Study Finds Coaching Improves Executive Functioning for College Students with ADHD
A recent study finds that coaching helps college students with ADHD improve their ability to learn and succeed in college. The research conducted at Wayne State University in Michigan is the largest and most comprehensive study of ADHD coaching conducted to-date. Research findings for the pilot study and the field-test were presented at the annual international Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) conference on November 12, 2010. Results from the pilot study are slated to be published in the Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability in late 2010 or early 2011.
The transition to college can be a very challenging one for a student with ADHD. Time is less structured. There are many more distractions, greater responsibilities and expectations, increased academic demands, and generally less support systems in place. Lead investigator, Sharon Field, Ed.D., explains further:
"Expectations of students in college are very different than they are for students in high school. For example, in high school grades are often based on multiple, short-term assignments. However, in college, students are typically assessed on two or three large assignments for the entire semester. College students are expected to complete their work with high levels of initiative and independence. Plus, in college there is usually a wide array resources and activities available to students. This also means there are more potential distractions. Making the transition from high school to college is difficult for most students, but it can be especially challenging for students with ADHD."
Dr. Field also notes that students with ADHD often have difficulty with executive functioning skills like organization, time management and focusing on specific tasks. In addition, students with ADHD do not receive any support services or accommodations in college unless they self-identify and register with the Disabled Student Services (DSS) office on campus. The support available to students to accommodate for their ADHD may be very different from what they had available to them in high school.
ADHD coaching is a specialized type of life coaching that addresses the common challenges ADHD can often bring, particularly in the areas related to scheduling, goal setting, confidence building, organizing, focusing, prioritizing, and persisting at tasks. In addition, ADHD coaching can help in the development of effective self-advocacy skills. This study specifically examined the model of coaching developed by JST Coaching and used by the Edge Foundation to help college students with ADHD improve their ability to organize, set and achieve goals, and self-regulate.
Benefits of ADHD Coaching for College Students
"The most exciting finding from the study was that ADHD coaching made a significant difference in students' executive functioning skills, particularly self-regulation," says Dr. Field. "We administered the Learning and Study Strategies Inventory (LASSI) to a group of students who received coaching and to another group of students who did not participate in coaching. The students who participated in Edge coaching services scored significantly higher than students who did not participate in coaching on assessments of self-regulation, will and study skills. On average, students who participated in Edge coaching nearly doubled their scores on the self-regulation assessment."
Study investigators also interviewed students who participated in coaching. Interview results confirmed what researchers found in the pre-post assessment with the LASSI. "Students who participated in coaching told us that coaching helped them learn how to better manage their time, especially how to break down large assignments into smaller, manageable steps. They also reported that coaching helped them decrease the amount of stress they experienced and helped them feel more supported," says Dr. Field.
In summary, students who received coaching showed substantial gains in their overall approach to learning – including improvements in their ability to organize, direct and manage cognitive activities, emotional responses and overt behaviors. They were able to formulate goals more realistically and consistently work toward achieving them, manage their time more effectively, and stick with tasks even when they found them challenging. In addition, students reported that coaching helped them to feel less stress, greater empowerment, increased confidence, and have more balanced lives.
Getting More Information Out About ADHD Coaching
One of the limitations Dr. Field and her research team found is that many students aren't familiar with coaching and the possible benefits it can have. "There is a need to provide more information to students with ADHD, and those responsible for supports and accommodations on college campuses, about coaching and how it is different from many of the other services that are more typically available to students," explains Dr. Field. This is especially true in light of the findings that ADHD coaching can be a highly effective intervention to help students improve executive functioning and related skills and improve overall success in college and beyond.
To read the complete report go to:
Quantifying the Effectiveness of Coaching for College Students with ADHD
Sharon Field, Ed.D., David Parker, Ph.D., Shlomo Sawilowsky, Ph.D., Laura Rolands, MA. “Quantifying the Effectiveness of Coaching for College Students with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder”. College of Education, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI. August 31, 2010.
Sharon Field, Ed. D., Interview/Email Correspondence. November 22 and 24, 2010.