Working with Students with ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common childhood disorders and can continue through adolescence and into adulthood. Symptoms include difficulty paying attention and staying focused, hyperactivity, and difficulty controlling behavior. It is estimated that 11% of children, 8.7% of adolescents, and 4.4% of adults have ADHD.

The principle characteristics of ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. There are three subtypes of ADHD recognized by professionals. These subtypes include the hyperactive/impulsive type (that does not show significant inattention); the inattentive type (that does not show significant hyperactive-impulsive behavior); and the combined type (that displays both inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive symptoms).

Individuals with ADHD may demonstrate difficulties in academic settings. Some of these difficulties are similar to those of people with learning disabilities: slow and inefficient reading, frequent errors in math calculation and the mechanics of writing, and slow essay-writing. Students with ADHD may also have difficulties with time-management, task-completion, memory, and organization.

Tips for Working with Students with ADHD

  • Provide a syllabus with clear expectations and specific due-dates. As the semester progresses, keep reminding students of impending deadlines.
  • Whenever possible, begin each lecture with a summary of material to be covered, or provide a written outline. At the conclusion of each lecture, review major points.
  • Students with ADHD may “drift” mentally during class, especially during long lectures. Therefore, it is important to provide stimulating class material and varied format. For example, a lecture alternating between presentations and class discussion. Permit breaks if the class goes on for several hours.
  • Students with ADHD are often distractible, so you may want to invite them to sit near the front of the class, away from possible sources of distraction.
  • Avoid explaining assignments orally, since students with ADHD may miss them. Always write assignments down for students.
  • For large projects or long papers, help students break down the task into its component parts and set deadlines for each part. For example, there might be a deadline for the proposal of a report topic, for a research plan, for the completion of research, for an outline or writing plan, for a first draft, and for a final report.
  • Accommodations may include permission to record lectures, alternative formats (i.e., audio books), assistance with writing class notes (i.e., peer note-taker or other note-taking service), extended time on tests and assignments, and testing in a distraction-reduced setting.


Information was adapted from the following resources: