Failing at Normal: An ADHD Success Story | Jessica McCabe | TEDxBratislava
ADHD and College Success: Nicolas' Story
ADHD and University Size: Think Smaller
Upon graduation, Adducci knew he didn’t have the grades to go to a college he was interested in, so he enrolled in a state university. The school was huge, and he felt overwhelmed. Adducci tried to locate resources on campus to help him adapt, but he couldn’t find what he needed and ended up leaving school.
“Any kind of stressful situation, such as going away to college, can make a person become less able to concentrate as well,” explained Edwin Rogers, PhD, professor of family medicine at the UT Graduate School of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville. Stress and new situations can magnify ADHD issues and symptoms.
The ADHD-and-College Experience
After he left the state university, Adducci struggled with substance abuse and couldn’t find the motivation he needed to overcome obstacles. He found a temporary job and did well enough to be offered a permanent position. The catch was that the job required an advanced degree. He would have to enroll in a degree program to qualify for the full-time opportunity. A colleague mentioned a weekend degree program at a small school, Augsburg College, in downtown Minneapolis. Adducci met with an advisor and enrolled in a couple of classes.
Adducci earned passing grades while attending weekend classes. He made the decision to enroll as a full-time student and knew he would need to improve his performance to achieve academic success and take advantage of his intended degree. He decided to move on campus to simplify the process. “It was really scary because I’d always wanted a college experience, but I didn’t concentrate in an academic setting very well. So my stigma was that I couldn’t function in a society that was based around academics.”
Augsburg College’s Center for Learning and Adaptive Student Services offers services and accommodations for students who need assistance, and he was welcomed with open arms and resources to help him succeed. Specialists guide students to appropriate accommodations such as extended time for exams, note takers in classes, and recorded or electronic books, and help with time management and organizational skills, learning strategies, and compensatory techniques.
“Most important, aside from the support of both my academic and my learning disability advisor, is the general willingness and availability of professors to be there and help in whatever capacity is needed,” he explained. “Knowing that, whatever problem I come across, they will weigh it out for me in a way that I will understand and be able to remember and recall and reuse, is something that has made me confident about asking for help. The people that have given me the confidence to advocate for myself are really the most valuable resources Augsburg offers.”
Medication and ADHD Student Health Concerns
Most medications used to treat ADHD are called schedule II drugs, noted Dr. Rogers. “Young people with a prescription medication for ADHD have to be particularly aware of this, and the drug will likely be of interest and appeal to many people in the college environment. Some may try very hard to convince those prescribed ADHD treatment medications to give them their drugs while others may try to steal the medications.”
During his first semester at Augsburg, Adducci didn't take any medication. “I’ve always had an apprehensive approach to the medications and was really concerned about starting a new medication regimen when I came back to school,” he said. Working with the doctor already treating him for substance abuse, Adducci decided to try taking Adderall on an as-needed basis so that he could keep his ADHD under control when he was in the classroom or working on homework, but not have to be medicated when he wasn’t in student mode.
Adducci’s doctor acknowledged that Adderall can be addictive and is a desired street drug, but because they were actively monitoring the addiction potential, it wasn’t a lasting concern. Adducci is very open about his past struggles with substance abuse, and his friends at school know his story. “The best thing I can do with what I have suffered and what I have gone through is to help others avoid the same thing,” he said. “Mostly, I tell friends in discussions about ADHD medications; if you feel like you need it, then go and see a doctor. I don’t want you to go down the road of medicating yourself or of addiction that will be more damaging.”
Looking to the Future
With the support of his professors and advisors, Adducci is on target to graduate in 2015 with a double major in business management and psychology and minors in economics and political science.
“From an academic perspective, my biggest success is actually being here, having gotten through everything else I have gotten through. To be in a place where I am looking toward the future, to an opportunity where I will be able to give back to my community and my loved ones who supported me through everything, that is really the big success that I want,” he said.
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