard work and determination to get as far as you have.
It sounds as if the most important thing you need right now is support encouragement as well as support in getting the accommodations that you need and that you have a right to.
The student disability services office on your campus is the place where you must register as a student with a disability. Documentation of your disability is required for ADHD, documentation consists of a full psycho-educational battery of tests done within the past three years that documents ways that you are impacted by ADHD and that recommends accommodations needed.
It is very important to develop a close working relationship with your disability services counselor. The better they know you and the more often you communicate with them, the more effective they will be in assisting you. Most disability offices provide a letter that you can give to each of your professors at the beginning of the term stating that you have a disability and outlining the types of accommodations that the professor is required to offer you or allow you. These accommodations often include such things as: 1) in class note-taker (provided through disability services); 2) extended time on examinations; 3) permission to take exams in a quiet, non-distracting environment (provided by disability services).
It is best to develop a relationship with each professor at the beginning of each class before you encounter any difficulties. Professors are typically very skeptical about providing accommodations if a student asks for them at the last minute, or after she has failed an examination. The more you demonstrate to your professor that you are interested and motivated, the more likely he or she will be willing to accommodate you.
Often, students report that some professors are very willing to provide other accommodations informally. These might include allowing you to take your examination in an empty classroom across the hall instead of going the more formal route through disability services. Some professors are even willing to examine you orally if you have difficulty expressing your knowledge succinctly in writing.
It is important to carefully select ADD-friendly professors. Networking with other students in the disability services office is often a good way to get to know the most open and supportive faculty members. Another good approach is to actively shop for professors. Shopping takes advanced planning with your disability counselor so that you already have a good idea of the classes you want to take next semester. Then, go shopping that is, sit in on a class or two given by several professors who teach a course youre planning to take next term. Carefully choose professors whose teaching style you like who seem enthusiastic, organized, and encouraging.
Another way to avoid a class with a professor who is hostile to ADHD accommodations is to carefully register for 18 or even 21 hours of classes each term planning to pare down your course load during the first week or two of class to those classes whose professors and course requirements seem the best-suited for you. Choose one, two, or even three classes to drop. Then your schedule is all set. This is much easier than dropping a class and having to furiously search for a substitute class which may be hard to find after the semester has begun.
Finally, sometimes there is no way to avoid the kind of ADD-toxic professor that you are describing. He or she may be the only person who teaches a course you need to complete your major requirements, for example. In these cases, it may be necessary for your disability support counselor to intervene. Many professors may not be aware that they are required by law to provide certain reasonable accommodations. A professor who knows that disability support services is involved will be less likely to be unreasonable or abusive to a student with a documented disability.
Be sure to get all the support you need to pass this difficult class. If your professor is not helpful, you may need to arrange for a tutor, a coach, or other services. Often, ADHD-focused therapy or counseling is very helpful too. In therapy, you will have a place to talk about your feelings and frustrations, to develop strategies to meet the challenges you face, and to build your self-esteem so that ADD-toxic professors wont have the power to block the path to your goal. You also mentioned depression. I assume that you are in treatment for depression. A combination of psychotherapy and medication is often the most helpful for both depression and ADHD. If you still experience significant symptoms of depression and ADHD, you should consult the physician who is prescribing medication for you. Dont assume that nothing more can be done often its necessary to change medications and dosages a number of times before youve found the right combination.
Another excellent source of support is an ADD/LD support group a place on campus where you have the opportunity to interact with other students who share many of the same experiences. Ask your disability support counselor if there is a support group on campus.
Good luck! Youre almost there. Let us know how things turn out for you.
Kathleen Nadeau, Ph.D.