Supporting vs. Enabling

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June 26, 2019

As is often the case over summer, I was recently contacted by a parent of a young adult diagnosed with ADHD who had just finished his first year of college.

Despite doing relatively well in high-school (with extensive supports and accommodation), the young man failed most of the classes he took his freshman year of college, and was placed on academic probation.

The parents were at a loss for how to help their son not only when he returns to school in the fall, but over the summer while he is living “under their roof” as well.

We discussed the executive functions and the differences between accommodating and enabling. I emphasized that those with weak executive skills will need more support for a longer period of time than their age-mates and that when he returns to college, he will need supports similar to those he benefited from in high-school including academic coaching.

Most colleges offer some sort of coaching services, and I strongly encourage all of my patients with ADHD diagnoses to secure coaching services as soon as they step on campus.

But, the struggle is real, and the line between “accommodating” and “enabling” can be a fine one. Maybe this talk I gave on that very subject will help them sort out the differences as they move forward.