Guest Blogger: Alyssa Wiley Fast, BA, daughter of staff therapist, David Wiley, MS, LPC.
As the saying goes, work smarter not harder. This is especially important when studying with ADHD. A good work ethic is important, but it’s not so much the amount of time put into studying as the approach–especially since focusing on studying for long periods of time may be very difficult and draining for someone with ADHD.
I would recommend figuring out which time of day you are most alert, what study environment works best for you (totally silent, or white noise), and taking a short break when you’re too fatigued.
Find ways to make what you’re studying interesting to you. I really embraced this approach in high school, observing a friend of mine who was always drawing illustrations in her notes, and turning class presentations and even study groups into plays. You have to find out what helps you retain information and the way you enjoy learning—no matter how wacky.
I have always really favored the arts and humanities, while abhorring math and science. So I would try to make colorful notes, and incorporate creativity into these areas whenever possible. In biology, not my best subject, the teacher assigned a leaf collection project. So I made sure to do a great job with beautiful drawings, and it made up for that test I didn’t do so hot on.
And always take advantage of extra credit! If it’s not offered, try asking for it. I have found that for the most part, teachers are willing to accommodate you if you show interest in raising your grade.
Many of them will work with you, even if you need extra time for tests; ask if you can come back in at lunch or the end of the day. It never hurts to ask, and it could make a huge difference in the end.
Whether to medicate or not to medicate is a hotly contested issue. Of course you’ve probably heard the skeptics that say there’s no such thing as ADHD at all, claiming it’s just a way for parents and teachers to control unruly kids. However, as someone with ADHD, I can attest to how helpful medication can be.
Despite having ADHD, I always did pretty well in school. Sure, I would forget things and miss things sometimes, but I enjoyed learning and was always able to compensate. However, when fully focusing on school, I wasn’t able to balance a social life very well. It wasn’t that I was socially awkward—it just wasn’t a priority for me. I found that when I started to take medication, I could balance aspects of my life more easily. People started saying I had come out of my shell, and I was more outgoing.
Although medication can yield many positive results, there can also be some drawbacks.
I didn’t always feel like myself. Sometimes I felt like someone else had taken over—someone who was talkative and decent at math!
The worst side-effect for me, however, was that it completely took away my appetite. I was small to begin with, and ended up losing a lot of weight that I really couldn’t afford to lose. This was the primary reason I decided to stop taking daily medication. I found that taking a very low dosage a few times a day worked well for me because it spacing out the dosage left me with enough of an appetite to eat healthy-sized meals. It is important to realize that everyone is different, and others may not have their appetite affected as much. Exercise also seems to be helpful in reducing symptoms.
Whether or not you chose to medicate, you shouldn’t go it alone. Educate yourself and get guidance and support. There are many people with ADHD that are highly successful—so don’t let it get in your way!
Author: Alyssa Wiley Fast, BA for Miller Counseling Services, PC.