Study seeks to improve support of college students with ADHD

Under the $3.2 million study, 240 students at VCU and UNCG will receive weekly group intervention and mentoring services.

Share this story

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and Virginia Commonwealth University have received a nearly $3.2 million federal grant to study how colleges and universities can better support students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The four-year study, "Improving the Educational and Social-Emotional Functioning of College Students with ADHD," will provide services – such as group sessions and mentoring services – to a randomized sample of 120 students at VCU and 120 students at UNCG.

"More and more students diagnosed with ADHD are attending college, which is great," said co-principal investigator Joshua Langberg, Ph.D., an associate professor in VCU's Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences. "But unfortunately many college students with ADHD struggle academically and dropout rates are quite high."

Colleges and universities across the country are seeking to assist students with ADHD, yet little research has been done to show whether or not the support services are working.

"The unfortunate thing is that there has not been a single large randomized trial of any intervention for college students with ADHD – which really means that we have no idea what works," Langberg said. "And every college and university is pretty much doing a different thing."

The study – led by Arthur Anastopoulos, Ph.D., professor and director of the ADHD Clinic in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at UNCG, and Langberg – will be the first large randomized trial of any nonmedication intervention for college students with ADHD.

As part of the study, college students with ADHD will learn to implement effective organization, time-management, and planning skills – the areas in which college students with ADHD tend to struggle the most.

"In the studies Dr. Anastopoulos and his team completed leading up to this grant, they found that you can't just teach students these skills," Langberg said. "Many students with ADHD have tried to use similar skills in the past and have experienced repeated failure so they have low self-efficacy about their ability to succeed academically and negative thoughts about themselves and their academic potential."

"That's what the group intervention is about, addressing negative cognitions so that students begin to feel that they can be successful in college," he added. "Otherwise we find that they don't implement the skills because they don't believe they are going to work."

The researchers will begin recruiting student participants at VCU and UNCG over the summer so they can begin receiving interventions in the fall.

The grant was awarded by the Institute of Education Sciences in the U.S. Department of Education.