College Students with ADHD and Other Hidden Disabilities

Outcomes and Interventions



    Corresponding author
    1. Office of Disability Services and Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA
    • Address for correspondence: Lorraine E. Wolf, Ph.D., Clinical Director, Office of Disability Services and Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, Boston University, 19 Deerfield Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA. Voice/TTY: 617-353-3658; fax: 617-353-9646;

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Abstract: Nearly 25 years of special education law have enabled many qualified students with disabilities to graduate from college preparatory high school programs and enter institutes of higher education. The Americans with Disabilities Act enacted by Congress in 1990, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1975, and Section 504 of the Rehabilition Act of 1973 all mandate special education services for students with disabilities. A parallel nationwide rise is being reported in the numbers of students with disabilities on college campuses. The greatest increase is seen in students with so-called hidden disabilities such as learning disabilities, ADHD, and psychiatric disabilities. These students face a number of obstacles once they are admitted to college. Many factors, some intrinsic to the student and others extrinsic to the campus, moderate success in higher education. Overlapping or multiple diagnoses, psychological distress, poor social and interpersonal skills, persisting cognitive deficits (especially in the area of executive functioning), and alcohol abuse are important factors that must be understood as institutions of higher education strive to promote access and provide effective support services on their campuses.