ADHD Teens: School Issues, Career Choices

Information to help ADHD teens with school issues and/or preparing for work after graduating high school.

Information to help ADHD teens with school issues and/or preparing for work after graduating high school.

ADHD and learning

Teenagers with ADHD are more likely to have specific learning difficulties than their peers.

They are also likely to have problems with written expression, including poor handwriting and an inability to get their thoughts on to paper in a logical way.

Getting help in school for your ADHD child

Someone with ADHD may warrant extra help for tests or exams.

This can be anything from doing the exam in a quiet room away from the rest of his peers, through to extra time to do the exam.

Ask your teen's teacher to set up a meeting with you, your teen and the SENCO, so you can find out what help is available.

Revision help

Listed below are some ideas that can help your teen revise for exams at any level.

Working on revision notes

  • Assignment sheets, daily schedules and 'to do' lists help organise revision.
  • Label, highlight, underline, and add colour to important parts of tasks and notes.
  • Writing notes out again can help commit them to memory - as can reviewing and listening to them by reading the notes aloud and recording them on tape.
  • Word association, images or drawing diagrams or pictures can help to memorise concepts.
    Use mnemonics as often as possible. For example, if a list of items needs memorising, use the first letter of each item and string the letters together.
  • Break up the material into smaller sections, and give each section a title.
  • Turn facts into bullet lists: remember first there are seven ways to improve revision and three to practise exams, then move on to the detail of remembering each item.

Exam practice

  • When taking notes in class, make a note of the questions your teacher asks - they may be the kind of questions that appear in the test.
  • Make use of past papers - going through old questions is often the basis of class preparation for SATs, GCSE and AS/A-level exams. Try as many different practice tests as possible.
  • For essay-based exams, go through revision notes and see if you can answer previous essay questions. Write a short mini-plan that outlines the main points you would write about.

Exam tip

It's good to get used to drawing up mini-plans for essay questions. In the exam itself marks can be given for the plan if there isn't time to finish the essay.

On the day of the exam

  • Get a good night's sleep before the exam, and eat a healthy breakfast that morning.
  • Read the test instructions - it sounds simple, but answering the wrong number of questions or too many/few from one section can be the undoing of years of work.
  • Circle or underline words that will help you to follow the directions precisely, such as summarise, explain or compare.
  • Don't be panicked into starting prematurely by those who pick up their pens and begin to scribble away frantically.
  • Allow 10 minutes to read the paper, 10 minutes to read through answers at the end, and split the rest of the time between the questions.
  • Go through the test and answer the questions you know first. Put a mark next to the questions you don't answer.
  • Once you've answered the ones you know, go back to the ones you haven't - the marks mean you won't miss any.
  • For essay-based exams, start with the question you like most.
  • If you're stuck on a question, leave it and move on. You can go back when you've finished the ones you can answer - this way you won't waste any time or marks.

Further education Further education (FE): post-16 education that is below degree level, eg NVQs, BTEC, Access courses, AS-levels and A-levels.

If your ADHD teenager has a statement of special educational needs, this should be reviewed every year.

Your LEA will write to you when your teen is 14 (Year 9) to draw up a transition plan. The transition plan should set out what steps will be taken to meet your teen's needs after the age of 16. This could be:

  • staying at school
  • going to a sixth form or FE college
  • starting an apprenticeship or other training course
  • going straight into employment

The plan should be drawn up with the involvement of all the local services involved in your teen's care, including a personal adviser (PA) from the government-run Connexion Services.

The transition plan is updated at the annual reviews in Years 10 and 11.

Choosing a course

Your teenager is more likely to do well if he chooses a course in a subject he enjoys.

Local schools and colleges will have course information and open days that can help answer the following questions.

  • How is the course structured? Will it be assessed by coursework and end-of-year exams - or both?
  • How is the course taught? Is it through lectures, classroom discussions or practical workshops?
  • How much onus is on the student? Is work expected to be done to tight deadlines without chasing?
  • Where will the course lead? Will it help entry to a certain career or degree course? If your teenager doesn't know what he wants to do in the long term, the best thing is to choose a course that keeps his options open.

Statements after 16

Statements continue to be legal documents if your ADHD teen stays at school to study. This means extra support for learning difficulties should carry on per usual.

If your teenager chooses to go to college, he is still entitled to support, but the statement no longer gives him a legal right to it.

Colleges do receive money to pay for additional support for students with learning disabilities. Your teen will need to discuss what arrangements are available with the college's disability or learning support co-ordinator.

The college should draw up a learning agreement that sets out:

  • what they expect from your teen
  • what they are going to do to help

ADHD and an unstructured environment

At college, your teen is likely to attend fewer classes and spend more time studying on his own. If he has organisation problems, he may fall behind.

Encourage him to use tools such as schedules and 'to do' lists to help him organise his studies and meet assignment deadlines.

Getting help for college students with ADHD

Most colleges give each student a personal tutor - someone they can ask for help if they get stuck. The tutor can help if your teenager:

  • has a problem with studies
  • needs extra time to complete an assignment
  • needs accommodations in exams, eg arranging for answers to be typed to overcome handwriting difficulties.

Careers and jobs for people with ADHD

Your teenager should think about the following when looking at future careers.

  • His interests and skills: what would he do without being paid? Is there a career that uses those skills?
  • His qualifications: does he need to get more qualifications for a job he'd enjoy?
  • His particular pattern with ADHD. If he's disorganised or a slow reader he'll hate a career that involves a lot of paper-pushing. If he has a high level of activity and gets restless easily, he'll be better off in a job where he moves about a lot and can burn off the energy.
  • Careers offices at schools and colleges have different questionnaires that can help your teen match his interests and likes to certain careers.

Disclosure of ADHD on application forms

If the application form asks about your ADHD teenager's medical history, the best thing is to be honest and say he has ADHD.

Employers are not allowed to discriminate against your teen because of his condition. It also gives him the chance to put a positive spin on it by saying how he's managing the condition.

Interview tips

  • Research the company before the interview.
  • Prepare questions in advance - what does he want to know about the job and the company?
  • Prepare answers for common questions such as: 'Tell me about yourself. What are your best/worst traits? Why do you want this job?'
  • Dress the part: find out the company's dress code. If in doubt, smart is always best.
  • Be on time.
  • Tell the truth - a common interview technique is to ask the same question again in a different way. This can trip people up if they haven't answered truthfully the first time or can't remember what's been said.



APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, December 30). ADHD Teens: School Issues, Career Choices, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 20 from

Last Updated: May 7, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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