Teaching Students with ADHD
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is characterized by a persistent pattern of frequent and severe inattention, hyperactivity, and/or impulsiveness. ADHD must be diagnosed by a psychiatrist, psychologist, neurologist or physician, and medication is often prescribed. People with ADHD may experience limitations in academic settings that are similar to those experienced by students with learning disabilities. Limitations especially characteristic of ADHD might be serious problems with time management, task completion, organization, attention, restlessness, memory and distractibility. Examples of limitations similar to learning disabilities may include: slow and inefficient reading, slow essay writing, frequent errors in math calculation and the mechanics of writing, and inconsistent concentration.
For suggestions on working effectively with students who have ADHD, please also review our section on learning disabilities. Students with ADHD generally perform better if given a syllabus with clear explanations of tasks and specific due dates. As the quarter progresses, remind students of impending deadlines: ex. "Remember, the problem sets are due on Friday."
Whenever possible, start each lecture with a summary of material to be covered, or provide a written outline. If you use broad margins and triple space, students will be able to take notes directly onto the outline; this acts as an aid to organization. At the conclusion of each lecture, review major points. Some students with ADHD may be approved by Accessibility Services to audio record lectures to help them overcome problems with concentration and distractions. Note-takers are also often approved by Accessibility Services.
Students with ADHD may tend to "drift" mentally during class, especially during long lectures. They are better able to stay tuned-in when the class material is stimulating and the format varied. For example, lecture alternating with presentations and class discussion. If the class goes on for several hours, be sure to permit several breaks. Students with ADHD are often distractible, so you should invite them to sit near the front of the class, away from possible sources of distraction (for example, doors, windows, and noisy heaters).
In addition to giving instructions and assignments orally, always write instructions and assignments on the board, or pass them out in written form. For large projects or long papers, help the student break down the task into its component parts. Set deadlines for each part. Students with ADHD typically need to take exams in an environment where distractions are as minimal as possible. Noises such as another student tapping a pencil, or an office phone ringing may prove to be too distracting to allow a student with ADHD to accurately demonstrate his or her knowledge of the course material. A student may opt to use Accessibility Services' Accessible Testing services.