High School is Tough when you have ADHD, but you can
make it easier...
Kathleen Nadeau, Ph.D.
High School years are some of the
toughest years you'll go through if you have ADHD! Surprised
to hear this? Probably not! If you're a High School student
you already know how tough it can be. Just think about it
What if you had 6 or 7 different part time jobs, and
each of your bosses gave you work assignments without
knowing or caring how much work the other bosses had already
What if those six or seven different jobs were difficult?
What if they each required lots of reading, writing, and
memorizing? What if most of them were not very interesting
What if you had to start work really early in the morning,
and had to work overtime almost every night, so that you
never really got enough sleep?
What if all of these part-time jobs required you to
sit at a desk and listen to lectures or do paperwork?
What if you had to take notes and remember what each
boss said every day and keep up with your overtime work
assignments from each boss every day?
What if there were no real breaks during the day and
you had to almost run from one job to the next?
What if you never had your own desk and had to bring
all of the papers and supplies you needed from one job
to the next all day long?
What if your bosses were always angry if you didn't
get your overtime work done or forgot to bring something
you needed for the job?
What if your worksite was noisy and distracting?
What if your only break during the workday was a half
hour lunch break and the food was lousy?
What if you couldn't choose jobs that you were interested
in or work that you were good at?
- What if you had to do this for four years?
Think how hard that would be! Would you apply for those jobs?
How long do you think you'd last in a work situation like
that? Well, you're in it and it lasts four years - it's called
Sounds pretty tough, doesn't it? But the picture doesn't
have to be all bad.
Look for "ADD-friendly" teachers. An ADD-friendly
Excited about a subject, and works in creative ways
to get you excited too
Flexible, and tries to work with you instead of rigidly
sticking to "the rules"
Encourages rather than giving you a lecture when you're
Understanding and knows that ADHD can cause forgetfulness,
even when you're trying really hard to remember.
Organized and clear about what is required in the course
Fun and interesting, and seems to enjoy the class
Try to stay away from "ADD-toxic" teachers,
Don't "believe in" ADHD, and refuse
to help you with problems related to ADHD.
Show little interest in his/her students
Are rigid and inflexible
Are boring or non-creative
Can't be bothered to help you individually
Motivate their students through shame and criticism
rather than praise and encouragement.
Develop an ADD-friendly class schedule, one with:
Classes that are interesting to you
A schedule that puts your hardest classes in the middle
of the day - not first period when you're still sleepy,
or last period when you're exhausted.
Work hard to fill your schedule with ADD-friendly teachers
and with courses that interest you. Individual teacher, section
and course selection is a common accommodation for students
with ADHD in college, and SHOULD be a common accommodation
in High School. Work closely with your academic advisor and
have your parent, tutor, or other professional help you lobby
to get a more ADD-friendly schedule. Try not to take your
most difficult classes at times of day when you are tired
or less able to concentrate - and try to mix up your hardest
classes with classes that give you a break.
Become qualified under a "504 plan," then ask
for ADD (ADHD) accommodations such as:
Extended time on tests
Tests administered in a quiet, non-distracting room
Class notes (if you have difficulty listening and taking
notes at the same time)
Customized class schedule
Get help in getting organized.
Some enlightened High Schools offer help to students with
ADHD to learn how to plan and manage their time, how
to keep up with homework assignments, and how to keep their
backpack, locker and notebooks in order. If your school doesn't
offer this kind of help, though, you can get help from a tutor
or coach that specializes in working with students with ADHD.
Think ahead to college.
High School can be a harder time for many students with
ADHD than college will be! Many colleges offer more
supports and accommodations for students with ADHD than
High Schools do. Be sure to choose your college wisely - one
that offers enough structure and support, and one that doesn't
provide too many distractions.