Last week as I was on Skype with a college student, she reported that she was planning on doing her research paper on a topic near and dear to her heart – ADHD and college. She had attended a four-year college but began to struggle, so she is home this year doing well at a community college. As we read an article about how colleges are expanding their programs to include students with learning and cognitive disabilities, I began to ask myself the question of what really happened to this young lady. Was it a lack of comprehension of the material or an inaccurate view of the professor’s expectations? Could we blame the struggles on weak executive function skills? I believe that any one of these could be a culprit, but the biggest problem for this and many other college students in my practice is the lack of self-advocacy.
I am talking about self-advocacy when a student can approach a professor, TA, or even a friend to ask for clarification of the material or simply to be sure of an assignment. It is very hard for students to say they are confused, but without that skill, college is a struggle. College moves at a very fast pace, so if one cannot immediately seek guidance when a problem occurs, then a person is quickly overwhelmed. From there, the student has no direction, falls further behind and anxiety builds. Finally, the student feels totally defeated and gives up.
Since starting to work with this student this year, we have brainstormed specific ways to approach professors for help. It is working effectively for this student, but her work has just begun.
We will touch on a few ideas to help your student be an effective self-advocator in our May tip, so stay tuned!
In the meantime, I would love to hear what you have seen with your own child. Does he/she know how to get clarification of information?