ADHD in college: Diagnosis is the key to success

ADHD in college: Why diagnosis, treatment and greater inclusiveness are so important, says Priory’s expert.

ADHD Awareness Month takes place annually throughout October and is dedicated to raising awareness and educating the public about attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

  • An estimated 2.6 million people in the UK are living with ADHD, with official figures providing a 5% childhood incidence rate and 3-4% adult incidence rate
  • People with ADHD exhibit a persistent pattern of inattention and / or impulsivity that interferes with daily functioning and development
  • New published research calls for more personalized intervention and support to help students with ADHD and highlights significant delays students experience in accessing professional assessment and treatment
  • ADHD is a “protected trait” as defined in the Equality Act of 2010, which requires universities to make reasonable adjustments for students with ADHD
  • The Priory’s foremost expert warns that waiting for a diagnosis until the start of university can contribute to the “dropout rate”.
  • ADHD Awareness Month October 2022 explores the issue of greater inclusiveness and “Understanding a shared experience”

Many students who are struggling at university could in fact suffer from undiagnosed ADHD or suffer from lack of support if they had already been diagnosed, says Priory’s lead expert.

Dr Leon Rozewicz, consultant psychiatrist at Priory Hospital North London, says early intervention in terms of assessment and treatment – followed by personalized support – is crucial as it “can make the difference between leaving school and getting a First” .

Dr. Rozewicz

This is reflected in recent research compiled by the UK Adult ADHD network which concludes that “there is a need to move away from the prevailing notions within higher education that ADHD is a specific learning difficulty and to pay attention to it. urgent need for all college students with ADHD to have timely access to care and support ”.

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects cognitive function. It is often characterized by impulsiveness, inattention and hyperactivity; 70% of people living with ADHD may have a coexisting condition which could include anxiety, depression, eating disorders, or be on the autism spectrum. In the case of anxiety and depression, this could be caused by undiagnosed ADHD. The condition can also often be linked to specific learning difficulties (dyslexia, dysgraphia, or dyscalculia).

While attending college is generally an opportunity for personal and academic growth, it is widely understood that students with ADHD can find the experience overwhelming and in some cases will drop out without the right support.

There is also a recognized failure to identify ADHD in gifted students who are adept at masking their challenges or at missing the diagnosis in those suffering from anxiety, depression or eating disorders.

So, should universities now screen for ADHD in students who have specific learning disabilities?

Mental health is now high on the agenda of many universities and higher education institutions, but those with ADHD may need much more specialized support – and quick access to a diagnosis – to help them cope with new responsibilities. , academic and personal.

Dr Rozewicz states, “ADHD can often be ‘first manifest’ in college. A highly structured school and home can enable people with ADHD to do very well, getting A and A * s at the “A” level and 8s and 9s at the GCSE. Young people with ADHD can compensate for their symptoms with good home and school facilities. The growing need to be focused and organized at university can prevent them from continuing to realize their potential. Hence, when students arrive at university, there is much less structure, parents do not supervise independent work, and there may be very few hours of face-to-face lessons, with the expectation of self-directed study. Plus, there are many other distractions, parties, new relationships, alcohol – basically “lighting the candle at both ends”. So when a student finds himself unable to cope – and the “scaffolding” provided by the school and parents is taken away – ADHD can emerge and manifest itself for the first time.

“All of these factors can lead to a ‘perfect storm’ which can certainly contribute to the school dropout rate.”

Dr. Rozewicz adds; “Many college student counseling and student health services are aware of this trend and are beginning to establish links with ADHD clinics. Students should feel comfortable and encouraged to approach their university counseling service, student health service or GP. “

About 80% of those with ADHD will get better with medications, such as stimulants like methylphenidate / dexamphetamine and non-stimulants like atomoxetine.

Dr Rozewicz says, “There are huge benefits of appropriate drug therapies, which in some cases can make the difference between leaving college early and successfully completing your studies.

“Experienced psychiatrists and therapists, including my Priory colleagues, can devise a bespoke ADHD treatment tailored to individual diagnosis, with the goal of reducing associated symptoms through a variety of evidence-based treatment methods.

Non-pharmacological approaches could include group therapy, family therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) which can help “reprogram” negative thought patterns associated with the disorder, leading to better symptom management. We can also refer patients to specialized ADHD “coaching” which can be highly effective. “

ADHD is a protected trait as defined in the Equality Act of 2010. Universities must make reasonable adjustments for students with ADHD.

These adjustments are usually:

  • 25% additional time in exams (to allow for a 10 minute break every 40 minutes of work), this helps with concentration.
  • Allow students to take exams in a small room with a few other students (to minimize distractions)
  • Study Tutors: They can help with essays / projects / assignments. A mentor will help a student break down complex tasks with long-term deadlines into a series of small tasks with short-term deadlines. This helps with procrastination
  • Students are eligible for the Disabled Student Allowance (SLD). Universities should help them apply. This financial aid can be used to pay for the study tutor and for computer equipment (to record and transcribe lessons).
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