As many adolescents do, I struggled with my ADD in a traditional private school. While I didn't lack intelligence or knowledge, my grades and behavior in school and at home was subpar, at best. On top of this, since I was always in trouble and receiving bad grades, my personal confidence was really low.
"I had no idea how much military school would impact my future."
Luckily, the headmaster at my school, during one of his many meetings with my parents, suggested they consider enrolling me at a military boarding school. After much deliberation, a few tears, and some pleading from my end, I was dropped off at my new school as a brand new cadet. I had no idea how much military school would impact my future.
Background of ADD/ADHD
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) are two very common disorders affecting school-aged children today. Many students face challenges posed by ADD/ADHD, including hyperactivity, decreased attention span, impulsive behavior, and other behavioral issues. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2014, approximately 11% of children ages 4-17 struggle with ADHD, with a much higher prevalence in boys (13.2%) than girls (5.6%). As students with ADD and ADHD struggle in traditional classroom environments, their parents and doctors are faced with an often overwhelming array of treatment options, including medication, counseling, and lifestyle changes.
"Military boarding schools may offer a perfect environment for students with these disorders."
Military boarding schools may offer a perfect environment for students with these disorders. The structure, discipline, and organizational skills offered in a military environment are greatly beneficial in teaching students to succeed in the classroom environment and beyond. Cadets carry the skills, habits, and lessons learned at military school into their adult lives, whether their next step is college or the professional world.
We had the opportunity to speak with faculty from several military schools around the country to learn what they do to help students with ADHD and ADD.
Coed - Oak Ridge, North Carolina
ORMA, located just outside of Greensboro, North Carolina, is committed to the success of their students, many of whom struggle with ADD and ADHD.
Eileen O'Reilly, the Academic Dean of ORMA, states that many of her students are diagnosed with ADD and ADHD. Due to ORMA's small class size and hands-on teaching (or "teaching through doing", as she described it), faculty members are afforded the latitude to cater their classes and teaching methods to students struggling with these disorders. As a result, according to Ms. O'Reilly, "Boys who struggle in school often do better at ORMA."
"Boys who struggle in school often do better at ORMA."
Likewise, Derek Hagen, a Math instructor at ORMA, cites the flexibility of schools like his to provide the best educational experience possible. "Independent schools that do not participate in the Common Core have more curricular freedom that allows teachers to use different teaching styles to facilitate learning." He goes on to add, "At ORMA, we use creativity and innovation within our educational styles to teach and differentiate our 21st century students, including those with ADD/ADHD."
Coed - St. Petersburg, Florida
Admiral Farragut Academy (the alma mater of the first American in space, Alan Shepherd) also takes a proactive approach in helping students succeed with ADHD and ADD.
Angie Kobel, the Director of Center for Academic Success at Admiral Farragut Academy, attributes many tools to the success of ADD/ADHD cadets at her school. First, prior to admitting any student with ADD or ADHD, a review of the prospective student's 504/IEP is administered to ensure AFA can meet the student's learning needs. After admission, for those students who need some additional help, an Academic Coaching Class is offered. This class is part of each school day, providing structured time dedicated to going over assignments and study strategies, along with test preparation and essay review.
Even after classes are over, AFA offers ample opportunities for students, including those with ADD/ADHD, to excel. After lunch every day, all students have a forty-five minute study hall. Every evening from 1900-2030 (7PM until 8:30 PM), students are required to participate in a study hall supervised by the Residence Life department. If there are too many distractions in the barracks, the Student Center offers structured study on a case-by-case basis as well.
Coed - Roswell, New Mexico
New Mexico Military Institute (NMMI) is the only state-supported co-educational college preparatory military boarding school in the United States. This school also accepts students with ADD and ADHD, assuming all admissions requirements are met.
LTC Kalith Smith, the Deputy Director of Cadet Academic Success at NMMI, states each student is expected to perform at the level of the Corps of Cadets as a whole. That said, NMMI provides a lot of academic support for all students. ADD/ADHD students will find the rigorous daily routine of morning tutorials, writing lab, science lab, and math lab very helpful to their academic development. Additionally, NMMI offers a 2.5 hour supervised study hall every night (Sunday through Thursday), along with academic assistance and counseling.
Furthermore, four weekends per semester are designated "Academic Weekends", which is study time reserved prior to the end of each grading period. All students are also afforded seminar courses in time management and study schools. All of these tools ensure every student is set up for success, whether or not they struggle with ADD/ADHD.
All Boys - Salina, Kansas
St. John's Military School, an all-male military boarding school in operation since 1887, have developed and adopted creative solutions to help boys with ADHD succeed in and out of the classroom.
According to Major Robert Forde, St. John's Director of Admissions, "...parents' sons have been underachieving in the public school system, but not because of the lack of ability." Rather, "they are simply struggling in their current classroom environment and it's causing a lack of self-esteem and self-discipline."
St. John's is attacking the distractions exacerbated by ADD and ADHD in various ways. First, St. John's has a much lower student-faculty ratio than most public schools, allowing more extensive, personalized attention to help students grow. Secondly, they offer a much more structured learning environment than other schools.
St. John's curriculum also focuses on engaging and hands-on learning activities, allowing students to learn by doing rather than recitation and rote memorization. St. John's also focuses on giving each student individualized support, frequently not afforded to students at traditional schools.
Please note, quotes and information were provided by St. John's:
All Boys - Harlingen, Texas
Marine Military Academy in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, one of the first schools to establish a Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) unit in the nation, and the only Marine military school, specializes in assisting students with ADD and ADHD.
Mr. Joseph Palamara, school counselor and Assistant Dean, is quick to point out that ADHD is not a crutch at Marine Military Academy. He states that "teachers primary roles (in school) is to help students focus and eliminate distractions." Students are kept busy with small classes, shorter (45 minutes) class periods, structure, and regulated time management. To help those with ADD and ADHD, classwork is broken into segments, and classes move from task to task. This helps ensure no student is overwhelmed by the seemingly large task at hand. This procedural method of learning sets students up for success, helping them develop a successful mindset so they are ready to tackle more challenging tasks.
"Students are kept busy with small classes, shorter (45 minutes) class periods, structure, and regulated time management."
To further assist students, the last period of every day is a tutorial period that is mandatory for all students. Students are encouraged to take classroom notes in their own style and voice. This gives them ownership over their education and demonstrates knowledge and mastery of the subject matter.
Starting my first day of class, my classroom performance, attitude, grades, and behavior all improved. While some of it can be attributed to personal motivation, most of the credit goes to the structure, trained faculty, and discipline afforded to me by military school. Thanks to this opportunity, my self confidence improved exponentially. My grades improved, I participated in many activities, and I even earned awards for all my newfound success.