Beyond High School
In a few months, many teens with ADHD will be graduating from high school. For many, this has been a difficult and laborious journey and it is looked forward to with great relief. For others, this upcoming moment may bring waves of fear. No matter how difficult it was to make it through high school, the thought of having to manage on their own without the support of teachers and the structure of the school day, they don't know how they will make it. High school graduation signals entering the adult world, where they must be responsible and depend upon themselves.
Going Off to College
The decision of whether or not to go off to college may have already been made. For these students, finding support systems at college is essential. Many colleges have programs in place to help students with ADHD and other learning disabilities. There may be resources centers, support groups or coaches available to help them learn to deal with the challenges of college. Parents can help teens by looking into these resources and finding out what their teen will need to do to take advantage of services. For teens that had IEP (Individualized Educational Program) in high school, talk with the high school guidance counselor about having the IEP transferred to the college and set up an appointment with the student services office or the office for student with disabilities to discuss accommodations or modifications for classes.
In addition, before heading off to college, it is important to learn life skills. Teens can begin long before by determining whether they work best with a structured routine. Each person tends to work best at a certain time of the day. Understanding whether you function best in the morning or afternoon can help when scheduling classes, making sure those that you anticipate will be the most difficult are scheduled at the time of the day you are most alert. Additionally life skills include doing the laundry, budgeting and time management. It is important to practice these skills before going off to college. Having to maneuver a new life at college is overwhelming by itself. Not knowing life skills can make it more overwhelming. Parents, make sure you use the time now to help your teen gain these skills, if they do not already have them.
For some students, making it through high school took an immense effort and they need some time off before entering another academic setting. Some teens are just not mature enough or ready to head off to college and continue their education. Although it is often thought that if they don't go to college right away, the chances of going to college greatly diminish, it is better to delay college than to head off without being ready and returning home feeling as if they have failed. Additionally, college is a large expense and it is sometimes better to delay than to begin and then drop out several months later.
For some, taking one or two years off and working will help them gain the maturity needed to be away from home and make it on their own in college.
Health insurance, however, will discontinue if your teen is included on your policy. Most health insurance for dependants continues until age 23, but only if they are full time students. Private health insurance often will not cover pre-existing conditions. Parents need to be aware of the conditions of their insurance policy and help their teen find the right solution to continuing health coverage in order for them to continue to receive treatment and medication, if necessary, for ADHD.
One compromise for many teens with ADHD may be to attend college, but to do so at a local community college. This allows them to continue living at home, continue receiving support from their parents, stay in an environment that is not new and overwhelming, but yet begin to experience college classes.
Attending a local community college also provides the opportunity of starting out college part time, maybe with one to two classes per semester. This can allow a student to work while attending school. But, understand, being a part time student would make you ineligible for health insurance under a parent's policy.
Going to Work
Some students leave high school and directly enter the work force. Students can work with guidance counselors while still in high school to determine what type of job may be best for them and will help develop their interests. There may be some jobs that offer apprentice type programs to allow them to receive training while also getting paid. Additionally, taking stock of interests and passions can help lead students to a specific field of work. They can then look for entry-level jobs in a specific industry, rather than taking the first job that comes along.
Choices Can Change
Whatever choice is made, it is important to remember that it is not forever. Teens graduating from high school are still young and still have many years of life ahead of them. There is time enough to return to school if they have chosen to go to work or time to leave school to work for a time. There is time to review career choices and change to a different career.