Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

ADHD is a persistent pattern of inattention or hyperactivity/impulsivity manifested in academic, employment, or social situations. There are three distinct subtypes of ADHD.

The inattentive subtype primarily involves difficulty consistently directing and sustaining one's attention.

The hyperactive subtype primarily involves severe restlessness or difficulty remaining still, and in some cases difficulty controlling one's impulses.
The combined subtype describes people who demonstrate a significant portion of both inattentive and hyperactive symptoms.

ADHD arises during childhood and is not attributed to gross neurological, sensory, language or motor impairment, mental retardation, or severe emotional disturbance. It is marked in school settings by careless mistakes and disorganized work. Students often have difficulty concentrating on and completing tasks, frequently shifting from one uncompleted activity to another. In social situations, inattention may be apparent by frequent shifts in conversation, poor listening comprehension, and not following the details or rules of games and other activities. Symptoms of hyperactivity may take the form of restlessness and difficulty with quiet activities. Students with ADHD often have significant problems with time-management, task-completion, organization, and memory.

Some considerations

  • ADHD is not a form of mental retardation or emotional disorder.
  • ADHD is not a disorder that a student "grows out of." Diagnostic criteria for ADHD in adults include current, persistent attention difficulties.
  • Errors in the written work of students with ADHD may appear to be "careless," but are often the result of the disability.
  • Common accommodations for students with ADHD are note-taking assistance, taped lectures, a quiet test environment, extended time on tests, priority registration, early syllabus, and study skills/strategies training.

Instructional Strategies

The following strategies are suggested to enhance the accessibility of course instruction, materials, and activities. They are general strategies designed to support individualized reasonable accommodations.

  • Include a disability access statement on the syllabus, inviting students with disabilities to request accommodations.
  • Students with ADHD generally perform better if given a syllabus with clear explanations of tasks and specific due-dates.
  • As the semester progresses, verbal reminders in class of impending deadlines (e.g. "Remember, the problem sets are due Friday") are very helpful to students with ADHD.
  • Assist the student with finding an effective note-taker, if the student is eligible for this service.
  • Allow the student to tape-record lectures.
  • Whenever possible, start each lecture with a summary of material to be covered or provide a written outline. Broad margins and triple-spacing on handouts enables students to take notes directly onto the outline, an aid to organization. Provide a review of the major points at the conclusion of each lecture.
  • Avoid making assignments in oral form only, since students with ADHD may miss them. In addition to oral announcements, write assignments on the board or pass them out in written form.
  • Students with ADHD may tend to "drift" mentally during class, especially during long lectures. They are better able to stay focused when the class format is varied, as when lecture alternates with presentation and class discussion.
  • For large projects or long papers, students with ADHD benefit from assistance with breaking the task down into its component parts and setting deadlines for each part.
  • Since they are often distractible, students with ADHD benefit from preferential seating near the front of the class or away from possible sources of distraction like windows, doors, or noisy heaters.
  • When in doubt about how to assist the student, ask him or her.
  • Allow the student the same anonymity as other students (i.e., avoid pointing out the student or the alternative arrangements to the rest of the class).

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