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ADHD College Accommodations

As a parent choosing a college is an extremely important step for your child when they are ready.


It's important to note that many kids who have ADHD are not ready at 18 or 19 for college. We know children who have ADHD have brains that lag in social and emotional development. So while your child may be 18 or 19 chronologically, they may be more like 14 or 13 emotionally. Many children may take a few years before they are ready to commit to going to college and some kids may never go.

How is the ADHD college accommodations process different from high school?


IDEA is the law that entitles  high school student to a free and appropriate education under the American with Disabilities ACT. In college children with ADHD are protected under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation ACT. This is a civil law not  an education law. It protects individuals from discrimination.  College is required ONLY to provide access to education. The student is required to do much more work. Each college will vary in their willingness to help and the scope of services they provide.


How to Pick a School that will be Friendly Towards ADHD College Accommodations

The process of finding your child the best ADHD college accommodations starts with finding the best college for them. 

One important factor to consider is the level of support provided by the college to students with disabilities.

Colleges can be divided into those that provide four levels of support according to  Judith Bass, who runs a company of educational consultants who specialize in this area.

Those that provide:

1. Basic ADA compliance: These colleges have the most basic services and provide only the minimum necessary. 

2. Moderate support services: These colleges have a sensitivity to students with learning disabilities. They have many services and accommodations available to your child including learning centers with professionals, tutors, study assistance, organization and study skill assistance, and distraction-free testing environment. Your child likely still needs to initiate everything. 

3. Comprehensive support programsThese schools offer Specific program for students with learning differences and/or ADHD fee-based services. 

4. Social/life skills support programs: These schools have excellent programs available to students on the Autism Spectrum and those with social anxiety/awkwardness related to ADHD.

A child with ADHD will likely need at least a college with moderate support services, and depending on the cooccuring condition may need a more comprehensive social life skill program.

The Importance of The College Learning Center

One important factor in choosing a college when your child has ADHD is checking out the learning center. The learning center is usually the place where your child might receive extra help in tutoring or organization and other services.

  • Does it seem staffed by professionals who are warm and inviting?
  • Do they feel like a welcoming place where your child will visit?
  • Are there students in the environment that seem comfortable?
  • Does it seem like a place your child will be willing to visit on their own and will be comfortable in?
  • Does it provide a distraction-free environment for testing?

How to Get ADHD College Accomodations

Once you assess that the college has an adequate learning center, and apply and are accepted to the college you are free to start the process of determining what accommodations your child will get.

It's important to start the process of planning ADHD college accommodations early, before college. Many of the young adults I work with don't start this process until well into their freshman or sophomore year when they have already experienced failure.

You will need documentation of your child's disability so they have evidence of it. Usually, the documentation must be current. Contact the disability office immediately upon admission and ask them what documentation they need. 

That document will likely be a full battery of testing done by a psychologist. That doctor will know what to do and will determine what needs to be done based on what they find. This documentation can spell out accommodations that you want your child to have and what this professional thinks would be necessary.


Train Your Child to be a Self-advocate

Once your child is 18 you have little access to advocate for them and won't be included in the process at school ( except for that initial meeting). Remember to encourage your child to sign a release ( and do this for all of their mental health information as well). Students will need to drive the process of their advocacy at college, from meeting with a learning specialist to advocating for their accommodations.

Each semester, during the first week of class, your child will need to share the accommodations letter with his or her professor to get those accommodations.

Additionally, many kids will be provided with learning specialists to meet with or tutors. Your child will need to take advantage of those sessions, as well as make those appointments and attend those meetings.



Should my child disclose ADHD in their application?

A note about disclosing during the application process. Some applicants do not disclose their ADHD until after they have been accepted. Your child may choose to disclose his or her ADHD if he has grades or struggles that are apparent on his transcript or that he would like to explain, with the provision that he has received coaching or treatment and now understands how to help himself with it. Judith Bass recommends that you do this in a separate letter rather than in the application essay.


ADHD Sample Accommodations

  • ADHD children will likely need reduced course loads. 
  • Priority registration ADHD students need a balanced schedule. For example, reading heavy courses won't work for kids with ADHD
  • They need to be able to pick classes where they have 2 or more between classes to wind down and rest their brain.
  • They need to have carefully chosen professors ( ones that are interesting challenging provide hands-on learning, and that are a good fit for them)
  • Extended test time
  • Distraction-free environments to take tests in
  • Note takers may be available for them
  • A calculator for math equations
  • Course substitutions for math or foreign language requirements
  • Other Assisted technology

Two resources great resources for parents of kids with ADHD who are trying to get get find appropriate colleges. 

  1.  k and w guide to colleges for students with LD
  2. Collegewebld which was developed by Judith Bass whose presentation this information was based on

Leave ADHD and college accommodations for Child ADHD treatment

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ADHD and procrastination


Most of this information is from a workshop at the 2018 CHADD conference

 Judith Bass (2018, November).  Range of Postsecondary Support Services for ADHD  workshop presented at the CHADDA International Conference St Louis 2018

Shaw, P., Eckstrand, K., Sharp, W., Blumenthal, J., Lerch, J., Greenstein, D., Clasen, L., Evans, A., Giedd, J., & Rapoport, J. (2007). From the Cover: Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is characterized by a delay in cortical maturation Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104 (49), 19649-19654 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0707741104