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ADD and Engineering Advice

  1. Jul 29, 2006 #1
    How does one tell if they have ADD or ADHD versus just not good in a subject? I'm currently entering 3rd year in Engineering and many of the classes themselves do not interest me at all. It is very difficult for me to study since I start making careless mistakes if I sit still for too long. As a result, my grades are not as great as I would like them to be(even in non Engineering classes like psychology and math). I have trouble sitting still during tests and often daydream/feel like walking out of the room. The thing is that while I do lackluster in classes, I love the subject and studying these on my own, then going to a professor if I have questions or need further direction. Even in self study I will read some exciting theory or practice and pace around the room to daydream about its possibilities. This has culminated in some projects that impress professors, even though I do subpar in classes on those same subjects.

    My Question: Should I get medicated for ADD and (presumably) gain more focus/better grades for classes at the risk of losing my creativity and excitement for the subject through outside projects? It seems like the only way to get into a top Grad School or get a good Corporate job.

  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 29, 2006 #2
    Well before you go and get medicated I suggest you seek a diagnosis from a professional and go from there.
  4. Jul 30, 2006 #3
    A lot of people don't learn best in classroom settings. It's really a crazy concept compared to more kinetic methods. I have to interact with the teacher the whole time or I zone out. So if you don't already, ask questions during class as often as you can. Most students are thinking the same thing. As long as I do this I do great in classes. It's the ones where I chicken out that I don't get As. Just an idea.
  5. Jul 31, 2006 #4


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    It sounds like you might have ADD, which was my problem all through primary school, high school and university - and probably still is. Taking a test, like the SAT, especially the verbal test, in a quiet room was pure torture. I have always studied with music or some background noise.

    One can be tested for ADD, and the effective medications, e.g. Ritalin, are controlled substances which require prescription. On the other hand, I probably medicated myself with caffeine. I was subsequently tested because my children were tested, and the test confirmed I was mildly ADD, and the psychologist determined that I had probably adapted somehow.

    The other way I dealt with it was doing the homework as quickly as possible, doing additional homework problems, and reading other texts. In fact, in university I found professors were eager to provide more interesting problems to students wanting more of a challenge.

    You might check with the university counseling department perhaps.
  6. Jul 31, 2006 #5
    If you get tested and do have ADD you can actually get special test taking conditions. For example, this one girl in my linear algebra class was allowed to use a calculator during her exams. ...she was allowed to use a calculator...

    I can't imagine how nice that would have been. I am also ADD (I've been tested) and I used to take medication. I "cured" it by exercise and diet however.

    Talk to your disability department at the university, they will set you up with a professional to take a long series of test (somewhat costly) to see where you stand as an individual with ADD. Sorry, I have to jet or I would give you more info.
  7. Jul 31, 2006 #6


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    Yes, by all means get a professional evaluation for learning disabilities. Almost every semester I get memos from the Dean's office that spell out specific accommodations for specific students who are enrolled in my classes. Some need more time on tests, some need to take tests in a separate room from the rest of the class, etc. Those students also presumably get specific advice from their doctors on what they themselves should do to work around their disabilities.

    If you get a clean bill of health, then talk to the university's counseling staff. They can help you figure out what you really want to do.
  8. Jul 31, 2006 #7
    Hi That_0ne_Guy,
    Your problem sounds much like my own when I was in junior high and high school. I loved math and science, but failed all my classes. I could sit and read about math and science for hours outside of class, but once I got into the structured class room setting I couldn't focus. As long as I was learning things on my own terms I was fine.
    I was diagnosed with ADD in 8th grade and went on a number of different medications in the following years, none of which really worked for very long (although the fact that I wasn't yet an adult and was still growing may have been a factor). I do remember that a number of the medications had side-effects I wasn't thrilled with -- I lost a lot of weight on Ritalin and found it almost impossible to sleep a regular schedule. Worse were the bouts of depression.
    My parents eventually took me off meds (because of the side-effects), and my lack of self-control eventually found me dropping out of high school junior year. The next year I got my GED and enlisted in the service. I didn't indicate that I had ADD on my enlistment paper work -- fearing it would bar me from enlistment, which at the time seemed my last hope at making something of my life -- so I had to get through basic training, tech school and active duty without medication. It actually helped me. It gave me the discipline I needed to control my ADD without medication. I realized that normally, any time I didn't want to do something, or felt unable to follow through with a task, I'd use my ADD as an excuse and as a source of comfort -- "It's not my fault, I have ADD". That didn't work for me in the service (excuses are worthless), and telling them I had ADD was NOT an option (I lied to get in, the consequences frightened me). In short, I learned to suck it up. And I learned that I COULD focus and follow through, even when it seemed the hardest thing in the world to do – because I had no choice.

    Anyway, I'm not suggesting you drop out of college and enlist for 4 years, the point I'm trying to make is that, depending on how severe your ADD is, it is possible to control ADD without medication. The military showed me that I COULD control it without medication. It was mentally and physically possible, even if it was very hard.

    College is definitely a challenge for me, even more so than the service. For me, the rigid structure enforced by the military was also a bit of a crutch, it took away the option to slack off or do it "my way" -- I really only had one option. In college I have to impose that structure and discipline upon myself. And that isn’t always easy for me. But one thing is certain, the more I’ve forced myself to deal with my ADD without medicine and outside accommodation, the better I’ve become at controlling it. It’s still a struggle at times, but knowing I HAVE done, and I CAN do it goes a long way.
    I’ve also learned what works for me and what doesn’t through experience. I’ve fine tuned my own study skills to work WITH my ADD.

    I'm not saying it will work for everyone, or even you. I'm just saying that, depending on how severe your ADD/ADHD medication isn't the only way to deal with ADD, and in many cases it isn't even the best way.
    I would definitely agree that you should see a professional and get the testing to see if you do have ADD/ADHD, but keep in mind that medication isn't a magic cure that will solve the problem. For me, the problems of ADD are minor compared to the side-effects I had to deal with while on meds.

    Also, keep in mind that accommodations your college will make to help you succeed (longer test taking time, quiet rooms, etc.) won’t necessarily help you once you transfer to the job market/real world, in some cases they could be a hindrance since they aren’t helping you to deal with the problem on your own.
    Learning to exercise control over your ADD is probably the best thing you can do for yourself. Again, I’m not saying this is always possible, but I strongly suggest you look at medication and your college's ADA resources as an absolute LAST resort. The fact that you've made it through 2 years of college (engineering no less) shows that you do have the ability to control it to some extent (assuming you do have ADD), which is great.

    Of course, this is based on my personal experience living with ADD, as they say: “your mileage may vary.”

    Good luck,
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2006
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