Research, services bring focus to attention deficit disorders

Higher Education
Anne said college sounds good to her, too; she would like to become a potter. Right now, however, Kueney said that would be difficult.
“She’s going to need to figure out some way to study,” he said. “She’s really smart; that’s what makes this disability so hard.”
But students with attention deficit disorders are making it through college and beyond, said David Schrot, a specialist in learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders at the University’s Disability Services.
Schrot and his colleagues assist about 300 University students with attention deficit disorders each year. Some attend the graduate and medical schools.
Students with attention deficit disorders might receive academic accommodations, but none are automatic.
“Our services here … are very individualized,” said Schrot. “What may work for one student may not work for another student.”
All students with disabilities, including those with attention deficit disorders, are expected to do all the work that students without disabilities do.
“Disability Services … levels the playing field so that all students have an opportunity to get their college education,” Schrot said.
Typical classroom accommodations provided to students with attention deficit disorders include:
ù increased test-taking time, often an extra 10 to 30 minutes for an hour-long test;
ù alternate test-taking locations, usually a quiet room with minimal distractions;
ù taped textbooks, which can be used while the student is reading to enhance concentration;
ù extended deadlines for term papers, often two or three extra days to accommodate for time lost to poor concentration;
ù note-takers or taped lectures, which allows students to read or hear something they missed the first time; and
ù front-row seating, to minimize distractions.
In addition to providing classroom accommodations, Disability Services can refer students for counseling, tutoring, time-management classes and study-skill assistance.
Helping attention deficit disorder students apply for financial aid to cover medication and ADHD testing is another function of Disability Services, Schrot said.
To keep his students from getting behind or losing momentum between quarters, Schrot encourages them to register for classes early and start working on courses, especially sequence courses such as foreign languages or math, during school breaks.
“To come back three months later … that could be very disastrous for students with ADD,” said Schrot.
He added that by getting syllabi and textbooks early, many ADD students use breaks as study time.
“They do need to put in more time than their peers when it comes to studying and writing papers,” Schrot said.
Studying between terms also helps to diffuse a buildup of assignments later in the term.
Faculty member cooperation is vital to implementing accommodations.
“This is a collaborative effort between the faculty, the student and Disability Services,” Schrot said. “The vast majority of faculty are very cooperative.”
Faculty members can be too cooperative, however; Schrot said some will agree to reduce the course load for students who go directly to their professors.
This is inappropriate, Schrot said. Not only should course loads never be reduced, but students should work through Disability Services rather than going directly to professors, he said.
“I know there is something like an underground community,” Schrot said. “I’m sure there are many students out there with ADD who are getting accommodations without coming through our office, or who are getting by without accommodations.”
Schrot added that these students might be tired of being labeled as special, or they want to be independent.
Others might not even know they have an attention deficit disorder.
Junior psychology major Carrie Severson didn’t find out she had ADHD until last year.
Although she had been diagnosed with learning disabilities in grade school, her attention deficit disorder went unnoticed.
“I was one of the students who had one of the most awesome learning disability teachers, and I still fell through the cracks of not getting diagnosed,” Severson said. “How are others managing?”
Like Anne Kueney, Severson never had severe behavioral problems. She fidgeted and couldn’t pay attention, but this was dismissed as being overly social, not as having a disorder.
Still, Severson is grateful that she learned coping methods for her learning disabilities.
“I do get good grades, but that’s because I work really hard,” she said.
Students like Severson are “hard workers who are bound and determined to move on with their lives in a productive manner,” Schrot said.
But others have not been so willing to see her hard work, Severson said.
“People are really mean,” she said. Other students have told her that they would do well, too, if they could just have the accommodations Severson gets.
“We wouldn’t say to someone who is blind, ‘You can’t bring your seeing-eye dog to campus because I can’t bring my dog,'” Severson said. “It’s the same thing for people like me, but you just can’t see it.”
Teachers at her old college acted as if academic accommodations were “cheating or something,” Severson said.
But professors at the University have been much more understanding, she said. That, along with the strength of the University Disability Services program, was a major reason why she transferred here.
Severson, who plans to go to graduate school in organizational and industrial psychology, encourages students with learning disabilities or attention deficit disorders to try college.

Treatment
About half of the students with attention deficit disorders Disability Services assists are still taking medication, Schrot said.
That’s not unusual, said Shapiro.
Some adolescents and young adults with strong support systems or coping strategies might be able to go off medication, but Shapiro does not recommend this for severe

Some adults continue to take stimulant medications, especially if they intend to attend college or work in regimented jobs.
Severson started taking Ritalin when she was diagnosed last year. She usually takes it only for classes or tests, she said.
The first day Anne Kueney started taking medication, her teacher called to comment on the difference it made, Gerth said.
“The frustrations of daily life are easier to deal with,” Gerth said.
Without the Ritalin, Anne said she doesn’t think about what she’s doing.
Ritalin and other stimulant medications are very effective in treating attention deficit disorders, Shapiro said.
But these drugs also improve concentration in people who do not have attention disorders, so an illicit market has developed for them.
Medication is so effective it is often provided without therapy. But cognitive-behavioral therapy and other psychological approaches can help children cope with ADHD by providing more structure and are extremely important to overall treatment, Shapiro said.
At Groves, Anne is being taught how to learn through alternative approaches.
But while some children might be slipping through the cracks of the educational system, others might be slipping through the cracks of the medical system.

Misdiagnosis
Only 25 percent of patients referred to pediatric neurology for ADHD are found to actually have the disorder, Shapiro said.
The primary components of ADHD — inattention, impulsiveness and hyperactivity — are also symptoms of other disorders.
Learning disorders, depression and various neurological disorders can all be mistaken for ADHD, Shapiro said.
“It’s devastating for the child if they miss the boat,” Shapiro said.
For diseases like adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD) — a debilitating disease explored in the movie “Lorenzo’s Oil” — a misdiagnosis for ADHD, can be deadly. ALD can be treated, but only if it is caught early.
The primary way ADHD can be ruled out is if inattention, impulsiveness and hyperactivity begin later in life. Since ADHD is a developmental disease, toddlers will begin to exhibit symptoms, Shapiro said.
Anne Kueney is a typical example. As a toddler, she was kicked out of day care and developed a reputation among local baby sitters, Gerth said.
But when attention deficit disorders are properly diagnosed and treated, adults with the disability can expect to lead a normal life, Schrot said.

Careers
“I can’t think of one career that … I hope my students with ADD don’t go into,” Schrot said. “Students come in here and do wonderful things: graduate studies, very nice internships and good employment.”
Although hyperactivity and impulsiveness tend to lessen as children with ADHD go through adolescence, inattention and disorganization remain, Shapiro said.
Because of this, many adults with attention deficit disorder might have difficulty with a 9-to-5 job; they do well as entrepreneurs and other less-regulated jobs, Shapiro said.
But there is hope.
“Students coming in here with ADD can make it,” Schrot said. “It’s a tribute to their own hard work.”