Tuesday, August 23, 2011

One size does not fit all...

...I read a lame cookie-cutter article about surviving college with ADHD today. Lame because it assumes that every strategy makes sense for every person with ADHD. Click here for said globalizing article

One tip in particular, really raised my hackles: stay away from online courses.

As an undergraduate, I did not have the option of online courses. I had difficulty sitting/staying in class, I had difficulty concentrating in class, I had difficulty completing reading assignments, and I graduated with a 2.6.

As a graduate student, I discovered that online classes were PERFECT FOR ME. I "attended" them when I wanted to, I worked in the middle of the night on my "classwork", I still struggled with the reading assignments, but because I had more energy and felt more engaged by the online format, I had more patience to try strategies for attacking them (like using a highlighter as I read, and reading only the first and last line of each paragraph in long articles, so that I could get the basic gist of them instead of trying to slog through every detail for 35 pages). I graduated with a 3.73.

I would not have survived grad school without the option for online classes, if only because I absolutely cannot sit still for 4 hour classes on a regular basis, without professors who don't mind me doing other stuff during class (like flipping through People magazine...I listen better when I'm multitasking). I realize this is not the case for everyone...but writing is one of my strong points, and I find online discussions engaging, so for me, perfect. The courses are visually structured for you online so as long as you are engaged enough to check in and stay on top of things, the structure is already there for you, and it's there on your schedule, whatever your schedule may be. I understand why the article cautions against online formats for students with ADHD, and can especially see the potential pitfalls for younger students who are still learning how to organize their lives and their study habits...but for some students this is a much better option, and I hate the idea that others might read this article and not explore that option, when it might actually help them.

If they're not willing to give the article the space it needs to truly be informative, I wish they wouldn't even publish stuff like this. I can just see an editor going "yeaaaah...could you cut this 3,000-word article down to a 650-word one-size-fits-all soundbite? thanks s'much..."....


  1. Right there with ya. I personally love the "study guides" that tell students that their desk area should be completely free of anything distracting, such as posters or knick-knacks ... oh, and it should face away from the window ... and they shouldn't play music while they're studying ... . So basically you're supposed to create an ascetic, monastic space. Nice things are banished, because they're for people who can concentrate.

    Never mind the fact that I personally benefit from having things to look at while I'm trying to process information.

    I hate those articles too. There's enough misinformation about ADHD out there, it would be nice if cookie-cutter crap like this didn't add to it.

  2. I completely agree, I nearly flunked out of the traditional college classroom. Sitting through class was torture and I couldn't help but be distracted by everyone in the room. Since I switched to online classes at my own pace I have greatly improved my grades. I go hard core for three weeks and get way ahead and then indulge myself for the next week. I always hated the story of the tortoise and the hare, because I am the hare.

  3. Amen. I was diagnosed with the inattentive form of ADHD at 43, and it helped me make sense of my education story: barely graduated from high school, took forever to slog through undergrad. I finished my BA in a low-residency program that was perfect for me - mostly independent work with monthly deadlines and 2x a year week long meetings. It was the first time I ever enjoyed school. I am conscious of the need for structure, but I definitely work best with a long leash and little scrutiny of my methods! This worked for a decade, professionally, too, when I found the right boss who let me do my own thing, and concentrated on results and not the path I used to get there. Great post. Thanks

  4. If as many different types of ADHD as there are, one size definitely doesn't fit all. The average person thinks of the hyperactive first grader that won't sit still, talks out of turn, hits other kids, and gets terrible grades.

    I love take it at your own pace classes. I gun it for a few weeks and then geek out for a week and recuperate. Then I have the patience and energy to go hardcore again.

  5. Addy, this killed me with painful humor "Nice things are banished, because they're for people who can concentrate." Isn't that just so awfully true? The monkey that jumps through the effin' hoop gets the banana.

    Blarney: Let's hear it for moving at our own paces. I also used to jet out ahead on my online classes...I seriously used to structure my whole semester and pick all of my research topics on the first night of class, then bust balls for two weeks doing a crap ton of research and get ahead...so that I wouldn't have to freak out at the last second. Loved. It.

    Julia: I too, do better when I have a boss that gives me total free rein and judges me based on my results. Overall I get more done in my fits and spurts than most people do having micromanagers make sure they're maximizing every second of the day equally. Gee, I wonder why those low res programs are getting more and more prevalent...perhaps because they're an AWESOME OPTION? Hmmmm... and I like what you say about ADHD diagnosis making your academic life make sense. Me too, 100%. I knew I was smart, but as time wore on, I questioned it more and more because I couldn't understand what planet I was from or why, if I was so smart, did I do some of the things that I did...hindsight with a diagnosis is 20/20...