College years can be one of the best times in life. They are filled with the discovery of freedom and independence. However, they can also be some of the most challenging times a person will face. It is a time when the majority of the population discovers that they have a disability, Attention Deficit Disorder, or ADD. ADD is discovered in college mainly due to the problems with time management, initiating, keeping or shifting focus, completing homework, and setting priorities (Quinn 1).
College students who discover ADD must first be educated as to what ADD is, how it is caused and what type of treatments there are, in order to achieve all that they can in their college career. Many children who continue to show visible difficulties with attention, impulse control, and excessive activity in the home and school environments are labeled with attention deficit disorder, or ADD (Bigler and Nussbaum 1). ADD is a neurological condition that affects learning and behavior. It affects approximately 5 – 10% of the population.
It develops in childhood, and usually is not grown out of (Quinn 2). ADD is characterized by persistent and excessive problems in which a child is unable to focus and pay attention, or conversely displays hyperactive and impulsive behavior (Nicholl and Stordy 4). It has only been recently that ADD has been recognized as a distinct disorder (Bigler and Nussbaum 2). The term ADD was not first used to describe the disorder. George Frederic Still, one of the pioneers of ADD, described children with “lawlessness,” and lacked “inhibitory volition.
The terms “minimal brain dysfunction,” “brain-injured child syndrome”, and “hyperactive child syndrome,” are all signs of generations with labels that were used to describe this disorder (Nicholl and Stordy 26). The disorder has been discussed throughout literature for over 30 years, but it was not until the 1980’s that a classification for ADD was developed (Bigler and Nussbaum 3). Some of the top characteristics of ADD are: attention difficulties, distractibility, hyperactivity, impulsivity, attention-demanding behavior, school difficulties, and learning disorders.
It is extremely difficult to describe the characteristics of children with ADD. The key to the characteristics is the intensity, the persistence, and the pattering of these symptoms (Wender 10-31). There are no real causes for ADD, and only a few common explanations are given, and of these, some are more believable than others. A family pattern seems to exist with ADD. Studies have shown that approximately 20 – 30% of children with ADD have a parent with similar attention troubles. This means that a subgroup of children with ADD may have inherited a type of gene that is related to ADD (Bigler and Nussbaum 20).
This cause of ADD is most accepted among physicians around the world. Many people used to believe that the nurture of a child, when being brought up, was an affect of the problem. The nurture versus nature issue is one the psychologists have been debating for several years. The debate still continues whether the child’s chemistry or the nurturing of children experiences through growing up causes ADD. Although certain types of child rearing may make the problem worse, they cannot cause ADD (Wender 34). After recognizing that a problem exists, the next step is to find out where to turn for help.
A knowledgeable physician usually directs families to the resources they need to deal with the many problems that are often associated with ADD. A child psychiatrist is usually the most frequent, and the best direction to go. They are trained medical doctors, and they can treat medicine and childhood disorders (Bigler and Nussbaum 37-38). Assessment of ADD is usually based on the observation of behaviors. The criteria for these behaviors are described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a manual that has been put together by the American Psychiatric Association (Lerner 236).
After a doctor has diagnosed someone with ADD, the treatment stage begins. There are many treatments that are used to help someone with ADD. The most favorable choice among patient is medical treatment. 96. 4% of all cases of ADD are prescribed on medication (Lerner 239). With most ADD sufferers, medical treatment is all that is needed, for others, a combination of medical treatment with psychological and education involvements are needed (Wender 67-68). The most commonly type of drug that is prescribed to people with ADD is psychostimulants.
Psychostumulants affect the brain of the individual by increasing the arousal or alertness of the central nervous system. One of the most common and most controversial psychostimulants is Ritalin (Lerner 238-240). Ritalin was first synthesized in 1955 and began to be used in the 1970’s (Wender 72). Ritalin is a methylphenidate; from the family of drugs know as central nervous system stimulants (psycweb). It’s on set of action is 30 minutes and its duration of action is 3 to 5 hours (Lerner 240). Doctors are uncertain how Ritalin works in the body. It affects the balance of chemicals in the brain.
Recent research indicates that it affects the balance of Serotonin working with Dopamine in the brain. Serotonin is a naturally occurring chemical in the brain. Serotonin appears to inhibit behavior and activity (About. com). The Dopamine dramatically reduces hyperactivity and improves the ability to focus, work, and consequently, learn (Torpey). Even though Ritalin is the preferred choice of medication, there are severe side effects for taking it. The most common side effects of Ritalin are loss of appetite, loss of sleep, nervousness, dizziness, drowsiness, headache, nausea, and stomach pain.
Ritalin is a “schedule II stimulant. ” A schedule II stimulant is the classification used by the Drug Enforcement Agency to indicate drugs with high potential for abuse (About. com). One of the controversies of Ritalin is its over use. In schools, more than a million school children across America travel to the office and stand in a line for their daily intact of Ritalin. Many people believe that Ritalin is used as an answer for disruptive students. One new, alternative to medication for the treatment of ADD, is EEG Biofeedback.
Now with knowing the treatments available for suffers of ADD, many college students can cope with their disorder. Neurofeedback, also called “EEG Biofeedback,” involves helping a person learn how to modify his or her brain waves activity to improve attention, reduce impulsivity, and to control hyperactivity behaviors. It was developed in the 1960’s, but only has recently been used as a treatment for ADD. The patient receives treatment through sensors that are placed one the scalp and the other on the ears. It is harmless and safe.
The feedback helps the individual learn to change his or her brain activity (Striefel). Dr. George von Hilsheimer, is located in Central Florida, has more than 40 years of experience with treating ADD children through EEG Biofeedback. 75% of the children that he has treated are free of ADD symptoms (EEGBiofeedback). The treatments involve sessions, which usually last from 30 to 60 minutes. The patient has at least 3 treatments a week. The duration of the treatments varies to the person. The average amount of sessions is about 35-40.
It depends on the severity that the individual has (Striefel). The advantage in using EEG Biofeedback is that there are no side effects. In fact, it can be beneficial. In addition to helping the symptoms of ADD, it works to eliminate seizures, helps with anger, anxiety, bulimia, chronic fatigue syndrome, malaise, pain panic, post traumatic stress disorder, and also is proven to increase IQ by at least 15% (EEGBiofeedback). Many students who are in their first year of college are diagnosed with ADD rather than in their childhood years. Several of them drop out, while others seek help.
Erik, a student who was diagnosed with ADD in his first year of college expresses his challenges: About this time [freshman year of college], I was diagnosed with ADD, but was not taking Ritalin. My decline continued through the first semester of my sophomore year. At the time, I was reevaluated, and decided to begin taking Ritalin upon the recommendation of a physician. The change was obvious. Almost immediately, my productivity increased tenfold. (Quinn 41) When students leave home for college, they are leaving behind the structure and balance that they have been used to.
The high school schedules, being at school from 8 to 4 o’clock, after school practices, and the family life. When the college career starts, there are longer classes, different breaks during the day, late night classes and early morning classes. This proves to be a huge challenge to the college student (Quinn 43-45). One of the best ways that you can ease the struggle from high school to college is to prepare for the transition. Leaving home is never easy. Learning how to do college, or be on your own, is not easy either. For people with ADD, the changes can be more difficult.
Researchers say that learning some of the practical issues of life, such as doing laundry, balancing a checkbook, managing time before leaving for college will help (Wender 115). They also say that it is important to understand that your adjustment experience is not unique. Everyone goes through similar struggles; they may just not be visible. There are successful stories of students who have ADD in college. The reason for this is that they seek help, and know that they cannot solve the problem on their own. For most graduates, college is remembered as the best years of their lives.
For others, college is a long, drawn-out affair that involves many changes, frustrations, and underachievement. However, with the knowledge of ADD and the treatments that are now available, students can more readily succeed. It is important to know the knowledge of ADD because many students, who do not know they have ADD and have it, are loosing the potential to achieve better grades and better cognitive skills. For many who enter college and suffer the first couple of months, they drop out. In order to have success in college with ADD, it is crucial that there is cooperation with parents, students, and faculty.
In most campuses, there is programs set up for students with ADD (McCormick and Quinn 71). The way to achieve the best in a college career with ADD is to find one that will accommodate the needs. There are many success stories for students who find their place in programs at colleges who end up having a successful life. God has made each and every one of us different, unique, and special in His eyes, and in everything, whether it is ADD or some other disorder, we have a lot to learn and a lot to gain, we just need to look to the One who can only give us the wisdom and insight necessary for peak performance in our daily lives.