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Yellowbrick Blog

Monthly Archives: October 2016

10 Tips for College Students with ADHD

college students with ADHD

For years, ADHD was thought to affect mainly elementary and high school-aged students. But increasingly, research has shown that ADHD continues to affect students into their college years and beyond.

In fact, a 2010 study published in Psychiatry Research tracked 110 boys with ADHD over a 10-year period and found that 78 percent of them continued to have full or partial ADHD symptoms as young adults. And the National Resource Center on ADHD estimates that 2 to 8 percent of college students suffer from ADHD.

Unlike high school, which is usually a highly structured environment, college tends to feature longer classes, big blocks of unstructured time, and lots of independence — all of which can be especially challenging for students with ADHD who struggle to sit still, plan ahead or make decisions in the moment.

However, that doesn’t mean college is impossible for students with ADHD. By taking some extra steps and getting outside support, students with ADHD can have a rewarding college experience. Here are 10 things that may help:

  1. Choose a College with Good Support Systems
    When researching colleges to attend, look for ones that cater to students with learning disabilities. Search for schools that offer smaller class sizes, interactive learning, alternative majors and other resources. There are also some schools that have programs specifically geared toward students with learning disabilities.
  1. Tell Your Professors
    Once you’re at school, make sure to take advantage of the help that’s offered to you. One of the most important steps is to alert your professors at the beginning of each semester to your disability so they can make accommodations for you, such as giving you more time on tests or letting you listen to audio versions of text books. You can also ask the disabilities office to help communicate with your professors about your needs.
  2. Sit at the Front… or the Back
    Since students with ADHD have a harder time concentrating, some students find it helpful to sit at the front of the classroom to reduce distractions. Other students, however, like to sit in the back of the room so they can stand up to stretch or take a break if they need to.
  3. Avoid Large Lecture Classes
    Sitting in a huge lecture hall and listening for an hour and a half might be especially challenging for a student with ADHD. Instead, when possible, try to take smaller classes that offer interactive learning experiences, such as group projects and discussions.
  4. Join a Study Group
    Studying by yourself can be hard for students with ADHD, who may struggle with comprehending the material and want to give up. Studying with others can keep you motivated and when you don’t understand something, you can ask the other students in your group for help.
  5. Use a Calendar
    Whether you use an old-school calendar or download a planning app for your phone, writing down all of your tasks for the day is key to staying focused. At the beginning of your day, try to plan out what needs to get done so you aren’t forced to have to make decisions on the fly that may overwhelm you.
  6. Take Classes That Interest You
    The more interested you are in a subject, the more likely you’ll be able to pay attention and absorb the material, says Lucy Turek, Education and Career Specialist at Yellowbrick. “You’ll be a lot more successful in life if you do something you want to do than if you do something you think you’re supposed to do,” she says.
  7. Take Classes Where You’re Active
    Not all classes in college require sitting in a classroom. Try classes such as dancing, geology, mountain climbing or other courses that get you outside and moving.
  8. Get Enough Sleep and Eat Right
    If you’re not taking care of your body, you can’t function at your best. That’s why maintaining a regular sleep schedule and eating right are so important for thinking clearly. “Having that circadian rhythm, eating the appropriate amount and exercise is all important to maintaining good brain health,” says Dana Bender, an occupational therapist who is also director of Core Competence Services at Yellowbrick.

    Bender also says maintaining good mental health is also key, so seek help if you are depressed, anxious or have other mental health issues.

  9. Stay Positive
    Although having ADHD can make studying and succeeding in college challenging, try not to get discouraged by your disability. “Have a positive viewpoint about college that it’s where you’re able to blossom and become your own person,” says Elizabeth Wade, an occupational therapist and Life Skills Specialist at Yellowbrick. “Remind yourself of what your dreams are and don’t give up on them.”

At Yellowbrick, we provide support for college students with ADHD through our Core Competence and Psychiatric Home Health Services. College students who live within a few miles of our Evanston location can receive in-home visits from staff who can help with time management, educational and career counseling, planning, organizing and executive functioning. Click here for more information on our Core Competence and Psychiatric Home Health services.

6 Tips for Staying Sober During the Holidays

Sober during the holidays

The holidays can be an emotional time for many people, but for those who have recently stopped drinking, navigating the holidays can be especially challenging.

What makes the holidays so appealing to people — catching up with the same relatives and friends and doing the same traditions year after year — is exactly what can make it tough for newly sober people to stay sober.

“Alcoholics Anonymous, which was founded in the 1930s before we had a lot of neuroscience knowledge, understood that we respond to cues around us,” explains David Baron, Medical Director at Yellowbrick and Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at The Chicago Medical School.

“Addictions have a lot to do with the dopamine reward system,” Baron says, explaining that addicts associate certain people, places and things with drinking, which they associate with feeling good, and that feeling drives their desire to drink.

So if every Thanksgiving meant drinking beer while you watched a football game with your family, just the act of watching the football game can make you want a drink.

“What people are feeling when they anticipate the holidays is because their brains have learned to respond that way, including rewiring circuits so they respond to those external cues,” he says. “Those circuits can be re-wired again in many cases, but it takes sustained sobriety over a period of time, and re-learning new, non-drinking responses to the same cues.”

Luckily, there are ways that people who are newly sober can go back into old situations and manage not to drink. Here are a few tips for how to stay sober (and sane) during the holidays.

  1. Avoid old drinking buddies
    For many young adults, going home for the holidays often means catching up with old high school friends, and if those people were ones you used to drink with, getting together with them now that you’re sober might prove difficult. “It might mean telling friends that you can’t see them if that’s what it takes to stay sober,” Baron says.
  2. Find a list of local meetings
    Before you head home for the holidays, make sure to make a list of all of the 12-step meetings nearby. You can even tell your sponsor which ones you plan to attend to keep yourself accountable. Depending on how you’re feeling, you may need to go to only one or two meetings during your visit, or you may need to go to multiple meetings a day. Many AA meetings make a point of being open on holidays, but some groups do close on Thanksgiving or Christmas, so make sure to call the local number to check which ones will be taking place.
  3. Have an Honest Conversation with Your Family
    Let your family members know what sorts of things may make you want to drink. Let them know that you may need to excuse yourself from certain family events that may trigger you, or that you may need to pass on other activities in order to go to a meeting. Assure them that it’s not hostile, it’s just what you need to do to take care of yourself.
  4. Plan Ahead
    Baron recommends that your talk to your sponsor ahead of time and tell him or her what you’re going to be doing and when.Baron says it’s also smart to create a relapse prevention plan and anticipate what you’re going to do in different circumstances. For example, you can make a plan that if you start to feel angry or upset with your mom, you can tell her assertively what’s bothering you, and if she persists, you can let her know you will have to leave the room to avoid drinking in response to your feelings. If you’re still triggered after a few minutes, you will call your sponsor. And if you do that and you still feel like drinking, you can go to a meeting. Remember, it’s ok to leave a family event if that’s what you need to do to stay sober.
  5. Make Phone Calls
    For many, when you spend time with your family, staying connected to your sponsor and other people in your AA group is crucial. Making calls — if necessary, scheduled ones — to support people and telling them how you’re feeling will go a long way in enabling you to tolerate your family.
  6. Encourage Your Family and Friends to Support You
    If you’re newly sober, the last thing you want is for someone to keep offering you a drink and forcing you repeatedly to make a difficult choice not to drink. To avoid this, you may need to be honest with your family and friends about your sobriety and ask them to support you by not offering you anything to drink.Also, many family members and friends may ask you if it’s ok for them to drink, even if you’re sober. If it is, great. If not, don’t be afraid to tell them you’d rather they abstained too.