The essential feature of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity that is more frequent and severe than is typically observed in individuals at a comparable level of development. Diagnosis occurs only after a series of tests have ruled out other disorders of a neurological or psychological nature which might explain the individual's behavior.
Students who are diagnosed with ADHD frequently exhibit many characteristics that make learning difficult. Those who have attention problems are easily distracted by extraneous stimuli, such as buzzing fluorescent lights in the classroom; have difficulty sustaining attention during lectures or conversation; have difficulty persisting in sedentary activities like studying; are frequently disorganized; often lose things; and have difficulty completing tasks. Those who are hyperactive, in addition to having attention problems, may have persistent body movements, have difficulty remaining seated, have difficulty pursuing quiet activities, may blurt out answers to questions before the questions have been completed, and may persist in speaking when doing so is inappropriate. Frequently, the effects of the characteristics of ADHD impact not only students' academic performance, but also their personal life.
Some students with ADHD take medication that helps them to focus more effectively, increasing their attention span while decreasing distractibility and impulsiveness.
As with any other type of disability, there is considerable variability among students diagnosed as having ADHD. The following is a list of suggestions that may be helpful when teaching these students, but keep in mind that they will not be helpful to all students with ADHD due to the uniqueness of each individual's experience. More guidelines are also listed in the "General Procedures" section.
- Students with ADHD perform better if given a syllabus with clearly delineated expectations and due dates.
- Break long assignments into smaller parts and provide feedback between parts. Frequent opportunities for feedback are another way to provide students with needed structure.
- Students with ADHD frequently have difficulty paying attention to a class lecture for an extended period of time. If a class meets for more than two hours a break will be essential.
- Remind students to check their work, especially if it appears rushed or sloppy