When Children with ADD Become Adults

By Eileen Bailey

High school graduation can signify many things: an entry into the adult world, the end of childhood, the beginning of working full time or maybe entering college.  For many parents of children with ADD/ADHD, high school graduation high school graduation can be a turning point.  The many years of struggling with homework are finally over.  The daily struggle of keeping up with schoolwork, projects and teachers has ended.  Their children can now move on, they can create their own lives, enter the workforce or leave the nest to go to college.  But sometimes, high school graduation only brings different problems.  ADD/ADHD doesn’t disappear with a diploma.  The symptoms don’t instantly disappear and the problems associated with those symptoms do not vanish. 

Hyperactivity may decrease as children become older.  Coping mechanisms learned through the high school years may help some young adults manage in college or at work.  Medication is also still an option for adults, letting them increase their attention and focus and helping them succeed.  For some, their determination to succeed provides the needed motivation to overcome obstacles and find their way in life.

But for many adults with ADD/ADHD, there are problems with keeping a job, staying focused, sustaining relationships.  Co-existing conditions may also create problems.  College life, especially when a student with ADD/ADHD chooses to live away from home, can be overwhelming.  The difficulties they had in high school become accentuated when they do not have the support of their family and teachers.  Without support, children can run the risk of dropping out of college.  They may view this as a failure and those with low self-esteem may believe they are not capable of succeeding at anything.

Even if a child with ADD/ADHD chooses not to attend college and moves directly to the work force can face obstacles and find it hard to keep a job.  Parents have written to me for many years looking for help with their adult children that are still living at home.  They talk about the succession of jobs, all lasting only a short time.  Sometimes their children quit their jobs impulsively, not thinking of the consequences.  Sometimes they lose their jobs for being late often or for not showing up at all.  Some children may have decided to stop taking medication once they leave high school and find they cannot manage their symptoms in the workplace. 

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