Beginning the Journey
By: Jon Thomas, EdD, and Pamela Barton
Beginning the Journey Into Adulthood With ADHD: What’s at Risk and Why?
“My son went away to college and failed the first semester. He doesn’t want to even try community college now.”
“Our daughter graduated college over a year ago and hasn’t found a “real job.” She’s been working at a coffee shop for the past six months.”
“Today our son moved back in with us. It seems he has simply given up on finding a career.”
“Our kid is basically struggling through the last year of high school. Should college even be an option?”
While we paused to blink our eyes, the world became more complex, digital, and instantaneous. Colleges became more competitive and expensive. Students encounter more distractions, obstacles, deficits, addictions, and assorted sidetracks to success than at any time in history.
Thanks to hybridization and hydroponics, marijuana is an increasingly potent substance with growing power to distract students cognitively and emotionally. Computer gaming is becoming more addictive than crack cocaine. Acceptance to college does not guarantee graduation and college graduation does not guarantee entrée to a fulfilling career.
Add ADHD to the Mix
What does all this mean for young people with ADHD who are beginning to create a life path? It means they have a much harder time navigating this important life stage. It means they need more comprehensive and specific preparation in line with modern academic and career challenges. For graduates entering a sluggish job market with limited skills for creating and actualizing a long term life vision, it means potential failure becomes their omnipresent companion.
Young adults with ADHD don’t need additional distraction or failure. The rate of first year college failure is higher among students with ADHD and the resulting assault to self esteem and self concept renders them exponentially less likely to continue college. From here, it is unlikely that they will accidently fall into success as the life lessons they didn’t learn in high school are even harder to learn now.
What’s a Student, Parent, Professional to Do?
Ideally, these young adults should begin the journey to independence with skills they acquire before they encounter these life challenges, including
- Reframing academic self-image, a belief change;
- Understanding personal motivational triggers;
- Developing life balance;
- Utilizing emotional intelligence;
- Managing stress; and
- Monitoring self through inevitable obstacles.
While everyone benefits from these types of skills, they are critical for young adults with ADHD. And they are difficult to learn while negotiating the challenges of adjusting to independent college life or career.
Additionally, young adults need to develop their capacity for long range visioning and sustained effort. They need clarity of purpose and life skills that can guide them during college and provide continuing momentum into career development beyond. They need to understand and update the content of their beliefs about themselves in the world. They need to begin career exploration and planning before they enter college. They need to learn how to translate intention into determined action.
We can no longer afford the luxury of sending young adults forth into the world lacking requisite life skills.