The transition from high school to college begins long before senior year in high school. There is no time like the present to get started on this process and ensure you know the steps to college readiness.
Students with ADHD need preparation and guidance to gain the executive functioning and life skills they need for success in college and beyond. Throughout high school, you can help your children become more independent and develop self-advocacy skills, teaching them to assume responsibility for themselves.
To assess whether your child has the emotional maturity and independence to manage a successful transition to college, consider the following:
- Can your child wake themselves up in the morning?
- Can your child take their medication without assistance or reminders?
- Can your child cook a simple meal?
- Do they do their own laundry?
- How do they handle money? Impulsive spender?
- Can they explain their learning strengths and weaknesses?
If you have answered “no” to any of the above, your goal is to gradually pull back and allow your teen to take on more of life’s responsibilities. If your child is going off to college next fall, to ensure their college readiness, it’s important to start working on these skills.
Begin with these simple steps:
- Help your child develop a strategy for waking himself up each morning. You will not be there in college to wake him up! Try setting two alarm clocks – one next to the bed and one on the other side of the room. Once he is able to accomplish this himself, he will feel more in control, and you will feel relieved.
- Make sure your child is able to take their medication without assistance. They should also know the names and dosages of each medicine. If you still have to remind them to take their medicine each day, try to link it with a meal, such as breakfast or dinner, show them how to use a week-long pill box, or purchase a watch with an alarm that can be set for several times a day.
- Teach your child to cook a simple meal, such as pasta or scrambled eggs.
- Show them how to do their laundry, including separating whites and darks and reading labels.
- Give your child a debit card to use for small purchases, such as the movies or gas for the car. Keep a low balance in the account, so they cannot overspend by too much.
As a parent, there are several steps you can take to ensure that appropriate accommodations are provided and to prepare your child for academic success at college.
- During the summer before, send the most recent psycho-educational testing report to the Office of Disabilities Services at your child’s college (not the Admissions Office) so that it can be reviewed.
- Have your child set up an appointment with the disabilities coordinator or learning specialist to discuss her accommodations. (NOTE: These need to be in place before the beginning of the semester.)
- You may accompany your child to the appointment, but your child needs to be in charge of the meeting.
- Teach your child to discuss their strengths and weaknesses comfortably and knowledgeably. Ask the psychologist who conducted your child’s most recent psycho-educational testing to go over the results with your child and explain the results in terms that your child will understand.
- Have your child write a few sentences or a paragraph describing their ADHD, what accommodations she is using, and why these accommodations are necessary (yes, you can help with this). Teach them to discuss their accommodations and explain how they learn best.
- College students are given a letter of accommodations that they will need to present to each of their instructors.
If you still have some time before your child leaves for college, begin to prepare them with these tips:
- Middle and high school students should begin to speak to their teachers directly and make arrangements for some accommodations, such as extended time.
- Include your child in meetings with teachers to discuss their needs.
- When appropriate, let your child participate in IEP and 504 meetings. Let your child have a voice in the meeting. With you present, she will learn by example how to self-advocate.
- Make sure that you have your child’s psycho-educational testing updated within three years of enrolling in college.
- When visiting colleges, always stop into the disabilities office or learning center. It is important to be sure that your child feels comfortable with the environment and the staff.
You know your child best. Every child has her own timetable for when she is ready to take on these responsibilities. Some 9th-grade students are ready to be self-advocates, while others still need guidance and assistance for a few more years. Before leaving for college, your child should be able to wake himself up, remember to take his medication, and discuss his AD/HD with his teachers, tutors, and counselors.
If you have been able to guide your child in these areas, you are setting him up for success in college. If there are still gaps in her learning, it’s never too late to start giving her some of the many life skills she will need to be successful.