ADHD Coaching for Students

Jodi Sleeper-Triplett

Research has demonstrated that ADHD coaching, a non-medication treatment for youth with ADHD, can improve outcomes for students. This article is an adapted excerpt from Chapter 2, “Empowering Youth with ADHD: Your Guide to Coaching Adolescents and Young Adults for Coaches, Parents and Professionals,” by Jodi Sleeper-Triplett, MCC, SCAC, BCC. (All rights reserved.) The coaching model referenced in this article was used in the two-year Edge Foundation college coaching research study, conducted by researchers at Wayne State University.

Much to the surprise of many families, the parent’s role in the coaching process is actually quite small. After the initial prescreening and intake sessions, you will be stepping back, giving your student or young adult space to engage directly in coaching. At first, this new role may be difficult to understand or accept, but as you learn more about the coaching process and how it works for young people, it becomes clearer why things work best this way.

If you are the one who contacts the coach to engage services for a student, you will likely participate in a prescreening process with the coach. The prescreening process is used to assess whether the parent truly desires coaching for the student, because the parent is likely to be the one paying for the services, and whether the parent is willing and able to step back and allow coaching to take place between the student and the coach without the parent being present.

In the case of adolescents, it is valuable for you to be present at the intake session. At the intake, the coach will invite you to express any concerns regarding your child while your child is present. The coach will also ask you to listen to your student’s perspective and to ultimately allow coaching goals to be created in line with what your student desires rather than with what you desire. The coach will explain that coaching will occur directly between the student and the coach and that you, the parent, will not be participating in coaching sessions once the intake is complete and regular coaching begins.

If you find this last piece of news surprising or difficult to hear, you are not alone—many parents struggle with this information. After years of doing so much for one’s child, you are being asked to let go, to do less, and even to become less involved in the details of your child’s life. This may seem scary, strange, or even sad. Rest assured that it is perfectly normal, reasonable, and understandable to feel uncomfortable as you consider this new role. You have been directly engaged in your children’s lives for years and care about their well-being! This shift may become a little easier if you focus on the fact that giving your student additional space as he or she gets older will ultimately help your student grow and mature into his or her best and most capable self.

Given the potential difficulty of giving your child some space, you may find yourself needing some support while shifting from a mode of “doing for” (enabling) to a mode of “supporting in doing” (empowering). Thus, during both the prescreening process and the initial intake session, parents should let the coach know if they are struggling. You can express concerns and feel free to ask the coach to help you understand the value and necessity of giving your student space to take the lead role in accomplishing his or her goals.

The coach is likely to explain, among other things, that this approach allows the young person the important opportunity to practice engaging in the work of life him or herself, to develop skills, and to increase self-confidence. If needed, and if the young person is in agreement, the coach might also be able to schedule occasional check-in meetings with you and your child present and/or may refer parents to a therapist or their own coach to help you work through the process of letting go.

Each coaching partnership is unique and designed between the coach and the client/student.  The goal is to create a relationship that is guided by the student to foster independence, self-confidence and self-advocacy.  I encourage you to give coaching a chance for at least three months and get a sense of how the process works. 

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