Advice for Low-Income student with ADHD

Hi, this is my first post here, so I am sorry if the formatting is weird.
I am currently a high school sophomore and my ADHD has made this year a living hell.
Last year I got a 3.93 gpa (all a’s with one b) with my second semester getting straight a’s. I was hopeful I would see the same success with my sophomore year. However, first quarter of my sophomore year I got 4 B’s and only 3 A’s. I am over halfway done with second quarter with 2 D’s, 1 C and 1 B. This is caused by my ADHD and irregular sleep patterns (sleeping for 12-13 hours due to lack of energy). I am absolutely terrified my ADHD will get in the way of my dreams of getting into a good college. My family cannot afford medication or therapy. I’ve tried a bunch of methods. Has anyone here experienced or is currently going through something similar? What’s your advice? What methods have worked best for you? Thank you :]

You have had ADHD all along, so it is unclear why your grades suddenly dropped. Is the course work harder? Is COVID a factor? Have you had a physical with your thyroid checked? Your fatigue is concerning. Is that sleep pattern new?

If you are in a public school, the school can do an evaluation. If you have a doctor’s diagnosis, you can also have a 504 plan if you don’t qualify for an IEP after testing. Have you been formally diagnosed? (There is no test for ADHD, and a questionnaire is used.) You should get tested to make sure something else isn’t contributing.

You deserve and have a legal right to accommodations like extra time on projects and tests. You should have incompletes for grades that you are getting that don’t reflect your abilities, but without a doctor or other professional involved, you will not be accommodated.

Does your family have health insurance? They can visit a local hospital or health center, or wherever financial counseling is offered in your community, and get help obtaining insurance. Medications should be covered, and a psychiatrist, and even primary care could all be helpful. Many hospitals have ADHD clinics. Neuropsychologists do tend to cost, so let the school do it.

Your lack of energy cannot be explained by ADHD. You may have a medical problem, or you may be depressed.

You cannot solve this yourself. Talk to a trusted person if your parents are not able to help. Someone at the school could get your testing going. Even a school nurse or guidance counselor might work

Exercise can help- just walking or tai chi, that kind of thing. Interestingly, chewing gum helps people focus. But you need a full diagnosis of your fatigue and focus issues, and you need support and accommodations as well as possible meds and therapy. Insurance is crucial for this. If your family is low income, they may be able to get Medicaid and care is free.


You are clearly a good student. There will be many colleges who will jump at the chance to admit you. There is simply no denying that a kid with four B’s and three A’s can succeed at almost any college.

Please don’t go through the rest of high school assuming that you will never be happy unless you can get into Harvard or wherever. A hardworking student with grades such as you have will absolutely do great at whatever college you attend.

Don’t set unrealistic expectations for yourself. Make time to enjoy your high school years. Those two things will make you feel calmer, helping you to sleep better, and will also be beneficial to managing ADHD. Stress makes your issues worse, so find a way to cut the stress.

Keep doing a good job with your schoolwork, create a balanced college list based on your grades, and the rest will fall into place. Post in the college search and selection forum if you need suggestions for colleges.


Read this post:
DS22 Journey B/C Student on Long and Winding Path - College Search & Selection - College Confidential Forums

I think you may have missed this: "second quarter with 2 D’s, 1 C and 1 B. " As well as sleeping 12-13 hours due to fatigue.

This is not the typical situation of a kid with Harvard dreams getting anxious over some B’s.

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A D in a quarter is concerning, but not the end of the world given all the other good grades. One bad quarter will not determine the course of this student’s life. The student has time to improve the grades.

I agree totally that the student needs professional help. I was making a suggestion based on the statement that the family can’t afford any professional help.

With health insurance, help should be accessible, and if not, then the school can help. The school should be involved anyway. The drop in grades, which is sudden, and the fatigue combine to cause concern. I agree on bad quarter is not necessarily a problem but I see no sign that without some kind of help, the fatigue will end. Unless it is a short term issue like mono.

To the OP: have you been checked for mono? If you have mono or a thyroid issue or any other medical condition, the school should be notified and give you some accommodations like incompletes or even withdrawals that would get those grades off the transcript.


Have you been officially diagnosed? I agree with going through the school, neuropsychological evaluations tend to not take insurance and there are waitlists (covid has made it very difficult to get mental health appointments). My son has been taking medication for over 10 years (he actually wasn’t evaluated by anyone but his pediatrician in elementary school but he was textbook add and it helped immediately). His high school guidance counselor helped him with his executive function issues,


Your issues don’t sound like they’re caused by ADHD. I have a seventh grader who was diagnosed with ADHD-PIP (formerly known as ADD) at the beginning of third grade. She has never been on medication and has never had a sudden drop in grades or needed to sleep for 12-13 hours because she lacked engery. Those symptoms, as someone else pointed out, sound like depression.

  1. I do have an IEP for an unrelated physical disability (visual impairment). I get extended time on everything. However, nothing about incompletes for bad grades, I will mention this to the ESE director
  2. No formal diagnoses for ADHD. Mom & School Therapist says that’s what my issue is, although my sessions for school therapy are ending bc my school limits amount of appointments. I will ask the therapist to do an evaluation at school because so far there is no documentation of adhd.
  3. I’ve definitely considered depression to be the issue but the school therapist said it wasn’t that
  4. I did a recent physical for swim team, i’m all fine but i’m not sure if it checked for thyroid
  5. I think I have some form of insurance, not sure what it covers.

You will not get incompletes for bad grades because of poor vision.

Oh ok. I will look into getting a school evaluation for ADHD and maybe depression. Thanks for your help.

Since ADD is a medical diagnosis, it is unlikely that school personnel, even the educational psychologist, can do this. Typically you would have your pediatrician provide rating scales for parents and teachers to complete (and probably you as well given your age), and then the doctor would diagnose based upon the results. You would then provide the school with the diagnosis and it would be added to your record. The diagnosis could open up a variety of additional accommodations and/or modifications to you depending upon the educational impact. Executive functioning issues and depression are often co-morbid, but it really does sound like something that you should have checked out professionally.

Get your thyroid checked along with other medical possibilities.

ADHD cannot be tested. You and your parents can fill out a questionnaire provided by an MD, primary care or psychiatrist.

Our local public schools do a neuropsych. evaluation which can be done to identify or eliminate other issues that might be affecting you, some of which may resemble ADHD (slow processing, executive function issues etc.)

Glad you have some help at school. Find out what your insurance coverage is because you may have access to therapy and psychiatry without co-pays.

It may be that your school therapist doesn’t think it is depression but I would seek another opinion if you think that is possible.

You might benefit from antidepressants or stimulants. If you see a psychiatrist or clinic that really has expertise in ADHD they can work with you to evaluate the many options for meds.


I’m so sorry you are struggling with your academics OP.

I’m also concerned with your fatigue. Did you have COVID or another viral illness (mono etc) in the past year or so? Long COVID and other post viral syndromes are hard to diagnose and treat. I haven’t heard you voice concerns about swim team. How is that going?

Was school online for you freshman year? Are you struggling with the rigors of in person school? Is your course load a typical sophomore course load?

I have more questions than answers, I know but I hope that by asking them I might provide a tiny bit of guidance in your figuring out what might be holding you back.