Something that seems to be a very taboo subject is ADHD in adults, particularly in the legal community. People think that it isnít real, or that law students get an unfair advantage because, as a result of ADA, students may receive extra time on exams. This post is not for either of these opinions. Instead, Iíd like to talk to students who have ADHD and are trying to (or have learned to) get by in spite of the condition.
A little bit of background on me: First, I am a 1L who was recently diagnosed with ADHD. I had never thought prior to law school that I might have an attention disability. Then, I found a friend at school with ADHD who was having many of the same issues I was. I had never previously thought about ADHD in adults, especially those who were able to adapt socially. (Before this point, I had the mistaken impression that ADHD was simply something that rambunctious, obnoxious male children who could not be controlled on the playground had.) As I started to look at the symptoms of ADHD, it was obvious that I had been dealing with these systems most of my life. Until law school, I just thought that test anxiety was keeping me from doing well on timed tests despite knowing the information thoroughly. I thought that I was just a pre-determined slob, despite making concerted efforts to keep my room and workspace clean and organized (and always failing). I thought that I was simply easily bored or creatively motivated when all of my notebooks in middle and high school were filled with more doodles than notes. I had symptom after symptom, but because I always had managed to do well (with the notable exception of all standardized exams), I had never thought to examine these issue further. To make a long story short, I underwent expensive and extensive testing with two doctors and was diagnosed with severe ADHD.
Now, I am looking for ways to work with my ADHD to find better ways to study and succeed in law school rather than letting it stop me. Iíve worked with doctors for the past four months to try to find a medication regimen that would help. While I saw a slight improvement on one stimulant, not much has helped thus far. I am hoping that this is just a difficult period, and my doctors and I will be able to find a prescription that works well for me and has side effects that I can deal with. I have very caring professors, and many of them have formed additional tutoring groups for students who did not perform well on their fall exams. I canít help but notice that majority of the people in these groups have been diagnosed with ADHD since they were very young. (BTW, for those who feel those with ADHD who are able to take medication and receive accommodation perform significantly better than their classmates, this doesnít seem to be the case here.) I have tried to speak with these students about how they have modified their studying habits to work with this obstacle, but as most of them have had ADHD for such a long period of time, they do not know the difference in how they study from how another might.
I have worked with my professors on better organizing my writing, especially in timed scenarios. It seems that poor ability to organize my arguments is where I lost most of the points on my fall exams, not from not understanding the law. I also am working with my schoolís disability coordinator to try to receive a private room (less distractions from the typing of others) for my exams. There is also the possibility I may receive a little bit of extra time for reviewing my work or to take stretch breaks with (so that I may better be able to focus) and a notetaker to help supplement any gaps I have in my notes. These are the standard accommodations my school makes for students with learning disabilities, but there is question over if my medical testing will be processed in enough time to receive any accommodation this semester.
While I think it is excellent that medication and accommodations may decrease the effect of ADHD on my studies, I do not want to rely on these things to cure the problems Iíll face in law school, taking the bar, or in practice. I want to try some other behavioral modifications I can implement that may allow me to compensate for my attention deficiencies. While there are some articles written by attorneys with ADHD, I have not been able to find any good books by attorneys with it, or really any good books on focusing on graduate school (or adult life) with an attention disorder. Everything out there seems so focused on how parents can handle a child with ADHD. As most of you realize, we are not doing the same things we did when we were children, so books written for children are not going to necessarily apply to our adult lives.
So for those with ADD, ADHD, or those who have close friends or spouses with either, what has helped you? I understand that some law schools bring ADHD coaches in for their students. While this seems nice that the school is trying to embrace its diagnosed students, how helpful are things like this? Have you tried mediation, yoga, or other forms of eastern practices to help your concentration? What has worked or not worked for you? Any recommendations are appreciated.
(Note: if you just want to post that ADHD isnít real, that I should just not try to deal with these things now because I wonít be able to hack it in practice, or that students should not be allowed to take prescribed medication or receive testing accommodation--- post elsewhere. Such comments are not constructive.)