Methods to manage, as a student with ADHD

Tasha Hall, Campus Life Reporter

Imagine this is your point-of-view at Whitman: you’re sitting in class, perhaps in the front, watching as the professor lectures you with great enthusiasm; you’re trying to listen and concentrate. Perhaps you take out your pencil and doodle on the packet the professor gave you. Maybe it was a day you had a reading assignment, so you brought a printed copy to class with notes on it so you could follow along with the professor. A cup of coffee from Cleveland Commons could be on your desk, with one shot of espresso to keep you awake, and maybe, hopefully, focused.

For students at Whitman who have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD/ADD), this could be their daily life: a struggle to concentrate on the work or the lecture in front of them. At Whitman, however, students prevail with various strategies.

Brandon Weimer, one of Whitman’s on-site counselors, gave his advice on some of the methods students with ADHD can use to help with focus.

“While the disorder’s symptoms can be highly individualistic and specific, there are general guidelines and techniques that are helpful for managing certain symptoms,” Weimer said.

Breaking down tasks into manageable, time-limited steps to help reduce potential distractions is a helpful technique. Weimer also supports the use of stimulus control techniques if they work for you.

“Practice using stimulus control techniques that use external structures such as lists, reminder notes and daily rituals to improve on-task behaviors,” Weimer said.

Callay Boire-Shedd, president of the Mental Health Awareness Club, has struggled with ADHD and has shared some of their methods of focusing. These techniques often involve breaking down homework into twenty-minute time intervals, with one or two minutes in between for a mental break.

For many, the days of fidget spinners and cubes have been replaced with a trusty pencil and space on a piece of paper, where one can doodle while listening to a lecture. For Boire-Shedd, drawing is an especially helpful tool for focusing.

To remove distracting stimuli, some students like Joe Wogsland choose to take notes on paper and print out physical copies of readings to stay more engaged with the material.

“[It helps to] keep up accountability,” Wogsland said, referring to how sitting far away from the professor in a classroom setting can lead one to be extra susceptible to distractions.

Boire-Shedd also enjoys using the outdoors to relax and slow down their brain. Other students relax with a little bit of rock climbing or whatever exercise helps to push stress away and allows them to think one step at a time.

“To reduce and manage stress, deep breathing, meditation and guided imagery could help,” Weimer said.

Tea plants are also used by some students. Some studies have hailed the benefits of the tea plant Sideritis scardica, or Greek mountain tea, which has been experimentally shown to help those with ADHD. However, medicinal teas are not regulated in the United States like food and medicine are, so it is advised that people exercise caution when trying this method.

Antonia Keithahn, Associate Director of Academic Resources, is the point of contact for students who need accommodations in class. For students with ADHD, having accommodations is a necessary way to have more time to think, focus and just breathe during an exam.

While managing ADHD at college is difficult, finding techniques that work for you and trying new methods can be a great help.