Making the transition to college is difficult. You may have a 504 plan or even an IEP right now, but in college, things are different. Both a 504 plan and an IEP do not transfer to college. Each student is required to self-disclose that they want accommodations. To learn more about how to prepare to self-disclose, you can read more about this online course here: Self-Advocacy for Higher Education. Part of the request process is to list the accommodations that you need. It is prevalent for students and parents to ask what they can request. The reality is you can ask for anything you want. If you enjoy chocolate ice cream for every test, you can request that but would not put out much hope that would get approved.
Requests should list what accommodations have been approved and worked. However, there are times colleges can do more than what was offered prior. Although there are no guarantees, it does not hurt to ask. In all cases, college students can ask for what they think they need. Know how your ADD/ADHD affects you and how severe it is. Mental health, ADHD, and learning disabilities comprise two-thirds of all the requests to disability services offices for accommodations, so disability staff views these requests frequently. The university will provide any accommodation that is reasonable. Most accommodation plans include things such as extended time. However, disability services office staff will not approve accommodations for skill deficits like time management. For skills like time management, it is best to contact the college academic resources office for assistance. The following list can help you decide what you may need.
Distraction reduced environment for testing.
This one is easy to understand and even easier to get approved. It may also be the only one a student needs. Getting distracted is very common with ADD/ADHD and other disabilities with an attention deficit, such as a learning disability and some mental health issues. Reducing distraction can mean the difference between understanding the test question or missing a word that changes the whole meaning. Distraction reduction can alleviate common distractions from the classroom. A reduction in distractions can be crucial in large college classes. Know that it is a reduction in distraction, not a complete alleviation of it. No one can eliminate other students coughing when walking by the test area.
Extra test time.
This one is also an easy one to get approved and very common. Most students who request accommodations request more time for tests. It’s not hard to know why this helps. It is not an advantage over any other student but something that is needed. With ADD/ADHD, issues such as losing focus and reading questions several times, when sitting in a regular classroom during a test, how many times would you get distracted or lose focus? How much time does it take to get back on track? If it is significant enough, more time can be just what you need.
Reading tests aloud.
This one is not often found on IEPs if at all, but it is one that a college can approve. At times with ADD/ADHD, all a student needs is to focus better. Yes, distraction reduction can do that, but if the issues are getting off track when reading, skipping lines, or even lack of comprehension, reading aloud can alleviate them. For some students, it keeps them focused and attentive, which in turn helps with reading comprehension. For a test, that’s gold.
For those with ADD/ADHD, breaks can help recharge the focus and attention battery. Breaks can be as little as a few minutes to ten or longer under certain circumstances like testing. For longer classes, a break can mean a student maintains focus and attention for the whole class. For a test, it does the same, but other factors such as how many tests are taken in a given day or even how long it takes to recharge after a sustained effort are factors to consider when requesting this.
You may have never needed this one in high school, and it may never have been discussed or even offered. However, some students with ADD/ADHD find it very useful in college, if not invaluable. The class content and teaching in college can be drastically different. Class content tends to be more complicated, especially for technical classes, science courses, and health-related majors. Even with a high degree of focus and attention, it can get overwhelming and cause brain fatigue. If that happens, you can find yourself losing out on some information. A simple recording of the class gives you a secondary review and fills in the information gaps that occur. The school is not required to provide specialized instruction or a list of specific written instructions. ADHD students can seek support with their studies from an academic coach or tutor.
As with any accommodation request, it will depend on your specific presentation and experience with ADD or ADHD. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. It can be that one of these is enough for you, or you may need several. It’s not about how many accommodations you have. It is about what works for you and you alone. The disability office staff is there to help ensure your accommodations are specific to what you need.
If you need further assistance, check out the resources below.