Melissa Hood: Transitioning from High School to College

Aug 5, 2015 by

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An Interview with Melissa Hood: Transitioning from High School to College

Michael F. Shaughnessy

1) Melissa, you have just published a book on ADHD – what is the title and what is it about?

My book is called: “Memoirs of an ADHD Mind: God was a Genius in the Way He Made Me!”

My book is about how students/parents/educators can learn to help those struggling with the condition to advance into higher level learning.

“Memoirs” teaches the reader about ADD/ADHD and how the condition is triggered. Stress is the # 1 trigger of the condition and students/parents and educators need to know what tools to implement for each student until that situation diminishes. Everyone has stress in this life and for the ADD/ADHD person it’s all in what “coping skills” they put into place that assist them with advancing.

Attention deficit disorder/ hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) can make learning difficult for sufferers who struggle to cope with the affliction. They are usually in constant chaos until coping skills are put into place to create the “systematic information filter” that they need in order to process information. This book will help people with ADD/ADHD by way of teaching educators, parents, and others how to help the sufferers cope with the stress that often times disrupts learning. It will help those with the disorder achieve higher-level learning and success.

You know I never dreamed that a condition that has seemingly cost me much throughout my life would ever turn out to be such a blessing. When I was going through all the job losses and the constant stress it created, I never expected life to turn out like this with God working it for my good.

2) In your experience, has medication been helpful or beneficial?

You know, had the ADD/ADHD condition been diagnosed 20 years ago I probably would not have had to go through all the difficulty I’ve experienced. My doctor (Dr. Theodore Dake) placed me on Adderall when I was 28 and it changed my life. When my brain was able to quit misfiring (which causes the distractions with the ADD/ADHD individual and hinders learning) was I able to advance. I then did so very quickly, I caught up with my peers, and excelled beyond them.
I honestly believe that if parents can catch the condition when the child is young (elementary school) can they teach that child coping skills, which create the needed structure for those struggling so that those students can stay on track and continue moving into higher level education.

I did well when my father was alive (without meds) because my father was in the military. The military is VERY structured in the way they do things, and train their soldiers so although I was an undiagnosed child with ADHD, my dad implemented the only structure he was taught. It was military and so I did ok and made average grades, but excelled more with the meds.

I have now learned how to apply my coping techniques so well (when under stress) that I am a straight A student within my Ed.D. program at Concordia.

3) ADHD is covered under section 504- How good a job are the schools doing in terms of providing for students in terms of accommodations and modifications?

My experience has been that some schools are better than others. I feel that this is because of what educators/parents AND student’s don’t understand about the condition and it’s triggers.

I also feel that the condition is still being researched so that scientist/educators can better understand its pitfalls.

On the university level, I sometimes still have more questions than the average student because ADHD students are such “literal thinkers/learners.” Meaning we say what we mean and we mean what we say and we interpret our worlds just the same. So in our learning if we have instructors who are poor communicators then that can make our learning very difficult.

Ever heard of “Amelia BeDelia?” (the childrens book) Amelia was asked to “Draw the Drapes.”

So, naturally she sat write down with a pen/paper to do just that. She drew a picture of the drapes when in reality her employer just meant for her to pull all the curtains back on the windows.

These are the communication gaps that I am speaking of between educators and students.

So, accommodations are very important but educating instructors/faculty how to help us (students with ADD/ADHD) is even more so.

4) Many individuals with ADHD have enormous amounts of energy, which make them great athletes, artists etc. Do the schools channel this energy?

Honestly sir, I’m not sure if that is the schools responsibility.
In trying to attain my Masters at Texas State University I was conducting my Orals and Writtens to graduate. This very question that you asked came up.

My reply:
“That I believe it was a 50/50 % responsibility.
50% of the responsibility fell on the parents and 50 % the educational institution.

Until the hyperactivity component part of the condition is harnessed within an ADHD child, those children usually benefit from exercise.
In elementary school P.E. classes are implemented as I know these classes were a great help to curtail that hyperactivity in my life when I was young.

In middle school and high school it was a different story because P.E. classes were not mandatory for all students.

My parents, instead, opted to enroll me in dance classes, jazz, tap to help curtail all my energy. So exercise helps with not only hyperactivity, but focus. I recognized the patterns when I would exercise as opposed to the times when I wouldn’t. With no exercise my stress levels were much higher and my focus completely off because of the endorphins released into the brain with exercise.

Those endorphins also assist the brain from misfiring which causes the “stop/start process” and hinders distractions while learning.

5) What kind of support do kids with ADHD need ? And what kind of support do the PARENTS need?

My strongest support (as an ADHD Kid) was really my parents, my family and loving/understanding teachers.
Some of my strongest mentors came from the teaching field and those men/women were “wise sages” who knew how to discern when I was struggling. My parents were my strongest advocates/cheerleaders because both my mom/dad always taught me:

“That there was NOTHING I couldn’t accomplish in this life as long as I had the right attitude.”

So, I was raised not ever knowing/thinking anything was wrong with me, hence, although I struggled in learning while young, I still felt as if I fit in with my peers. THIS was important because it wasn’t until I learned I had the condition that I really felt like an “outcast.”
I think I would have rather not known but then again, when I was diagnosed was I better able to find ways to tackle the condition.

I also really want to make this point:

My family is Christian and I knew early on (before I was ever diagnosed with ADHD), especially during all the job losses ( I lost 40 jobs in 15 years because of the way that I learned).
But I just KNEW there had to be a way to overcome. So, I hit my knees in prayer one night and I demanded that God/Jesus answer my questions about what was wrong with me.

He was faithful because after that night, I was 26 at the time, so my 20’s were super hard because of the chaos of the condition and the job losses. My dad had also died when I was 22 years old so what structure I had (through what he implemented was gone). So, I needed help and I turned to the only other Father who might could help me.
God told me to start praying two scriptures over my mind:
I did and now God has excelled my mind beyond what all the numbers/stats said I would. So Jesus is my strongest support. My parents 2nd, and then my teachers.

Support for parents: Firstly God, for wisdom in how to deal with their child, but secondly my book because of the new tools it offers.

6) Should the schools be doing more in terms of transition? (preparing high school students for college)?

I personally believe that transition for the ADD/ADHD person IS needed and needs to start at the Sophmore, Junior, and Senior year of high school. Being a freshman has got its own trials/testings but since ADD/ADHD students don’t deal with change well (ADD/ADHD students like routine because routine creates structure). So, for less mature minds, or for minds with immature cognitive skills “change” can really throw them off.

In high school, most students are still maturing cognitively so the earlier educators start to prepare them for college the better. Educators and parents at the high school level can start teaching these kids how to create their own structure once they leave mandated attendance environments (structure/coping tool), to learning to create their spaces that are tranquil for learning in their new environments (structure/coping tool), to getting in the habit of putting important class deadlines into their cell calendar, to using colored post it notes on important study materials, to using colored highlighters so that their brains can differeniate the high points of information from the low points. To also teaching those students how to manage a budget. These are all structure/coping tools.

Some students do this better than others, but the earlier the better.
These are ALL tools that help to create the needed structure by implementing coping skills early on so that these students are not thrown into a huge ocean of “change.” Change can just be overwhelming for ADD/ADHD students. Sometimes change is so overwhelming that it becomes traumatic to that student (like death, or divorce, moving to a different city, losing friends, etc.) that that child might actually need counseling in order to get back on track.
But “change/transition” is a BIG DEAL.

7) Often documentation is needed for college offices for students with disabilities – what should high schools be doing in this regard?

I think high schools need to educate parents of students with ADD/ADHD on what to expect. What do most universities expect if those parents want their children accommodated?

It is really very easy in that most universities require a doctor’s written diagnosis of the ADD/ADHD condition along with a letter from the student/parents of which type of accommodations that student might need.

Does the student need more testing time?

Will that student have more questions for their professors? (Most questions can be address through email as well so the students doesn’t take up class room time. My experience has been that faculty has been very prompt in answering all my questions relatively quickly.)

Also/Sidenote: Some faculty have had student’s abuse the privilege of being accommodated. I have experienced some of the back lash from this. I personally made it a point to try to develop a “study partner” in my classes (especially the harder ones) so that I didn’t have to go to those professors as often — unless absolutely necessary.

Students will find that their peers are more than willing to use the “gift of teaching” towards those who need help and building peer relationships also helps with creating relational supports.

So, it’s a “win/win” for both educators/students.

I never want to make any ADD/ADHD student feel as if they can’t self-disclose to educators when they need help because that is what those educators get paid for. I’m just stating balance. Balance is probably one of the hardest things the ADD/ADHD student will learn to implement.

8) Who is basically responsible at the high school level for transition?

At the high school level? I honestly think this falls back onto the counselors, maybe junior/senior counselors getting those students “readied” for college. I think there need to be materials for “at risk” students with disabilities to take home for parents to also better educate parents what to expect.

Think of this like this: It’s like when you go to the doctor. If you had a medical condition that were very serious wouldn’t you want to know straight up how to handle it?

ADD/ADHD is just like that. Educators have studied within the field of education to know how to “ready” our kids. So just like we trust our doctors to guide us through the healing process do educators need to be taught how to guide parents of “at risk” students.

9) What have I neglected to ask?

I think you covered it all sir!

Thank you so much!
Melissa Hood

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2 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Ned

    Yes, yes, it’s all the fault of ADHD! This is truly becoming wearisome.

    • Avatar
      Melissa Hood

      Hi Ned
      Well, why don’t you expound further then on why it’s so wearisome? You kinda made a VERY GENRALIZED statement.

      Best Regards
      Melissa Hood

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