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Teaching Students with AD/HD

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) is characterized by a persistent pattern of frequent and severe inattention, hyperactivity, and/or impulsiveness.

People with AD/HD have many problems in academic settings. Some of these problems are similar to the problems of people with learning disabilities: slow and inefficient reading, slow essay-writing, and frequent errors in math calculation and the mechanics of writing. Although they share these characteristics and are sometimes comorbid disorders, it should be noted that AD/HD is NOT a learning disability. Other problems are especially characteristic of AD/HD; students with AD/HD often have serious problems with time-management, task-completion, organization, and memory.

For suggestions on working effectively with students who have AD/HD, please review our section on learning disabilities , as well as the following.

  • Students with AD/HD generally perform better if given a syllabus with clear explanations of tasks and specific due-dates. As the semester progresses, keep reminding students of impending deadlines: "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: an aid to organization. At the conclusion of each lecture, review major points.
  • Students with AD/HD 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 AD/HD 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).
  • Avoid making assignments orally, since AD/HD students may miss them. Always write assignments on the chalkboard, or (even better) pass them out in written form.
  • Provide test-sites that are relatively distraction-free; and when students are taking tests with extended test-time, do not ask them to move from one test-site to another.
  • For large projects or long papers, help the student break down the task into its component parts. Set deadlines for each part; for example, there might be deadlines for the proposal of an essay topic, for a research plan, for the completion of research, for pre-writing to find the essay's thesis, for a writing-plan or outline, for a first-draft, and for a final edited manuscript.

This section adapted from University of California, Berkeley Disabled Students’ Program