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whitestavern

Advice Needed - ADHD/EF and the college kid

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Seeking advice on how to best handle a kid who has ADHD and exec functioning issues. My son (finishing up his jr year in hs) had a full neuropsych workup sophomore year that showed while he's incredibly bright, he does have ADHD and EF issues. He did not want to medicate. We fully supported that. He recently started EF coaching, which is helping, but progress is slow and costly, and at this point I don't know what the outcome will be. I'm at a loss as to what else to do to help him. Dh and I are strongly considering medication at this point because he's barely at a 3.0 gpa and the only thing he wants to do is become a civil engineer. We (husband, myself and son) are aware of how difficult that will be and have had conversations with him about alternate plans. I very much struggle with whether to be supportive or realistic with him about his future. Dh and I considered putting him on meds for the rest of this school year (about 3 weeks left) to see if that makes a difference, but how quickly do they even take effect? I only have a couple of acquaintances IRL whose children have ADHD, and they have been greatly helped by medication. Any advice as to how we handle senior year and college with this kid would be very much appreciated!

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Stimulant meds take effect for me within an hour the first day I take them.

That said, they aren't a magic bullet. They make it easier to focus but don't rewire the brain; I prefer to take them in a pinch but use other methods to manage the ADHD overall.

In addition to the EF coaching, things that might be helpful include:

A tutor who could provide extra support and accountability (I intend to encourage my kids with EF difficulties to use tutoring centers, study groups, and also private tutors if needed in college; I'd absolutely go that route rather than giving up on a dream career; for me just having another human--ideally one whose brain isn't as foggy as mine--to work with helps keep me on task.)

Lots and lots and lots of physical activity. One of my cousins with ADHD made it through high school and college with a chemical engineering major and great grades by playing on the football team. He got to medical school and had to start using medication on an as needed basis because he was no longer able to maintain that level of physical activity (no football team, and limited time to work out). My ADHD kids function way better when they are averaging a couple of hours a day of intense physical activity; we do martial arts and Irish dance and tumbling. I did way better in college after I joined ROTC my sophomore year and was getting up early every morning for PT; my schedule was busier than before but my grades improved drastically.

Targeted supplements--consider 23andMe genetic testing or something like SpectraCell micronutrient testing to help sort out what nutrients your kid may be deficient in.

Edited by maize

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Also, I have no idea whether this applies to your son but I would be very wary of the pull that video games can have on ADHD kids. They are designed to provide quick and easy brain stimulation and keep attention and I feel like brains that already struggle with directing attention to non stimulating things are too easily entangled in the virtual excitement and the all too real dopamine hit of the game.

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My daughter has ADHD and started meds in college this year.  She is very academic and she was able to get a 4.0 in HS and she has close to a 4.0 in college. She taught herself  a great system using Google Keep and Google Calendar, sets alerts for everything, and hasn't had much of an issues with getting stuff turned in on time.  This she did before she was diagnosed, and it greatly improved her academic abilities. 

All that being said, once she got her diagnosis (about 5-6 months ago) she went on meds.  For her it made a HUGE difference.  It regulates her emotions, it helps her social abilities, it allows her to walk to class without falling (she falls about once a week at least unmedicated, walks into things, etc,)  her driving is much safer, she loses her stuff a LOT less and when she does misplace it she remembers where it is... her whole life is improved.  Her sense of time, ability to hold conversations, everything.  Once she got on the right meds and the right dosage, she felt like she was finally who she was SUPPOSED to be.  

My daughter has a lot of high goals -- and right now she is an editor on her college newspaper and it is a VERY demanding, high paced and high expectations job.  There is no way she would be able to do it without meds.  And she is so fulfilled by what her life is right now.  

That being said it's still not a magic bullet.  Sometimes the meds don't work (like when PMS interferes), sometimes they wear off more quickly than she expects.  If she doesn't eat well she gets really bad anxiety after they wear off.  And the meds didn't teach her the executive functioning -- she taught herself that, but the meds allow her to consistently implement it and still have a life outside of school work.  It's like, without the meds she could only keep 1 ball in the air at a time so she made sure it was the most important ball.  But now she can keep 2-3 without dropping them, and even though she is still stressed and sometimes things get missed, its just the normal way people miss things when they are trying to do too much.  

That is where she is at NOW, but as this is still relatively new to us, things could change.  🙂  But I guess I want to emphasize that for our kid, who is very driven, has a pretty high IQ and lofty goals, I think depression would be a real fear if she could not at least have a shot at reaching her goals.   She works so hard, but now for the most part all of her work is poured into academics and her job, whereas before a lot of her energy was poured into trying to overcome her working memory deficits or making up for lost time after she getting sucked into an ADHD time warp.  

Also I second, third, and fourth hard exercise, sleep, adequate protein. Possibly she would have been doing better if she exercised consistently. She always feels the boost after exercising, but doesn't make it a priority still.     

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Due to every single member of my family that has tried ADD meds, including me, having horrible long term side effects and no true lasting benefit, we are not encouraging our daughter to pursue medication for her ADD...

We did find the book FInally Focused and it has made an AMAZING difference.  It turns out that ALL people with ADD are literally starved of the same vitamins, over and over and over again.  When you add those back in and also balance the brain with other nutrients that specifically help focus, concentration and calmness, you have a winning combo.  We follow 100% of the advice in this book (we chose not to pursue Nutritional Lithium but even the book says that is optional and only shoulld be done alongside your primary physician) and we have seen amazing results.  

Avoid all colors, dyes, junk food, even gluten....give the body proper vitamins, antioxidants, green tea and dark chocolate, expensive high quality probiotics, fish oils, etc....get proper sleep, avoid video games, TV and get exercise...it's a VERY easy thing to implement, one by one...

Maybe worth a try before medication.  

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Many colleges have excellent services for students with special needs including adhd. They usually want verification of the disability, and the student has to request any helpful accommodations. 

My adhd family members medicate and we worked on EF skills over the years. We tend to stick to scientifically backed solutions.  Medication + working on the necessary skills. The meds help them learn the skills and form the necessary habits so they can carry through hopefully without meds.  In our case, over time we’ve seen positive results. 

Medication had an almost immediate effect, my kids on meds were really happy with the increased ability to focus on all things, even the fun stuff.

 

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Thank you to all for responding and sharing your experiences. Good stuff. Looks like the biggies are physical exercise, limiting video games, coaching/tutoring, diet, and supplements and/or medication. Some of these we have tried to institute but with limited success because ds is incredibly stubborn and unwilling to do them (i.e., diet) or will try and then give up. I have to pick my battles with him and proceed carefully or he shuts down. He does like being physically active, so we will look into joining a gym. I can't really think of another way to get exercise. He usually plays hockey three seasons, but this year he had an engineering mentorship program he chose to do instead. He did spring track, but his event was javelin--not so grueling, lol. He's also receptive to supplements, and I recently purchased Finally Focused (haven't read it yet) so I'm happy to hear that's worked for Calming Tea. We try to limit gaming. He's never had gaming systems, but he does use a required iPad for school and will play on there. Unfortunately unless I'm sitting alongside him, there's no way to shut it down. He can get on Safari and play games. If he's not actively working on school I can take the iPad away, but it's a constant struggle and source of friction dealing with that thing.

We are looking at colleges with support services, but everything I've read says the student still has to be the instigator and advocate for him/herself. Plus two of the best programs either don't have his major or are too big a reach for him. Our thought is to keep him very close, maybe even commuting, if he doesn't show improvement/maturation over the next year.

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2 hours ago, whitestavern said:

Thank you to all for responding and sharing your experiences. Good stuff. Looks like the biggies are physical exercise, limiting video games, coaching/tutoring, diet, and supplements and/or medication. Some of these we have tried to institute but with limited success because ds is incredibly stubborn and unwilling to do them (i.e., diet) or will try and then give up. I have to pick my battles with him and proceed carefully or he shuts down. He does like being physically active, so we will look into joining a gym. I can't really think of another way to get exercise. He usually plays hockey three seasons, but this year he had an engineering mentorship program he chose to do instead. He did spring track, but his event was javelin--not so grueling, lol. He's also receptive to supplements, and I recently purchased Finally Focused (haven't read it yet) so I'm happy to hear that's worked for Calming Tea. We try to limit gaming. He's never had gaming systems, but he does use a required iPad for school and will play on there. Unfortunately unless I'm sitting alongside him, there's no way to shut it down. He can get on Safari and play games. If he's not actively working on school I can take the iPad away, but it's a constant struggle and source of friction dealing with that thing.

We are looking at colleges with support services, but everything I've read says the student still has to be the instigator and advocate for him/herself. Plus two of the best programs either don't have his major or are too big a reach for him. Our thought is to keep him very close, maybe even commuting, if he doesn't show improvement/maturation over the next year.

 

We finally got my dd dX'd and she has the ADD plus an LD though she is gifted above 130 IQ, so an interesting cookie 🙂 ...we went to the community college to ask for accommodations with our paperwork and they were AMAZING!  For the ADD they offered her a digital recorder, time and a half, proctoring, and on and on.  But yes, the student still actually has to use the services.  

It sounds like you've done so many great things!  ((hugs)) keep up the good work.  

you can black list websites on the ipad as well as shutting down gaming time....Apple parental controls are amazing.  BUT at 16-17 it's probably not that helpful at this point.  

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3 hours ago, whitestavern said:

We try to limit gaming. He's never had gaming systems, but he does use a required iPad for school and will play on there. Unfortunately unless I'm sitting alongside him, there's no way to shut it down. He can get on Safari and play games. If he's not actively working on school I can take the iPad away, but it's a constant struggle and source of friction dealing with that thing.

 

Just for us, the internet/gaming issues have never been an issue.  While at her worst in middle school it LOOKED like addiction, but it actually was a symptom - anxiety and depression making the internet (netflix, fan fiction, etc) an escape from those feelings of being out of control.  But she never actually GAMED much, which I know is very different in its effects on dopamine hits.  

The best thing for her was to find some purpose, which led to higher self esteem and less need for escape.  And the meds help regulate her attention, so she doesn't get sucked down into the black hole of screen time due to adhd time warp.   Which happens with books too, so not a screen issue. 

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