Tips For University Students With ADHD
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Students living with ADHD at university are under recognised and under supported when compared with other conditions found in students studying in Higher Education in the UK.
If you are struggling with ADHD and you are either in university or applying to university it is important that you understand the impact of studying at a higher level with the medical condition, the support available to you, and some tips for studying.
What Is ADHD?
ADHD (or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is a behavioural disorder that has a range of conditions such as hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and inattentiveness.
A person suffering with ADHD may also suffer with additional problems that affect their daily life, such as anxiety and sleep disorders.
ADHD can impact relationships, social interactions, and the ability to fully function in a higher education setting.
What Are The Symptoms Of ADHD?
There are a few different symptoms of ADHD, with a strict set of factors of various conditions that must be met before a full medical diagnosis can be made.
Six or more of the following symptoms for those aged up to 16, or five or more for 17+ years of age, present for at least 6 months, within each sub-category, are required for a diagnosis of ADHD.
These symptoms are split into different categories:
- Failure to give close attention to details and makes careless mistakes with academic work and other activities
- Trouble holding attention on tasks
- Does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
- Does not follow through on instruction with schoolwork or workplace duties
- Difficulty organising tasks
- Loses items necessary for task completion – for example paperwork, glasses etc.
- Easily distracted
- Avoids tasks that require mental effort and focus over a long and sustained period
- Forgetful in everyday activities
- Prone to fidgeting with hands and feet, squirms in seat
- A feeling of restlessness (that often presents in children as climbing in situations where it is not appropriate)
- Leaves a seat in situations where expected to sit quietly
- Unable to take part in leisure activities quietly
- Talks excessively
- Answers bluntly and quickly before a question has been completed
- Has trouble waiting their turn
- Always ‘on the go’ as if ‘driven by a motor’
- Interrupts other conversations
The following conditions must also be met for a diagnosis of ADHD to be confirmed:
- Several of the above symptoms are present in two or more settings (at home, school, work, or other activities)
- Several symptoms were present before the age of 12
- Clear evidence that symptoms impact on social life, school, or work function
- Symptoms are not better explained by other disorders – such as anxiety, dissociative disorder, personality disorder)
Self-diagnosis Of ADHD On Social Media
We have seen an increase in self-diagnosis in recent years, especially on social media platforms such as TikTok.
If you search #ADHD on TikTok you’ll see countless videos with millions of views.
The short, viral clips are mostly aimed at spreading awareness of ADHD, looking to destigmatise mental health and build conversations.
The biggest benefit of these TikTok ADHD videos is that mental health and ADHD is being talked about.
The stigma surrounding this chat is removed and it can genuinely help people who might feel like there is something wrong but can’t work out what, to go and seek a medical diagnosis.
It can also help people to realise that they are not alone.
These are positive aims, but what about the dangers of self-diagnosis based on these videos?
The biggest worry though is that TikTok is confusing content creators as ADHD experts.
Even if a person creating a video raising awareness of ADHD has genuinely good aims to help others, they might oversimplify things, posing a health risk.
It is vital that every person knows that to gain the best help for ADHD, you must seek medical expertise.
Whilst self-diagnosis for ADHD can come with negative implications, the diagnosis of the condition can be long-term, so sufferers may go undiagnosed for a period of time.
It’s much easier to get diagnosed as a child with ADHD than as an adult.
Plus, girls with ADHD are diagnosed at just under half the rate at which boys are diagnosed which makes female self-diagnosis more prominent.
Treatment For ADHD
After a medical diagnosis for ADHD, you can begin to receive treatment to ease symptoms and to help you come to terms with how living with ADHD impacts your personal circumstances.
Treatments can include:
- Psychological therapies, such as CBT (alone or as part of group work), psychoeducational input, behavioural therapy
- Interpersonal psychotherapy
- Training to help improve social skills
- Speech and language therapy
- Occupational therapy
- School/university-based interventions
How Does ADHD Impact Student Life?
If you are a student living with ADHD at university, there are several ways in which it will impact your life.
You’ll find difficulty in several areas of university that are key to success as a student.
The first can be seen in achievement and performance.
Students with ADHD are often unhappy with the grades they receive.
As a student, living with ADHD might mean it’s a struggle to start and complete tasks, to be unorganised, have difficulty remembering assignments and tasks, and a struggle with working on papers.
It is understandable that without proper support young people with ADHD can experience poor academic performance.
Time management is one of the biggest challenges that a student with ADHD at university will struggle with.
This leads to problems relating to turning up to lectures and seminars on time, difficulty in planning effectively for coursework and prioritising tasks in an efficient manner throughout the semester.
Away from the academic side of life, university might be a struggle for a person with ADHD due to the difficulty in managing emotions and maintaining healthy relationships.
If you suffer with ADHD there is a likelihood that you suffer with negative thoughts, social anxiety, and poor self-esteem.
All these things can make it hard to settle into your new surroundings and to have an active, positive lifestyle at university.
Support For Students With ADHD At University
There is a legal obligation for your university to provide equal opportunities for all students.
If you have a diagnosis for ADHD, speak to your university as soon as possible to gain access to specialist ‘reasonable adjustments’ to help you through seminars, lectures, coursework., and exams throughout the course of your university studies.
Likewise, if you think you have ADHD but haven’t received a diagnosis yet speak to your doctor and your university.
Tips For Doing Well At University With ADHD
There are several tips and strategies that you can take on board to help you with ADHD at university – find out below.
1. Start The Day On Time
Keeping a regular rhythm to each day will help you to stay as focused as possible and to build a realistic routine both socially and academically.
Set off two alarms each morning and move your alarm just out of reach so you need to get out of bed to turn it off.
Also set alarms for certain chores and tasks, such as getting showered and dressed, eating breakfast, and being out of the door to go to university or to meet friends.
2. Join Clubs & Societies
Socially, joining clubs and societies, finding activities that you enjoy and making the most of university will help you to meet new people, make friends, and improve your self-confidence.
Look for the different options available through your university and Students’ Union, and book in a few dates in your diary – not too much though as you don’t want to overdo things and suffer burn out.
3. Plan Your Time
Just because you have ADHD, it doesn’t mean you’re not smart, it just means you might not be good at planning and organising your time.
In high school you can get away with cramming last minute, but this isn’t as achievable in university.
Schedule your study time for each week, making clear study time goals.
Planning is important for all aspects of your life, including social time and any activities you do outside of university.
Make a plan, review what’s most important to you, and stick to the plan.
A hard and fast routine is vital to a student with ADHD.
4. Stay In Touch With Friends At Home
One way to stay grounded and to rely on a network of support that you can trust, is to stay in touch with your friends and family from home.
There will be difficult times moving away from home, and challenges to face at university.
Staying in contact with your friends from home for support will help you to stay grounded and to have a solid base of support to live your life to the fullest in your new environment.
5. Be Smart With Your Study
It isn’t always necessary to work as hard as you can.
Struggling with ADHD means that a better approach to being productive is to think about studying smarter.
Look at different ways to be creative with how you learn, rather than relying on memory and recollection.
Students without ADHD might be able to achieve this more readily than a student with ADHD at university.
Try a few different things out and see what works for you.
Creative ways to learn could include recording voice notes to listen to them back as you walk around campus, working with another person to bounce ideas off each other and bring responsibility to your study structure.
As well as highlighting text with different coloured pens, listening to an audio-book version of academic text, or many other ideas.
We aim to help all our students living in our luxury student accommodation, especially those living with conditions such as ADHD at university.
Support for students, such as our blog helping students with dyslexia are available for you to gain assistance and to understand how you are not alone.
We hope that this blog post is informative and helpful to those students with ADHD, either applying for places at university or already studying at university and looking for support and guidance.
If you believe you are suffering with ADHD, make an appointment with your GP.
Whilst we can offer support, we’re not professionals. There are some helpful resources on the NHS website.