Attention Deficit (Hyperactivity) Disorder


Attention Deficit (Hyperactivity) Disorder is a neurological condition that affects both learning and behaviour. ADHD is the result of a chronic disturbance in the areas of the brain that regulate attention, impulse control, and the executive functions which control cognitive tasks, motor activity, and social interactions. Hyperactivity may or may not be present. The diagnosis of ADD is always a medical one, and must rule out causation from other mental disorders. The most effective management of ADD oftenincludes a combination of drug therapy (e.g., Ritalin) and cognitive behavioural therapy (selfinstruction, relaxation). Students with ADD are helped immensely by a structured, supportive environment.


  • Primary
    • attention deficits (distractibility; inconsistency in focus)
    • impulsively
    • over activity
  • Secondary
    • low frustration tolerance
    • sleep problems; personality disorders
    • disorganisation in time and place
    • poor self esteem; moodiness and depression
  • Academically Related Conditions
    • specific learning problems
    • poor time management skills
    • difficulty in being prepared for class and keeping appointments, getting to class on time
    • reading comprehension difficulties
    • difficulty with math problems requiring changes in action, operation, and order
    • inability to listen selectively during lectures, resulting in problems with note taking
    • Iack of organization in work, especially written work and essay questions
    • Iimited elaboration skills, both speaking and writing
    • problems learning foreign languages
  • Problem Solving Skills
    • ability to "hyperfocus" for intense periods of time
    • ability to tolerate chaos and rapidly rearrange ideas and environments
    • excellent skills for developing multiple approaches to task


Student accommodations based on individual needs may include, but are not limited to:

  • Lecture Classes
    • provide access to another student's notes to verify the accuracy and completeness of their own notes
    • allow seating close to the speaker
    • allow use of laptop computer for note taking and/or use of a tape recorder
    • allow use of multimodal lecture style students with ADD love novelty'
  • Written Papers
    • encourage regular meetings with the professor to clarify assignments and evaluate rough drafts
    • allow extra time to complete writing assignments
    • grant permission to work with a tutor or editor to organize papers
  • Examinations
    • grant permission to test in an environment with minimal distractions
    • permit earplugs or white noise machines
    • provide extended time to complete examinations
    • consider altering the test format to accommodate the student's learning style or permit demonstration of mastery of course content through different modalities (e.g., videotape an answer instead of writing it essay style)
    • avoid complex sentence structures in test questions
    • avoid Scantron answer sheets for multiple choice tests
    • allow the student to clarify or rephrase exam questions as a comprehension check before answering
  • Other Course and University Adaptations
    • make the syllabus available 4 to 6 weeks before class, be willing to discuss course objectives with potential students
    • suggest that students enroll in courses that are shorter (50 minutes vs. 100 minutes) and smaller in size
    • carefully monitor group work to ensure full participation of the ADD student

1.Hallowell, E.M., and Ratey, J.J. (1994). Driven to Distraction: Recognizing and Coping with ADD from Childhood through Adulthood. New York: Rantheon Books.
2. Quinn, P.O. (1994). ADD and the College Student. New York: Magination Press.