Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Is your ADHD teenager ready for hostel?

Life skills for ADHD teenagers
ADHD teens with appropriate life skills can live independently

Does your teenager with ADHD have the life skills to survive in hostel? She did well in her 12th board exams and scored high in the CET. To attend the engineering college of her choice she has to move from home to a hostel in another city. Given her difficulty organising her daily schedule, would she be better off doing the same subjects at the local engineering college? The answer would depend on her personality and the life skills she has acquired.

ADHD teenager personality types

Teenagers with ADHD are of 3 character types: the optimistic, the terrified and the lost. They are placed into these categories depending on their productivity and anxiety (either too much or too little).
  • The optimistic teen does not worry. He is excited about the independence that college life will bring, but may not realise that freedom comes with responsibilities (financial, social and personal). If he's still disorganised at home he will be more so in hostel where the distractions are multiple and there is no guiding hand.
  • The terrified teen is intensely anxious. She needs reassurance and help in planning the future step by step. If she still waits for you to clear her way round a difficulty she will hesitate to seek help when she is in hostel.
  • The lost teen displays a lack of energy and positive view towards life. He is easily depressed and defeated. He has to be repeatedly reminded and encouraged to do what needs to be done. If you still have to push him to get work done he's unlikely to function well from hostel.

Life skills for teenagers with ADHD

ADHD hinders development of the  coping and self-management component of life skills due to inattention and impulsivity. Adolescents with ADHD need to focus on three aspects of this component for transition to independent living away from home.
  1. Motivation is first – there has to be the will to achieve. The ADHD teen needs clear goals and has to evaluate them objectively — are they achievable? Clear short-term, mid-term and long term goals are necessary – persistence is required. If a particular course is not available in the local colleges, can he take the initiative to locate an alumnus from school who is pursuing the same elsewhere? He must make a list of pros and cons  – then make a choice – and not procrastinate.
  2. Time management is a big challenge for most students with ADHD. They should not take on too much initially. ADD adolescents should concentrate on their classes, keep track of assignments, and organize daily notes. They should use a planner to schedule daily activities. A large calendar on the wall for upcoming assignments, project submissions, and exam dates is a big help. The teenager with ADHD needs to get to know her limits, then push them a little at a time to see if more is achievable. She should set some daily routines – get up at the same time everyday, have healthy, regular meals (this is often neglected when staying away from home), and do the laundry.
    Attendance at classes is non-negotiable (all colleges insist on a minimum attendance). The teenager with ADHD must ensure she takes her medication on time and follow-up regularly for refills. When taking a break she should do something that has a limited time span. For example she could read a few pages of a book, watch TV for 15 minutes, or chat with a friend for 10 min.  She must make time for the additional administrative tasks college entails: paying her college fees, creating and sticking to a budget, making time to go to the ATM. These tasks should be entered in the weekly planner.
  3. Self-understanding and awareness of strengths and challenges is the key to making intelligent choices. The ADHD adolescent should not hesitate to seek help, from teachers, friends and the counsellor specially if falling back in his schedule. Strategies for learning and study skills training with the counsellor are helpful.
The ADD teenager, like any other adolescent, is transitioning from dependence on the family to increasing adult independence. The life skills he acquires would dictate the ease of this transition. Teenagers with ADHD who have acquired the necessary life skills would be better able to cope with the transition from home to hostel without adversely affecting academic performance.

  1. Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. Life Skills Training Guide for Young People. United Nations. 2003 (Accessed 08-Nov-2014)
  2. ADDitude. The Real Whirled: 8 Essential Life Skills for ADHD Teens. Accessed 25-Nov-14.