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Duke University
Duke University
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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
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Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

How to Manage Your ADHD in High School

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common childhood neurodevelopmental disorders, according to the CDC, and often persists into adulthood. Although it’s not a learning disorder per se, it can affect students’ ability to focus, which often interferes with their education.


So, if you’re a student with ADHD or are the parent of a child with the disorder, how do you manage it in high school? Here are nine tips.


What Is ADHD? How Does it Affect Students?


ADHD is a disorder marked by an inability to focus, listen to others, or pay attention. Some symptoms include restlessness and fidgeting, impulsiveness, talking too much, risk-taking, daydreaming, and hyperactivity. 


Students with ADHD often have trouble paying attention in class and get easily distracted while studying, completing assignments, and taking tests. They can also exhibit behavioral problems at school, causing disruptions to peers and teachers. 


These issues can not only cause problems with grades and schoolwork, but they can also interfere with their relationships with peers and negatively impact their self-esteem. They might have trouble getting along with children and adults, and feel isolated as a result.


Not all people with ADHD exhibit hyperactivity; in fact, previously, ADD was a separate diagnosis. Today, this is known as inattentive ADHD, which means the individual has trouble completing tasks and paying attention but does not have hyperactivity. When a person presents with ADHD with hyperactivity, they will also act impulsively, have trouble sitting still, and be more disruptive.


8 Tips for Managing Your ADHD in High School


1. Have it diagnosed.


A diagnosis will help you secure accommodations, should you need them. There are several different types of professionals who can diagnose ADHD, including psychologists, neurologists, pediatricians, nurse practitioners, and psychiatrists. These professionals will perform an evaluation of the patient (a neuropsychological evaluation is best in this case).


Many of these providers can also help students manage their ADHD. Neurologists may prescribe stimulant medication, and a pediatrician can continue with follow-up care. Meanwhile, psychologists and other therapists can help with organizational skills and mindfulness.


2. Arrange accommodations if needed.


Once the student is diagnosed, document the condition with your high school. Schools are required to provide access to public education to students with disabilities as per Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This education must be consistent with the education provided to students who don’t have disabilities.


Section 504 has a broader definition of what constitutes a disability. If you qualify for a 504 Plan, you may be given additional accommodations, such as additional time on tests, including standardized tests. You may also receive other kinds of support, depending on your individual needs.


If your disorder is more severe, you could qualify for an individualized educational plan (IEP) under IDEA. Your school must create a specialized plan, formulating specific, measurable goals and laying out ways to help the student meet them.


3. Work with your teachers.


You should work with teachers beyond securing accommodations under Section 504 or IDEA. Discuss how they can help you learn better, whether that means changing your seat to one that presents fewer distractions or helping you develop methods for organization and prioritization. Teachers are more likely to be willing to work with you if you let them know that you have ADHD and show your appreciation for any support they can offer.

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4. Create an organizational plan.


While others can help, you also need to take responsibility for your education and learning by managing your disorder the best you can. For example, try starting off every semester by creating an organizational plan, with calendars and reminders of assignment due dates. If you know you have trouble paying attention in class, consider alternative strategies for taking notes. You might, for instance, ask your teachers if you can record lectures to review later. 


5. Seek outside help.


Don’t feel like you need to tackle this journey alone! Therapists, for example, can work with you to develop strategies to keep you on track and manage any emotional stressors. Tutors can help you understand academic concepts and give you tips on managing your studies.


And don’t forget about your parents! They can be valuable advocates, helping you secure the resources you need.


6. Break down tasks into manageable chunks.


It’s easy for anyone to get sidetracked when you’re working on a large, complex project or studying for a difficult test. Add ADHD to that, and finishing may feel impossible. But instead of trying to tackle the entire assignment in one go, trying breaking it up into more manageable pieces.


Use calendar alerts to keep yourself on track, setting deadlines for finishing each chunk and allowing yourself breaks to relax. Just make sure you keep the deadline for the entire project in mind to ensure you leave yourself enough time to finish. 


7. Discover your passions.


If you can find a way to follow the things that truly interest and inspire you, you’re more likely to stay engaged in projects and activities. Of course, you don’t usually have much of a choice in which classes you take in high school. But you can still look for ways to include your interests in assignments, incorporating, for example, the books or music you enjoy into your papers. Later in high school, you’ll probably have more agency in the courses you take, so be sure to capitalize on your strengths and passions.


8. Participate in extracurricular activities.


Social anxiety is not uncommon in people with ADHD. One way to get outside of your own bubble and feel less isolated is to participate in activities both in and outside school. Taking part in extracurricular activities that coincide with your interests will help you strengthen those passions, as well as give you a chance to get to know like-minded peers. 


9. Be your own advocate.


While other people will help you along the way, you need to learn how to be your own advocate to succeed in high school, in college, and in your career. Work on building skills to speak up for yourself and advocate on your own behalf when you need to.


Do you have questions? We have answers! Whether you’re navigating high school as a student with learning differences or want to better understand the college process, CollegeVine’s Q&A forum can help. Post your burning questions about everything from weighted GPAs to networking, and our verified experts will give you the guidance you need.

Short Bio
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket, and Funny-ish. View her work and get in touch at: www.lauraberlinskyschine.com.