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ADHD in High School: Special Needs at Their Most Special
A recent study by the National Institute of Health has come to a surprising conclusion about ADHD. Although ADHD is most evident early in school, when lack of impulse control and short attention spans prevent a kindergartner or first grader from sitting still long enough to listen to and whatever the assignment is, it’s harder in high school. This is because the developmental delay experienced by children with “significant”, “profound” or “severe” ADHD has been established as a delay of up to thirty percent.
This means that for a five-year-old child, the delay is approximately 1.5 effective years; without external assistance, a 5-year-old with ADHD will learn like a 3.5-year-old. But for a 15-year-old, that same 30% translates into a delay of four and a half years. Thus, a 15-year-old child with ADHD learns as well as a 10.5-year-old child. This is the difference between “finishing high school” and “finishing primary education”.
ADHD in high school
9 out of 10 children with ADD (the ‘inattentive’ variation), hyperactivity disorder or ADHD (the ‘combined’ form) will experience school difficulties. Every child is unique, but almost all children diagnosed with some form of ADHD will show one or more of these problems by middle school:
• Spaced out: The most common problem for teenagers with ADHD is their tendency to daydream, missing crucial events such as homework assignments, the content of a lecture, or instructions for the next activity.
• Lack of attention to detail: Almost as common: Tendency to overlook important details of a task. Teachers who refuse to grade an assignment that has no name and/or date, for example, can be extremely difficult for students with ADHD. Similarly, any subject where every detail counts — algebra, for example, or grammar — can be nearly impossible for a brain that has trouble realizing the details exist, let alone keeping track of them. what are they all about
• Impulse control: Teens tend to show this problem in the form of shortcuts, not showing their work (especially in math) and hate writing (it takes too long when you can write!).
• Poor organizational/time management skills: Teens with ADHD are known for their inability to delay gratification; they want to do the fun stuff first, and then get to the work part later…which often means never. They often don’t know where to start with tasks that aren’t detailed and basically don’t plan for the future.
• Poor memorization: Rote memorization such as multiplication tables and especially names and dates (history class!) is very difficult for a teenager with ADHD. This same effect often means that a teen with ADHD will forget what class is supposed to come next, or simply forget to hand in homework.
Addressing the issues
The best way to address these problems, unfortunately, is usually through pharmaceutical medicine. As much as we would all like to be able to solve our children’s problems with less artificial forms of intervention, none of the standard interventions have a success rate anywhere near that of pharmaceuticals.
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