Once upon a time, long, long, ago, Clark skipped kindergarten before we knew he had ADHD. The well-intentioned suggestion from his private school and our misguided decision about it have haunted us ever since.
Especially now, when he is a junior in high school, and we are staring down the barrel at graduation.
“Come on, frontal lobe. Develop. Develop,” I urge. “You can do it, Clark, practice those life skills. Just once, to show you were listening. Go, boy, go!”
We’ve had seventeen years to help him, and the time has come to guide him in choices that may take him outside the reach of our immediate assistance. One might think this process of choosing his path would be long and twisting.
One would be wrong.
Clark knows himself like none of our other four kids do.
“Why don’t you take a year off to work and travel first?” his dad suggested, angling for an extra year of maturity to offset the ADHD/Asperger’s.
“Why don’t you pick a college in Houston or near your grandparents?” I threw out.
“What about Blinn? It’s a Texas A&M feeder,” Eric tried. Clark had loved Texas A&M all his life.
All our great suggestions met Clark’s stone wall.
“I am going to do Cross-X debate in college. There are two schools in Texas with the right type of debate teams: University of Texas and University of North Texas,” Clark informed us.
He knew he had to choose among the public Texas universities or foot the difference in cost himself, by scholarship, loan, or job. He was opting for the route that cost him no extra. Smart boy.
Forget for a moment the mind-blowing significance of choosing UT over Texas A&M, its archrival and my alma mater. Unfortunately for Clark, Texas’s public universities offer automatic acceptance to every Texas high school student who finishes in the top 10% of his or her class. This top 10% fills nearly the entire entering class for universities of top choice like Texas A&M and the University of Texas at Austin. Clark attended a prestigious public high school well-known for its tough curriculum and students’ high academic performance. His 3.4+ GPA would place him well below the top 10%. Even a perfect SAT or ACT score might not get him into UT.
“I want to go to UT,” he continued.
Not only were his chances of getting into UT slim to none, but his chances of achieving academic success there were not great, either. At fifty thousand students, UT is one of the largest universities in the United States. In the world, even. It’s very easy for an above-average student to get lost in the crowd. It’s terrifying to think of a young person like Clark in that environment. UT is not well-known for its friendliness to learning disabilities, either.
Not that Clark would avail himself of their services. He furiously rejects accommodations and takes medication (or, as he calls, “Performance Enhancing Drug,”/PED) under duress. UNT, on the other hand, while also large, has a better reputation within the LD community. And Clark’s grades would meet their admission requirements, especially with a decent SAT score. As far as Texas schools go, Texas Tech University comes highly recommended for its Techniques program for students with ADHD and other disabilities, but its debate program didn’t meet Clark’s criterion. There are some great books out there with advice on colleges for students with special needs. I’ve included cites below this post.
We set up an appointment for Clark with his high school counselor, hoping he would listen to a realistic adult viewpoint.
“The counselor said I have to raise my grades, but that she has seen kids with worse grades than me get admitted to UT,” he announced after the meeting.
Talk about selective hearing. I had spoken with the counselor, too, and knew this was a gross misrepresentation of her overall message.
So be it. We would not change Clark’s mind. I might change his perspective, however.
Thus began my campaign to elevate UNT from his fallback school to an accepted lead candidate, with UT as a stretch goal for an upperclass transfer. My reasoning is that either Clark will entrench himself at UNT and stay, or that he will mature enough to weather the transfer to UT when he is twenty instead of eighteen.
As we traverse our last year before Clark chooses a college, we are focusing on teaching him the skills that will help him overcome his poor executive function and succeed at college. At least once a week, we require him to get himself up and running without assistance. If he fails to do so, he forfeits time with his girlfriend. We have started assigning him tasks to complete before school to keep him from sitting down at his laptop for a little early morning Facebook chatting. We’ve developed higher expectations about how he uses his study time.
It’s a big elephant. We take little bites, one at a time.
I still close my eyes and see a bleary-eyed boy sitting between towers of pizza boxes with a controller in his hand, his schoolbooks unopened behind him on the kitchen table. But I see him in UNT Eagle-green now, and it looks good on him.
Now I just have to hire someone to cattle-prod Clark out of bed and hand him his PED each morning.
Until next time,
Pamela, aka Clark’s mom
Pamela Fagan Hutchins writes the Clark Kent Chronicles on parenting ADHD wonder kids, thanks to the crash course given to her by her ADHD son and his ADHD father. She focuses on the post-elementary school years. Watch for her upcoming books in 2nd quarter 2012: The Clark Kent Chronicles, How To Screw Up Your Kids, Love Gone Viral, Hot Flashes and Half Ironmans, and Puppalicious and Beyond: Life Outside the Center of the Universe. Visit her blog, Road to Joy, but hang on for the ride as she screws up her kids, drives her husband insane, embarrasses herself in triathlon, and sometimes writes utter nonsense.
Look for pages like these on college websites:
Here are some helpful resources for the college bound student with ADHD:
http://www.edgefoundation.org/schools/adhd-friendly-colleges/ (coaching and support system to mainstream your student in college not geared toward adhd/add/ld success)
http://add.about.com/od/schoolissues/a/Tips-for-College_2.htm (Tips for ADHD college students)
http://www.amazon.com/Survival-Guide-College-Students-ADHD/dp/1591473896/ref=pd_sim_b1 (ADHD survival guide for college)
http://add.about.com/od/childrenandteens/f/ADHD-College.htm (ADHD college guide)
And here is information about scholarships: