Featured Doc Blog: 12 Things Every Parent Should Do for Their College-Bound Kids (Part 2)

In part one of this blog, Dr. Mark Thomas with our Focus-MD Tuscaloosa office shared some tips that would help college students help manage their academics and daily life on campus. Below, he discusses ways to help them manage their healthcare and resources.

6. Teach them about navigating the health care system

  • Making and remembering appointments
  • Calling the MD office rather than sitting on a problem
  • When is appropriate time to seek medical care
  • Does this problem need to go to the ER?
  • How, when and where to fill prescriptions (Anecdote: In treating college freshmen in a student health center, I have been asked by the student “What do I do with this prescription?” or “What is this?” (after handing them the prescription) or “How am I going to get my medicine now?”

7.  Let them know about how to use health insurance

  • Ensure they have their own copy of their health insurance card
  • Educate them about co-pays and deductibles
  • Let them know about in-network versus out-of-network coverage
  • Explain to them what pharmacy benefits they have and give them a copy of the pharmacy benefits card if there is a separate one
  • If you have a Health Savings Account, give them a copy of the card and teach them when it should be used

8.  Set up strategy to continue their ADHD medication while away.

  • The worst times for a younger person to try managing ADHD without medication is while making a transition to new level! Starting college may be the absolute worst!!!
  • Discuss with the doctor who manages the ADHD medication at home about her or his policies about continuing to prescribe ADHD medications to students attending a school at a significant distance from home.
  • If the provider at home will continue to oversee the prescription of ADHD medications, they will need to see the student at regular intervals, optimally at least once every 3 months.
  • Ask if the provider would be available to discuss problems or questions about treatment via phone, video calling, or through a secure portal that arise will student is away.
  • It would be best to have a follow-up within the first couple of months after leaving for college to ensure the usual regimen at home works well on new schedule.

9. Usually, it is better to help them find a physician near the school to take over their care. Some of the reasons to consider this include the following:

  • If it is not feasible to return home frequently to be seen by their ADHD provider
  • A provider close to college campus is usually more familiar with the needs of college aged patients.
  • Being able to schedule more frequent visit with the prescribing doctor when medication adjustments are needed is easier  with a doctor close to campus
  • In some states controlled substance prescriptions written by out of state providers cannot be filled.
  • Check with the college or university about the availability of on-campus student health services
    • Some schools will have physicians on staff who can provide care for students with ADHD and other chronic conditions
    • Other schools may have a go-to list of medical providers in the community
    • Help them determine which providers are in-network (If there are no local providers in-network, call the insurance carrier to discuss arrangements for care to be provided while away.)

10. Consider engaging an ADHD Coach

  • ADHD coaches take a very practical approach to helping students overcome executive functioning deficits,
  • Coaches may instruct in skills such as organization, time management, wise use of electronic resources, study skills, interpersonal skills, test taking strategies
  • Coach can provide encouragement, support, and accountability without seeming to nag.

11. Register with the disabilities services office on campus to ensure they receiving accommodations – the earlier the better

  • The documentation requirements from each school may differ. Sometimes additional testing will be needed. The usual requirement is for full psychological and educational testing performed within the past three years.
  • Accommodations found helpful by most students with ADHD include
    • Note-taking services (Even if student can take notes successfully, they often miss important opportunity for the auditory learning experience if they concentrate too hard on getting down what the professor is saying.)
    • Extended-time on tests (Even if students do not typically run out of time on examinations, knowing they have extra time availability may prevent them from rushing through exams and making careless errors.)
    • Test taking with reduced distractions (Large lecture halls with numerous other students taking the same test provide numerous potential distractions such as other students coughing, fidgeting, and finishing their tests early.)
    • Priority in registration (It can be very important to plan class schedules that maximize class time when medication is strongest but avoid too many back to back to back classes in which students will struggle to maintain focus even more than usual. Having a choice of professors can be crucial in finding those who teaching style best fits the student’s learning style. )

12. Maintain the right amount of support.

  • Make your expectations clear about how often the student should check in with family. (Remember how Bear Bryant emphasized to his players the importance for them to regularly “call mama.”)
  • Check in often enough to know when he or she is struggling before things spiral out of control
  • Help them find a support network on campus through meeting professors or student services staff members in advance. Encourage them to becoming involved with the organizations on campus that are right for them individually.
  • Not every student is best suited to pledge the same fraternity or sorority as Mom or Dad. Most students with ADHD would do better waiting until after they have adjusted to campus life for a full semester or year before joining a Greek organization that will place huge demands on their schedule.
  • Students need to be reassured of your UNCONDITIONAL LOVE and support, Provide a sympathetic listening ear whenever they call. DO NOT NAG or SHAME students when they are struggling. They do not need to dread calling you or answering the phone when you call. Keeping open and accepting channels of community is crucial to their success!

Hopefully, both students and parents will find these tips helpful as they embark on their college careers.  At Focus-MD, our mission is to support the whole patient and his or her family as they go from frustration to focus.