A lot of attention is placed on helping students through the college admission process, particularly once they’re in high school. While this is certainly necessary, it should not be the sole focus of those of us raising or educating students with ADHD or Asperger’s. It’s equally as important, if not more so, to prepare our students to succeed once they get there because, as compared to their neuro-typical peers, our students are much less likely to complete their education. Good grades, participation in after-school activities, hours of community service, and high SAT scores may get your student accepted into a prestigious school, but they do not ensure success. In fact, the most recent research indicates that somewhere between 75-95% of students with ADHD or Asperger’s who actually attend college do not graduate.
How can we “stack the deck” in favor of our students and increase their odds for making it through college and earning their degree? By not being complacent simply because the student is doing well at this point in time! It’s not how well the student handles what’s expected of them now that will determine future success. Students are more likely to succeed when parents and teachers encourage them to consider the skills that they will need in the future and what they need to do in order to develop those skills.
What skills do students need in order to succeed in college? There are a variety of well-crafted College Readiness Assessments that students and their parents can complete in order to determine if the student possesses the skills to handle the demands of college. In fact, I routinely use one in my work with students. These assessments typically focus on areas such as academic skills, executive functioning skills, daily living and self-care skills, and money management. These are all important skills to consider and address. However, in addition we need to address the student’s ability in the area of self-determination.
The component elements of self-determined behavior include choice-making skills, decision-making skills, problem-solving skills, goal-setting and attainment skills, self-regulation/self-management skills, self-advocacy and leadership skills.
Here’s a simple quiz to determine a student’s capabilities in this area:
- Does the student have a healthy understanding of and accept his learning differences?
- Does she know her legal rights as a student with ADHD, Asperger’s or a learning disability and how to enforce them?
- Can he comfortably explain how his learning differences impact him in school?
- Is she comfortable asking her instructors or others for help?
- Does he understand his strengths and how they can best be used to his advantage?
- Is she able to easily adapt to new situations and environments and effectively manage stress?
- Does he anticipate or consider consequences, potential challenges or obstacles, and does he know how to prepare for them or how to access resources that will help him resolve the situation?
- Is this student capable of setting realistic goals for herself and sustaining the effort required to reach those goals?
- Is she able to evaluate her own performance to know whether a situation or problem was managed or resolved successfully?
- Does she have an age-appropriate understanding of social cues; does she work cooperatively with others, listen to other people’s advice, take their advice, when appropriate, and resolve conflicts in respectful and appropriate ways?
If the student is to succeed in college, he or she will need to possess all of these skills. If you’re unsure of how to help the student develop these skills, contact me for a complimentary consultation.
When should we start to prepare our students? That’s easy … the answer is NOW! It doesn’t matter if the student is in elementary school, middle school, high school, or even college – it’s never too early and it’s never too late. But, if you’re in the position to choose, earlier is better than later. It takes time to develop these skills. The earlier you start, the more opportunity the student has to practice them while still being supported by caring parents and teachers.