Working with Students with Attention Deficit Disorder

  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD) is an invisible disability, but its impact on a student’s academic life is no less debilitating than a hearing, vision or mobility disability. Students who struggle with ADHD usually go through periods of self-doubt and frustration. Instructors who challenge the validity of a student’s diagnosis make the situation worse. Therefore, if you have questions about the validity of a student’s disability, please talk to the Office of Accessibility and Accommodations in the Center for Writing, Learning, and Teaching about a student’s qualifying documentation. Voicing disbelief (especially in the presence of other students) is demoralizing to the student and does nothing to support his or her academic success.
  • Students with ADHD may, at times, hyperfocus. Performance can vary significantly from day to day. A student who does well one day and poorly the next may feel demoralized, frustrated and depressed. Your steady encouragement helps.
  • Present all directions in writing. Changes should be in written as well as oral form.
  • Provide the seating option for the student to sit in the front of the class, at the end of the row, away from windows and open doors or hallways.
  • Allow the student to leave the classroom for short periods or to intermittently stand up in the back of the classroom.
  • Many students with ADHD have a serious problem with time. They may underestimate how long tasks take to complete and they plan poorly. They also may confuse days and times and miss appointments and deadlines. All students are accountable for their actions, but realize that such behavior is a symptom of the disability rather than immaturity or rudeness.
  • Social skills are often a problem for students who have ADHD. Do what you can to help a student integrate successfully into groups.
  • Additional exam time may be needed and/or an isolated place to reduce external stimuli. Qualifying students may pick up the official forms verifying the need for and logistics of this accommodation from Disabilities Services. It is up to the student to give an instructor at least 24 hours prior notice for any exam accommodations.