December 20, 2022

Accommodating ADHD in Higher Education

By B&SC Blog Team

Accommodating ADHD in Higher Education

ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a common neurodivergent condition. It is considered a learning disability, and while ADHD affects different people in different ways, most people with ADHD have struggled at one point or another with school. Students with ADHD may have trouble paying attention, making deadlines, being on time, and completing tests or other assignments. However, there are accommodations that can be made for these students to make sure they have a fair chance at being successful.

Bryant & Stratton College encourages every student with a disability to bring this to the attention of Student Services advisors. With the proper paperwork, the college can grant reasonable accommodations to students who need them. For students with ADHD this could look like extra time for assignments or tests, completing tests at the testing center, and working with professors to collaborate in a way that fits a student’s learning style.

Nanette Graham, the Hampton Roads Market medical director at Bryant & Stratton College, explains that the first step for students with learning disabilities is for them “to feel at home.” On the first day of classes, professors are encouraged to walk through options of accommodations and encourage students to take advantage of those accommodations if they are needed. Graham also notes that many professors opt for “varied teaching strategies” to mix up learning for everyone. A break from the traditional classroom setting is important, and Graham suggests a variety of changes including “learning through Kahoot and trivia games, interactive lectures, and guided notes.”

The students and their success are incredibly important to all Bryant & Stratton College staff. Graham says, “We support our students’ success by focusing on the whole student, address social issues that may impact the students’ educational journeys by providing information on resources to assist, make ourselves available to students for office hours prior to and after classes, provide emotional support for our students, and provide an active learning environment so that our students may achieve their desired goals.”

Support for students with learning disabilities is integral to their success in many facets of their lives. Rita Armstrong, director of the Nursing Program at the Virginia Beach Campus, shared her journey through higher education with ADHD and how she approaches her classroom. When Armstrong was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult and then returned to school to earn her Master of Science in Nursing, she was able to request accommodations to help her – especially because she completed the program online. She details that “during tests, I requested that I be allowed to listen to instrumental classical music so I could focus on the exams better. The process was very easy, and I only needed one note from the provider managing my ADHD. The form was renewed each term and the school was accommodating and seamless.”

Without these accommodations, Armstrong may have faced some struggles in her program. Unfortunately, now working on her PhD, the institution she attends is not able to provide her with a seamless process for accommodations that have proven important to her learning.

When it comes to her classroom, Armstrong takes her experiences into consideration. She explains, “I start out my class on day one with stating that accommodations can help with success. Accommodations can be anything from extra time or use of the testing center to using earplugs and stress balls during exams or classes. Yet these requests can’t be granted if communication doesn’t happen.” Communication with the college and professors, as Armstrong mentioned, is the most important factor with students struggling with learning disabilities.

Bryant & Stratton College student Atoya Thomas also shared some of her experiences living with ADHD and how it impacts her schoolwork. She is currently working on a healthcare and administration bachelor’s degree online and is also a mother and Zumba instructor.

Thomas notes that, for her, ADHD has been a lifelong struggle and that she also struggles with comorbidities like anxiety and seasonal depression. She often has a hard time focusing on tasks, and when also struggling with anxiety or depression she can get overwhelmed easily.

Thomas was granted accommodations through the college. She explains, “My accommodations give me more time, which makes it so I do not lose points on assignments.” When it comes to managing time every day, Thomas has a system in place. “I set lots of alarms and I set my top three things to do every day, and this helps me keep my tasks in order between my personal life and school. I also make a lot of lists,” she says.

Thomas also notes that if the college could offer any other accommodations for students with ADHD or learning disabilities it would be “more counselors, someone who can send reminders for assignments on a daily basis, being able to body double with someone, and setting a weekly time when students can go to the school or join an online classroom and have a set time to work on assignments.” She adds that the college supports her the best it can and that professors often check in on her. Thomas wants other students to “not feel ashamed to ask for help and know that they are enough.”

People with ADHD can often feel shame around the disability and asking for help. Resources and help are available. If you are struggling with ADHD, you are encouraged to make an appointment with a doctor and seek help at school through Student Services, WellConnect, and your professors.

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