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Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

While ADHD is a separate condition, students with ADHD use some of the same accommodations and instructional strategies as those students with learning disabilities. ADHD is a persistent pattern of inattention or hyperactivity/impulsivity manifested in academic, employment, or social situations. ADHD arises during childhood and is attributed neither to gross neurological, sensory, language, or motor impairment nor to mental retardation or severe emotional disturbance.

  • Inattentive type, where the person can’t seem to get focused or stay focused on a task or activity; 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.
  • Hyperactive type- often is very active, and may manifest itself in the form of inner restlessness, inability to relax, unhappy/discontent when inactive
  • Impulsive type -often acts without thinking; may take the form of interrupting, impatient, snap decisions, recklessness, switching tasks rapidly, feeling “down” when bored or “up” when excited/stimulated
  • Combined type, where the person is inattentive, impulsive, and/or hyperactive

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 actually are 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 for Faculty

The following strategies are suggested to enhance the accessibility of courses instruction, materials, and activities. They are general strategies designed to support individualized reasonable 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.
  • Make every effort to make students feel comfortable if they disclose their disabilities to you. As with any student with a disability, don't press students to explain their disabilities if they do not wish to do so.
  • When in doubt about how to assist the student, ask him or her in a one-on-one conversation or e-mail at an appropriate time (not in the middle of a lecture slide etc.).
  • 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).