Helicopter Parenting at College

For many college students, going away to school represents the first real opportunity to be on their own…some relish it, some fear it!  For many parents, this is a time when they may struggle to let go and allow their child to demonstrate self mastery, to show responsibility in meeting multiple new expectations, and to dig down deep to grow, achieve and, ultimately, graduate!

Navigating college challenges: the temperament of your significant others

Navigating college challenges: the temperament of your significant others

Large numbers of parents can’t negotiate the difficult transition from encouraging dependency to facilitating independence.  As a result, they become “helicopter parents,” hovering over every aspect of their college student’s life…daily “how are you doing” phone calls, repeated text reminders, wake-up calls, go to bed admonitions, daily grade checks on the college website, over the phone sobriety checks, tightly managing the bank account, and not so subtle threats about what will happen if he or she messes up!

It never ceases to amaze us how far co-dependent parents will go to protect their child from the reality of college life challenges.  One young man who recently came to us for help because he was struggling to meet expectations (i.e., submitting monthly reports, generating narratives to describe sales calls, etc.) in a job he secured with a Fortune 500 Technology Company after graduation.  As it turns out, these were demands he never really had to face at college.  “I never wrote one paper at college.  I would send the syllabus or the rubric for an assignment to my Mom who would do the whole thing and send it back to me to give to my professor!”

Most parents sense that this degree of co-dependency is wrong but persist because the pattern is deeply ingrained.  Oftentimes, it developed years earlier in elementary or middle school.  Nagging about homework.  Making flash cards for their child to use to study for exams.  Obsessive editing of papers and essays.  Doing the homework.  Eliminating chores.  Tolerating underage drinking or drug use.  Minimizing problems.  Blaming the teachers.  Providing rewards for doing the basics.

Once this pattern is established, it can grow ugly in high school.  The child oftentimes is dependent upon a nag or a reminder to get things done, yet becomes resentful, disrespectful, and manipulative when they get one:  “Quit nagging me!  I’ll get it done!  Why don’t you trust me?”  Such interchanges can put parents back on their heels:  “Damned if they do” (having to tolerate an “attitude” brimming with anger, intensity and negativity” or “Damned if they don’t” (fear of their child failing, losing opportunities, and not experiencing success).

When college comes along, it all gets magnified.  Parents can justify their enabling behaviors because they are only “rightfully” protecting their financial investment!

As parents, the forces behind enabling/co-dependent behavior are particularly powerful…love, protection, empathy, fear, sensitivity, sacrifice, and guilt.  So powerful, in fact, that they can sabotage all the positive things parents can do to promote their child’s independence and chances for success.

Here are some of the things they can do to trip parents up:

  • — Interfere with their ability to take an honest look at their child’s strengths and weaknesses
  • — Make them feel defensive when their child fails to meet an expectation
  • — Blind them to their child’s role in his difficulties
  • — Lead them to do for their child rather than support him to do for himself
  • — Inhibit them from imposing necessary and appropriate consequences
  • — Encourage them to blame others when things do not go smoothly
  • — Act as a barrier that prevents them from allowing their child to take on ever increasing responsibilities for himself

Because co-dependency is so common (particularly in parents of children with ADD/ADHD) and it can be a critical barrier to success at college, we encourage parents to examine their enabling tendencies before and during their child’s college years.  In our new book, Accommodations for Success we have a simple survey called “First Things First” that can help parents assess their enabling tendencies.  Check it out!  Be honest and see where you stand!  “What’s you enabling quotient?”

Sometimes, just being more aware of enabling tendencies helps parents reduce or control them.  However, when enabling tendencies interfere with a parent’s ability to develop and /or follow through with doing the right things to promote their child’s success parents may need to reach out for help.  This may be as simple as requesting a significant other to be a source of feedback when one demonstrates thinking and behavior that is enabling in nature.  Of course, inherent in this strategy is the need to be committed to being non-defensive and accepting of the feedback!

Some parents find that it is important to develop a support network or a buddy to regularly meet with to discuss some of these difficult issues.  Some find it most helpful to meet individually with knowledgeable professionals to help find a pathway to healthy thinking and behaving when it comes to promoting their child’s growth and development.  If you need some extra support with your co-dependent tendencies, give us a call at the Being Well Center…we’ve helped thousands of parents get their act together.

Failure to get these enabling behaviors under control can be a major barrier to independence and success.  Sometimes parents have to step out of the way in order to allow their child/student to move forward and reach his/her full potential.  If this is hard for you, then it is important to reach out to a spouse, a co-worker, or a professional for support to meet this most difficult challenge!  Stay on guard and work to avoid allowing these tendencies to interfere with your child’s success at college.

COMPARISONS: Self-Esteem in the College Student – It’s an inside job!

Life has taught most of us that thinking you can accomplish a task or reach a goal is half the battle.   There is little doubt that a strong self esteem and realistic self confidence can be a key to success in many of life’s endeavors.  Success at college is no exception.

c@c_whole_you_blog_comparisonsThe new demands that college presents to our kids require a significant degree of self confidence to successfully meet.  Academic challenges that are far beyond anything they have experienced before, meeting and establishing relationships with all types of new people from roommates to professors, advocating for themselves, remaining resolute and acting on their values, and being honest with themselves and us about how they are really doing  are a few of the biggies that require a strong self esteem.

It’s no wonder that as parents, we often go to great lengths to boost our child’s self esteem when it comes to college.  Encouraging her to “reach” for a prestigious school that will look good on the resume even though it stretches her capabilities or our finances too far.  Outfitting our child’s wardrobe and room with only the best in an attempt to ensure that he will fit in when he  arrives on campus.  Setting up bank accounts so that she always has plenty of spending money without ever establishing a budget.  Subtly promoting permissive attitudes about indulging in drinking so he fits in socially (i.e., “we know you’re going to do it so . . .”)

During the high school years ramping up to college, we (and teachers) may cut our kids breaks through easy grading or opportunities for “extra credit” to cover up an inadequate performance.  As a result, our child never has to face failure and come to grips with her strengths and weaknesses, thereby, limiting her ability to develop coping and compensating strategies.  The lack of coping strategies is compounded by many of us excessively structuring our child’s life, providing repeated reminders and hovering over them to foster success.  Accountability and its rewards are replaced with endless pep talks . . . “You’re the greatest… you can do it if you put your mind to it!”

These kinds of parental efforts provide short-term “feel goods” at best.  They fail to recognize self esteem and self confidence don’t come from pats on the back and external circumstances but are cultivated from within . . . when our child independently works hard, faces and overcomes barriers, meets a realistic expectation, and is able to proclaim, “I did it!”

So how can we promote the development of self esteem and self confidence in our college student?  Here are some simple steps:

  1. As early as possible, help our child to truly understand himself…to know his strengths as well as his weaknesses.  This involves staying tuned into our child’s academic and social life, and communicating regularly and honestly.
  2. Based upon an understanding of who our child is, help her to set realistic expectations academically, socially, and behaviorally.  This means setting expectations that are not too high or too low, but “just right” . . . ones that stretch her, maybe even involve taking a bit of a risk, but in the end are attainable with effort and hard work.
  3. Ensure that our child has a plan to meet the realistic expectations including the structure and unique supports he needs to succeed.
  4. Don’t expect perfection from the start.  Let go and allow for “practice” that might involve stumbling and falling some.  Be there to help her get back on her feet.  Debrief what happened and what went wrong.  We all learn the most about ourselves and what it takes to succeed when we are picking ourselves back up as compared to when we are cruising along smoothly.
  5. Brainstorm compensatory strategies by asking our child what he could have done, said, or thought differently to have the performance or situation turn out more successfully.  By taking the time to help him generate his own solutions rather than lecturing or dictating what he should do, we promote the development of effective problem solving skills…a cornerstone of self esteem and self confidence.
  6. To close the loop and help our child become accountable, we need to set limits and provide effective consequences when she fails to meet realistic expectations when she has the tools (i.e., plan) to do so.  Appropriate, short-term, negative consequences promote self reflection while threats, lectures, and name calling only stir up intensity, anger, resentment, self pity and fear; all barriers to success and the development of strong self esteem and self confidence.

For more of the “How To’s” check out our recently released Accommodations for Success guidebook and workbook.  Take the “First Things First” survey to see if you have enabling behaviors that are getting in the way of your child’s success.  “Letting go” is imperative no matter how hard or scary it seems.  Enabling only postpones the inevitable, usually at a much greater cost for everyone.  If you need more guidance and support, call our office and set up an appointment.  We’ll walk along with you and help make sure you’re helping your child to be an independent, self esteem grower!

ATTITUDES: Tips for “Having some skin in the game”

Over the last 10 years, as we have seen increasing numbers of new patients enter our Confidence@College program, we have been shocked by the number of kids who take parental financial support for college expenses for granted.  Tuition, room and board, meal tickets, books, new computer, dorm furnishings, toiletries, laundry, pizza, and beer . . . It all adds up to the second biggest investment parents will make in their lives.  Most college-age kids we’ve met don’t really have a clue!  Parents sure do, and the expense is one of the major sources of angst when their kid heads off to college . . . “will he make good on this huge investment?”

It’s easy for kids to be sheltered from the expensive reality of college when most parents see a college education or post-high school training as a necessity in today’s world and feel it is their responsibility to make it happen.  In today’s economy, large numbers of parents actually can’t fulfill this responsibility; in fact, lack of finances is the number one reason for falling graduation rates in the U.S.  Other more fortunate families take a “do whatever it takes approach”, including:

  • Work an extra job
  • Long-term savings plan
  • 529 accounts
  • Selling assets
  • Home equity loans
  • Grant or other aid from colleges
  • Gov’t sponsored loans
  • Hunt for scholarship opportunities
  • Gift from family and grandparents

More often than not, these financial efforts exclude their child.  At most, the parent has to nag him/her about completing an essay for a scholarship application.  A significant number of the parents we work with have actually written part or all of college essays out of the frustration or the need to meet a deadline!

Some parents set the expectation that their child will sign a promissory note and commit to paying back all of the loan money if they fail to graduate.  For most of the kids we see, this large negative consequence may strike some fear initially but is seen by most as something in the distant future that they’ll deal with if they have to.  Trouble is, without some type of degree or certificate the likelihood of getting a decent paying job that will make it possible to repay this obligation is small.  It should be no surprise that the highest rate of college loan defaults is in situations where the student fails to graduate.  Every escalating college costs have pushed the student loan crisis into position to become our next big national financial disaster.

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Many parents take a baby step in the right direction when they ask their child throw something into the pot.  Maybe it is a chunk of their savings account built up from mowing lawns, babysitting, having a part-time job, or from birthday and graduation gifts.  Kids often push back and negotiations often end in them having to cover the costs of their books or their monthly entertainment.  In our experience, this is rarely coupled with the establishment of a monthly budget for expenditures and we’ve seen many kids spend their contributions for the year in one month buying pizza and drinks for everybody at midnight, buying a new Xbox, or frequently going out with new friends to party!  Then, what are parents to do?  Certainly most give an irate lecture, but it’s pretty unrealistic for them to say that they’re not going to give their child any more money for the rest of the semester.

In reality, helping kids meet the demands of financial responsibility that come with college is a serious and complex issue that requires targeted attention and ongoing support particularly for students with ADD/ADHD.  We’ve found that one relatively simple, yet profound, step that parents can take is to set an expectation for the student to give the parents a set amount of money before the start of each college year.  Payment of some amount by the child represents the purchase price of a “ticket of admission” to the parent’s checkbook or signature on a loan.  The actual dollar amount of this down payment isn’t critical but it should be enough to stretch the student to some degree . . . something in the ballpark of $750-$1500 is about right.  For most students this means getting (and keeping) a full-time job (or two part-time jobs), saving money rather than impulsively spending it on food, entertainment, etc. and making sacrifices.  To save this amount of money and contribute it by a certain date requires some of the same life skills it takes to be successful at college.

When kids meet this expectation they feel the pride of accomplishment, feel more mature and take a more serious approach to college.  This “skin in the game” often helps them choose the pain of self-discipline over the pain of regret when temptations arise to kick back rather than bear down.

It’s not a perfect solution but it moves things in the right direction.  Some parents use the contribution as the starting point to establish a monthly budget for their child and develop a plan to redistribute the money back to the student in agreed amounts during the school year.  Others simply take the money, quietly invest it and then return it (with dividends) to the student when they earn a diploma . . . it can be the down payment on a car or condo/home to jump start their future!

At Confidence@College we have lots of strategies to help protect parents’ investment!  Our committed staff always has a “skin in the game” and goes the extra mile to insure success.  Call us now to set up a Discovery Session and experience the confidence we can give you and your child.

Help for the ADD Individual’s Significant Others: Parents, Spouses, and Partners

photo courtesy of Glyn Lowe

At The Being Well Center we embrace the whole person diagnostically and therapeutically.  That means we always put significant others (parents, spouses, partners) into the mix.  The nature and intensity of this involvement varies on a case-by-case basis.  The following are some of the ways our comprehensive approach involves significant others

The Problem Definition Appointment

On occasions, parents and significant others aren’t sure whether the BWC is the right place to meet their needs.  Sometimes the identified patient (i.e. child, adolescent, young adult, or older adult) isn’t ready to get help, but the significant others are at wits end trying to figure out what to do next.

Our Problem Definition Appointment is the ideal answer for these types of situations. During this 1-1/2 hour appointment with Dr. Liden or a senior member of our team, significant others are provided with a non-judgmental environment where they can openly and honestly express all of their concerns.  We guide them to tell their story and share all aspects of the difficulties they have been experiencing.  We explore the efforts they have made to address their concerns and begin to uncover what did work, what didn’t, and why.

We are particularly adept at getting to know significant others quickly, including their temperament, attitudes, values, hopes and fears.

At the end of the session, we suggest what seems to be the best next step.  This might mean further involvement at the BWC or, when appropriate, referral to another resource that we feel will better meet their needs.

We give preliminary tips, suggestions, and guidance that they can start using right away and we work hard to instill confidence in them that “things can get better!”

Ongoing Supportive Counseling

After the problem definition appointment, when an identified patient (child, adolescent, young adult, etc.) is resistive to some type of evaluation or other intervention, we provide ongoing supportive counseling to significant others.

The goals of this type of support include:

  • Facilitating an understanding of the whole individual and the fact that problems are never the result of one factor, but always the result of a multiplicity of factors interacting together.  This helps reduce much of the guilt that significant others normally carry with them.
  • Helping significant others identify and manage any co-dependent or enabling behaviors that could stand in the way of moving forward.  We try to help parents get out of the “you’re dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t” bind.
  • Helping significant others become more self-aware of their role in the problems they are experiencing and empowering them to take steps to exert better self-control over their actions.  We have found that taking charge of yourself is the best way to begin changing a bad situation.  The only thing you really can control is you, so we try and help parents successfully do it.
  • Assisting significant others to take some action steps, including establishing more appropriate expectations for their child, setting up clear “house-rules” to be followed, and defining meaningful and appropriate consequences when expectations and rules aren’t met.  We help significant others present these changes to their child and we’re there to provide ongoing support to help them follow through and stick with their action plans.
  • Providing support to parents while their children are away at a distant program and aftercare support when they return.

We have found that when we help empower parents to “change the game” then the child, adolescent or young adult by necessity has to make some type of change as well.  We hope that change becomes getting involved with the BWC for help with their problems.

Implementing Success Plans

We always include significant others in the implementation of our success plan for their child, adolescent or young adult who has gotten involved with the BWC.  When a child, adolescent, young adult or spouse chooses to get involved with the BWC, the first step is a Discovery Session where we look at the problems from everyone’s perspective: the child’s, parents’, schools’, other professionals’, etc.  We call it “simultaneous sampling” . . . looking at the same issues from a variety of perspectives helps us make sure we’re getting an accurate picture.  We use a series of comprehensive questionnaires and structured interview formats to achieve this goal.

Once a success plan is developed, significant others always have some role . . .

  • We help them learn how to become a supportive part of the success plan without taking away the child’s, adolescents or young adult’s responsibility.
  • We facilitate understanding and acceptance of the individual differences of all family members and use this to improve family communication patterns and dynamics.
  • We help all parents refine their parenting skills . . . we don’t take children into a room and shrink their heads while the parents sit in a waiting room.  Rather, we do very directive counseling and always find a way to help parents find a role in facilitating their child’s success.
  • We regularly meet with parents to get their perspective on “how things are going”.  We try to tease out the reasons a parent and child would see behaviors differently and try to get them on the same page.
  • We advocate for our patients needs at all levels of school and will support parents at meetings.  We contribute to the development of 504 agreements and IEP’s.

Supportive Relationships for Life Concerns

The relationships we develop with parents and significant others over time are special . . . partly because of our unique philosophy and mainly because of the type of people who are on the BWC staff.  Over time parents/significant others feel a sense of trust and competency that makes them feel comfortable asking us about almost everything . . . their mom’s cancer, their financial struggles, their personal development, whose a good doctor, what should they should do with their lives.  We feel humbled by the trust patients and families put in us and work hard every day to be worthy of it.

Many of these services for significant others can be provided by our innovative GuideU appointments that employ creative use of video conferencing technology.  Tight schedules, bad weather, and distance never have to be barriers to getting BWC support.  We are currently working on implementing the same innovative technology to conduct virtual support groups for parents with shared issues.

At the BWC, we’re always one step ahead!

STRESSES – The Challenge of Taking Medication at College

When students arrive on campus, the demands for efficient attention and self management skills (that is executive functioning) immediately soar . . . challenging academics, consistent study habits, maintenance of healthy daily routines for sleep, eating and exercise, money management, and more complex social decision making.

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Meeting college demands is particularly challenging for students with ADD/ADHD and for the overwhelming majority of them, this means having the aid of a medication regimen that provides benefits throughout the whole day.

We’ve learned from our experience in our Confidence@College program that college is a bad time to try to “fly on my own” and go without medication treatment.  In fact, in our C@C patient population, we have found that acceptance of the need for medication and compliance with an appropriate all-day medication regimen is near the top of the list of factors that contribute our 81% success rate.

For some ADD/ADHD individuals who have been able to get by without medication in the past, entrance into college with its increased demands means having to seriously consider the use of medication for the first time.  For others who have been able to get by with a medication regimen geared to get them through the school day, it means revising their regimen to provide coverage into the evening hours.  And for others, it means committing to taking the medication 7 days a week!

Don’t let an improper use or lack of medication keep you or your student from success at college!

At The Being Well Center, patients who enroll in our Confidence@College program always start with a Discovery Session where we identify the key problem areas and survey the whole person so we can pinpoint the barriers to success and uncover strengths we can mobilize to meet these new challenges.  We then develop an individualized Success Plan.  When medication is a part of the success plan we conduct systematic medication trial testing using objective testing procedures to find the right medication and a treatment regimen that provides efficient attention throughout the waking day.

Before students arrive on campus we brainstorm with them and their parents how they are going to get their medication and how to securely store it.  We go over the logistics of when they will take the medication based upon their weekly schedule.  In addition, we review the dangers of diversion of the medication and make sure we have a mechanism in place to closely track the quantity of medication we provide them.

Once students are on campus, we use innovative technologies and support from our staff through our GuideU video counseling sessions to ensure the student complies with the medication regimen and maintains healthy daily routines, the foundation for a successful medication experience.  We identify signs of sub-therapeutic treatment and possible side effects quickly and our medical staff fine tunes the treatment regimen as needed.

We’re there to ensure success during the whole college experience not just in the classroom, library or study carrel.  We make sure our patients are aware of the importance of taking the medication during evening hours and weekends where social activities provide high risk challenges for un-medicated ADD/ADHD students.  Impulsivity, poor self awareness, weak self monitoring and ineffective problem solving can lead to social decisions that can be disastrous . . . alcohol intoxication, substance abuse, unprotected sex leading to unplanned pregnancy or STD, or illegal activities.  One night of un-medicated “fun” can lead to expulsion from school and life-long consequences.

If you’re at the top of your game, college can be an exciting and enriching experience intellectually, developmentally, and socially, and can provide you with what it takes to independently fulfill your dreams and aspirations through life.  Compliance with the right medication regimen helps this become a reality for students with ADD/ADHD!

Be confident with your child’s success at college . . . call us at the BWC and set up an appointment to participate in our C@C program.  We’ll make sure your child has all the tools, including an optimal medication regimen if needed, to succeed at college.

NEUROMATURATION – ADHD and the Secrets of the “Freshman 15″

We’ve all heard about them… the dreaded “freshman 15!”   Good old dorm food where the only choices that taste good to you seem to be those with high fat and carbohydrate content.  A huge stash of of high calorie snacks only an arm’s reach away in your dorm room.  Late night delivery pizza or runs to the sub shop with your new found friends.  Beer!

It all adds up pretty quickly and many a parent has been shocked at semester break to see that their kid’s cheeks are a little bit fuller and their jeans a bit tighter.

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While most students face the challenge of avoiding the “freshman 15″, the task can be particularly daunting for the college student with ADHD.  They struggle to get up and out of bed in the morning, often at the last minute, skipping breakfast and making it to class just in the nick of time.  Lunch can also be a catch as catch can experience…something always gets in the way… too little time between classes, last minute cramming for a test, frisbee with friends, flirting with that cute guy from English class.  The brain interprets these  day long fasts as starvation and in response it slows down the metabolic rate so that even if they eat the normal number of calories for dinner (which rarely happens) all the extra calories are sent to the fat cells to prepare for starvation again tomorrow.  This is how eating less can actually contribute to weight gain!

ADHD individuals notoriously make poor food choices, eat impulsively and fail to exert portion control, and choose high calorie drinks when they are thirsty.  These unhealthy eating habits are even more likely to occur when Mom is no longer around to set limits and nag!  These concerns are magnified when the student moves out of the dorm and into an apartment.  Many don’t have much of an idea of how to prepare healthy meals so they don’t go grocery shopping with a meal plan in mind and instead rely on prepared food or frozen dinners that are often calorically dense!

Despite the best intentions, it’s hard to get to the fitness center for a workout and structured sports are gone for most.  Some colleges still mandate a physical education course or two for graduation but many don’t.  Free time is usually spent hanging out with friends playing video games and eating chips.

As the stresses mount during the semester,  many ADHD students turn to food as a self medicating coping strategy to either enhance their focus or to reduce their anxiety or depression.  One candy bar may do the trick for 20 minutes but then there is the crash and a need to “dose up” again!

This is all laid on a backdrop of an increasing awareness we have that ADHD is a significant contributor to the obesity epidemic.  While it may seem counterintuitive, we now know that “hyperactive” kids are at high risk for being overweight as adults.  Studies have shown that more than 40% of adults participating in weight management clinics have unrecognized or untreated ADHD!  In our experience, leaving home and heading off to college is the first step down the road to a lifetime struggle weight management.

For many, the slow steady progression toward obesity and all its challenges and risks begins with the “freshmen 15″…we all know that once it’s on it’s really hard to get off!

It doesn’t have to be this way…with a comprehensive success plan including a structured schedule for study time, a healthy daily routine for eating, exercise, sleep, and relaxation, targeted accommodations, and compliance with a proper medication regimen along with ongoing support from an experienced professional, ADHD students can experience success in the classroom AND in the other spheres of life!

Confidence@College means taking advantage of enriching experiences and relationships in order to acquire the tools, skills, and the habits to succeed at work, at home, and in health for a lifetime.  Call us today and set up a Discovery session so we can begin helping your child chart a personalized course for life success!

P.S.  If you’re not a college student but a parent with ADHD (or who thinks you may be) who can relate to these issues and struggles with weight management, there is help for you, too.  Contact the Being Well Center and ask about getting involved with our TRANSforming U Program.  Let us help you become a healthier U!

ATTENTION-The sleepy, under-aroused college student

When we think about ADD/ADHD in a college student, we can easily imagine how impulsivity, distractibility, short attention span, problems with following through with directions, poor organizational skills, weak task/time management and procrastination, can wreak havoc on her success.  What may not come to mind, however, is one of the most common attentional weaknesses that contribute to college failure – low arousal level.

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So what is low arousal level anyway?

Well, at a very basic level, we must maintain a certain level of alertness in order to pay attention and regulate our behavior.  Arousal level refers to how awake and alert we are at any point in time.  Based upon our clinical experience with thousands of patients, we have found that many individuals with ADD/ADHD have a low arousal level; they are not alert and sufficiently awake to pay optimal attention.  This statement can be confusing to some people who presume that because some individuals with ADD/ADHD are “hyperactive” that they are hyperaroused when, in reality, the opposite is probably true!

A student with low arousal level can demonstrate a wide range of behaviors.  She may become fatigued during mundane activities (like listening to lecture or completing a 60-page reading assignment), yawn excessively, have a glazed look in her eyes, or actually fall asleep at her desk.  Commonly, ADD/ADHD students blame these behaviors on the task, the subject matter or the professor . . . “too boring.”  On the other hand, some ADD/ADHD students who are under-aroused demonstrate “hyperactivity” ranging from leg bouncing, wiggling in the chair, fidgeting, aimlessly playing with materials, and stretching or actually getting out of their seat and wandering around.  Our clinical experience suggests that these “hyperactive behaviors” are actually unconscious attempts by the ADD/ADHD student to self-stimulate herself in order to increase or sustain her arousal in a learning (or should we say “boring”) situation.

Other conditions or co-morbidities can magnify an ADD/ADHD student’s struggle with alertness or arousal including sleep deprivation, obstructive sleep apnea, iron deficiency anemia, poor nutritional habits (like skipping meals, pigging out, or self medicating with carbohydrates), depression and certain temperamental extremes (such as low frustration tolerance or short persistence) to name a few.  All of these conditions are very common in students with ADD/ADHD.  Sometimes these conditions even mimic ADD/ADHD in students who don’t have the diagnosis.

Commonly, low arousal can signal the possible need for medication treatment in a student with ADD/ADHD.  In those students already taking medication, it can indicate the need to refine the dosage level (generally it means there is a need for more) or dosage regimen (adding medication dosage(s) to provide all-day coverage into the evening when most students study and read those “boring” text books!)

At the very least, the tendency toward low arousal suggests the need to establish and maintain healthy daily routines for sleeping, eating, exercise and relaxation.

It should be obvious that unmanaged low arousal can be a major risk factor for college failure.  Dealing with it means getting a comprehensive evaluation to determine all the possible contributors and then developing a targeted, individual treatment plan to address each contributing factor.  That’s what we do at the BWC!  Contact us today so we can help your child “wake up” and start experiencing the success he or she is capable of!

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Contact us to schedule a Discovery Session, and let us get to know you