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ADHD in High School: Special Needs at Their Most Special
A recent study from the National Institute of Health came to a surprising conclusion about ADHD. While ADHD is most evident at the very beginning of school – when lack of impulse control and short attention span prevent a child in kindergarten or first grade from sitting still long enough to even hear what what is homework – it’s the most embarrassing in high school. This is because the developmental delay experienced by children with “significant”, “profound” or “severe” ADHD has been established as being up to 30% delayed.
This means that for a five-year-old, the delay is about 1.5 effective years – without outside help, 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 four-and-a-half-year delay. Thus, a 15 year old with ADHD learns as well as a 10.5 year old. This is the difference between “just starting secondary school” and “just finishing primary school”.
ADHD in high school students
9 out of 10 children with ADD (the “inattentive” variant), hyperactivity disorder or ADHD (the “combined” form) will experience academic difficulties. Every child is unique, but almost all children diagnosed with some form of ADHD will exhibit one or more of these problems in high school:
• Spacing: The most common problem for teens with ADHD is their tendency to just daydream, missing crucial events like homework, lesson content, or instructions for the next activity.
• Lack of Attention to Detail: Almost as common is the tendency to omit important details from an assignment. Teachers who refuse to grade an assignment that doesn’t have a name and/or date, for example, can be extremely difficult for students with ADHD. Similarly, any subject where every detail counts – algebra, say, or grammar – can be nearly impossible for a brain that has trouble realizing that the details exist, let alone keeping track of it. that they all are.
• Impulse control: Teenagers are likely to show this problem in the form of shortcuts, not showing their work (especially in math) and hating writing (it takes way too long when you know how to type!).
• Poor organizational/time management skills: ADHD adolescents are notorious for their inability to delay gratification; they want to do the cool stuff first, then get to work later…which often means never. Often they don’t know where to start for tasks that aren’t described in detail, and they plan next to nothing for the future.
• Poor memorization: Memorizing by rote such as multiplication tables and especially names and dates (history lesson!) is very difficult for a teenager with ADHD. This same effect often means that an ADHD teenager will simply forget which class is supposed to take, or simply forget to turn in their homework.
Unfortunately, the best way to solve these problems is usually pharmaceutical medicine. Although 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 close to that of pharmaceuticals.
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