Angela, an 18-Year-Old College Student Suffering from ADHD
Angela was a precocious child. She began talking somewhere between nine and ten months. She picked up language quickly and by five years old, she was carrying on conversations with a vocabulary that belied her years.
Early on, she also demonstrated little patience. If she could not perform a specific task, she would throw things, screaming and kicking. She had difficulty fitting in with her peers in elementary school. She would often walk up to two classmates playing or discussing something and interrupt, not reading the “cues” of the conversation. If the classmates ignored her or would not engage, she would burst into a tantrum in the classroom.
The tantrums and other issues developed to a point where her teachers and the school administrators called in her parents and suggested she see a doctor. Angela was diagnosed with ADHD and put on medication. The doctor also advised that she see a therapist weekly to learn how to cope with her emotions and control her behavior more readily.
Angela had one passion: the piano and her music. She started taking piano lessons at six and impressed her teacher with her rapid progression and eventually her ability to play tunes that she had heard without sheet music. Definitely, she had a musical gift. Her music seemed to compensate for her lack of social skills and the lack of deep friendships with her classmates. When she played the piano, she was in her own little world and it soothed her.
Despite her proficiency on the piano, Angela still had the same problems at school. Actually, they even got worse. Social engagement had become a big, big problem. By the time she got into high school, she was considered a “loner.”
During her freshmen year in high school, her parents were so frustrated they scheduled an appointment with a psychiatrist who specialized in ADHD and similar disorders. After speaking with Angela and running some tests, she concluded that Angela did not suffer from ADHD, but rather Non-Verbal Learning Disorder, a condition that shared many symptoms with ADHD, but affected a person’s ability to read non-verbal cues, over-compensating in verbal areas. The condition made socializing very difficult. She was also very lax in accomplishing any tasks outside of the piano and her music. She could not organize and in many cases “forgot” to do her homework.
During her senior year, Angela was accepted into a college that had a prestigious conservatory program in music. Both she and her parents were delighted when they received the acceptance letter. Yet, her parents had trepidation about her ability to prosper in a live-away college environment. After discussing their concerns with the psychiatrist, she recommended they investigate the Connections program at The Shoreline Therapy Center.
Her parents had a preliminary meeting with the administration at The Shoreline Therapy Center followed by a session where Angela spoke with a staff therapist whom the administrative staff thought would connect well with her. After Angela’s initial discussion with the therapist, the Connections team met to discuss her case. They were surprised that she was such a gifted pianist as most people afflicted with Non-Verbal Learning Disorder have difficulty with skills that require coordination. After consulting with her psychiatrist and again with her parents, the Connections team developed a plan.
The Connections team began working with Angela the June before her first college semester. Her program included one individual session with a therapist per week, a personal training session focusing on yoga and meditation, and three coaching sessions per week focusing on social skills and executive functioning abilities. Additionally, her parents met alone with a family therapist every other week and along with Angela on the other weeks.
|Personal Training Session
|Coaching Session: Self Discovery
|Coaching Session: Activity
During her coaching sessions, Angela was trained how to properly conduct herself in social situations. At first, she and her coach would play improvisation games and then it would progress to the point where she would be put into actual situations with others near her age as her coach observed. They also spent time understanding and working on the skills she would need as she transitioned to college life — dealing with a roommate, keeping a schedule, assuring that she was doing the required reading and turning in papers in time.
The program continued throughout her first semester at college. She would meet virtually with her therapist and coaches during the week as well as practicing yoga with her personal trainer once per week. Whenever she found herself in a new social situation with fellow music majors, in the dining hall, with her roommate, she would relate the situation to her therapist and coaches and her coaches would conduct “improv” sessions with her simulating the same situation.
Angela returned home for holiday break with a 3.3 Grade Point Average and feeling much more confident about her ability to cope in social situations. She continued her Connections program with her therapist and coaches during the one month break, but then upon consultation among her, her Connections team and her parents, it was decided to ratchet back the program once she returned to school to one individual therapist session every week, one coaching session per week and one personal training/yoga session per week.