Module: Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) (Full Document)


  1. Definition
  2. Manifestation
  3. Institutional Accommodations
  4. Assistive Technology Accommodations
  5. Teaching Strategies—What Can Faculty Do?
    1. Specific Strategies per Disability
    2. General Strategies
    3. Shaping the Environment
  6. Learning Strategies—What Can Students do?
  7. Resources
  8. Feedback


Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) is a neurologically-based medical condition. According to the DSM-IV-TR (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision), "The essential feature of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that is more frequently displayed and more severe than is typically observed in individuals at a comparable level of development."


  1. Inattention – An inability to concentrate for extended periods of time exhibited by:
    • A lack of close attention to details resulting in careless mistakes in schoolwork, employment and other life activities.
    • Incompletion of tasks or assignments in school, at work and at home (not due to oppositional behavior or failure to understand instructions).
    • Inattentive behavior during lectures or task completion.
    • The appearance of not listening when spoken to directly.
    • Not following instructions and failure to complete tasks such as schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (not due to oppositional behavior).
    • Disorganized habits such as scattering, losing or damaging materials/items.
    • Avoidance or dislike of activities that require a lot of mental effort for extended periods of time (such as school projects and assignments).
    • Losing items needed for tasks and activities.
    • Distractibility.
    • General forgetfulness in daily activities.
  2. Hyperactivity exhibited by:
    • Hand or foot fidgeting.
    • Wriggling around in ones seat and an inability to stay seated for long periods of time.
    • Appearing to be "on the go," as if "driven by a motor."
    • Excessive talking.
  3. Impulsivity exhibited by:
    • Immediate reactions and blurting out answers before questions have been finished.
    • Difficulty meeting deadlines.
    • An appearance of impatience or distress in waiting one’s turn.
    • Interrupting or intruding on others.
    • Low ability to self-discipline.

Institutional Accommodations

  1. Alternative Format: Text books and print materials can be converted to an alternative format
    • Text books and print materials can be converted to an alternative format.
  2. Alternative testing arrangements
    • This may include extra time; a less distracting environment; provision of a reader/scribe; and use of a computer, including adaptive software and hardware.
  3. Note taking support
  4. Priority registration

Teaching Strategies—What Can Faculty do?

Specific Strategies - AD/HD

Frequent Breaks
Allow the student to take small, frequent breaks.
Reinforce Verbal Directions Visually
Present information in multiple ways to support and enhance student comprehension.
Alternative Testing Arrangements
Allow for testing to take place in an alternative location in order to reduce distractions that are common to the typical classroom. The Disability Service Office will assist students in providing alternative arrangements.
Change Modes of Presentation/Class Activity Frequently
Frequently change from one type of teaching modality to another in order to assist in maintaining the student's attention and enhance learning.
Assign Student to Classroom Tasks
When classroom tasks such as handing out or collecting items are required, ask the student if he or she would volunteer to do so; thus, giving him/her the opportunity to move about the room.

General Strategies

Provide Accessible Course Materials
Ensure that all curriculum materials (syllabus, notes, presentations, assignments, etc.) are available in an accessible format that can be used and manipulated by a computer (Word, HTML, RTF, PDF, etc.). To learn how to create accessible materials, see Training Modules and Tutorials on this website.
Plan Ahead
Select textbooks and materials needed for the semester as early as possible.  Students with disabilities will need time to take class materials to the Disability Service Office for conversion to an alternative format.
Provide Structure
Provide a syllabus and class assignments with clearly delineated expectations and due dates.
Provide Guided Notes on the Web
Prior to lectures, provide students with consistent, structured notes that are in an accessible format. Since students with disabilities sometimes have more difficulty than others in processing new information (especially while simultaneously trying to take notes), having notes ahead of time will increase students’ ability to follow along during class and more effectively process course content. If it is not acceptable for all students to have lecture notes ahead of time, make alternative arrangements for students with disabilities such as emailing lecture notes to the student(s) or setting up an office mailbox where the student(s) can receive notes ahead of time.
Provide Multiple Methods of Presentation
Present information and ideas in multiple ways in order to address different learning styles.
Engage students in multiple ways of learning
Incorporate active teaching/learning methods where possible. For example, problem-based learning activities, community projects, in-class activities and discussions, etc.
Encourage Multiple Methods of Expression
Offer more than one way for students to demonstrate what they have learned in class. For example, students can be given a choice between taking a test, writing a paper, giving an oral presentation, producing a video, etc. Additionally, keep in mind that some students may have difficulty working in a group. Alternative ways of completing a group assignment may need to be considered.
Repeat or paraphrase questions and responses so that the whole class can hear.
This is especially important in large classrooms and when a microphone is used during live and taped presentations.
Highlight Key Points
Provide an overview when introducing a new topic, and highlight key points in a variety of ways throughout class lessons and in written materials. Use visual, verbal and interactive cues for added emphasis. This helps students know what to expect and what is most important, thus improving their ability to achieve the learning objectives.
Summarize Key Points
Summarizing key points at the end of each class will increase the student’s ability to process and integrate new information.
Chunk Information
Break large amounts of information or instructions into smaller segments (“chunking”).
Provide Study Aids
Provide study questions, study guides, and opportunities for questions and answers to help students review and clarify essential course content.
Allow the use of digital recorders
Provide students the opportunity to process and review class material at their own pace, both after class and later during the semester. Review of material in this manner is especially helpful in preparation for mid-term and final exams.
Engage with Students who Self Advocate
Team up with students with disabilities (who disclose their accommodation needs) to determine a plan that is effective for all involved.

Shaping the Environment

Seating and Positioning
Encourage the student to sit in the front of the class, away from doors, air conditioning units, windows, or any other possible sources of distraction.
Decrease Classroom Distractions
Eliminate any unnecessary visual and/or auditory distractions from the learning environment.
Enhance Lighting
If possible, turn off fluorescent lights and provide natural lighting.

Learning Strategies—What Can the Student do?

Advocate for self
Connect with the disability service office to learn about available services and supports. Communicate with instructors about personal learning style and any individual accommodations that are being requested. Students should also be encouraged to read the ACCESS Self-Advocacy Handbook for College Students with Disabilities, available on this website.
Get copies of class notes
Compare notes to those of the professor or a classmate to ensure that key information has been recorded.
Take small, frequent breaks
Prior to the beginning of each semester or during the first class session of each semester, request permission from class professors to take small breaks as needed. Provide an explanation for the request.
Bring snacks, a water bottle or small squeezable object to reduce fidgeting and maintain focus.
Record class lectures
Ask professors for permission to record class lectures in order to make sure all pertinent information is gained.
Learn and practice time management behaviors.
Establish and follow a routine.
Write down assignments and use organizers.
Peer support:
Seek the peer support of other students with disabilities. Refer to the Disability Service Office for information about peer support groups. Seek out considerate classmates to study with.

Resources — AD/HD

Educational Psychology Guide to ADHD
From the website: “The project is dedicated to producing and collecting highly relevant materials to the practice of educational psychology.”
Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA)
The focus of this organization is on supporting and educating young adults, adults and families with ADHD.
Children and Adults with ADHD (CHADD)
According to their website, CHADD “is the nation’s leading non-profit organization serving individuals with AD/HD and their families.” CHADD has over 16,000 members in 200 local chapters throughout the U.S., offering support for individuals, parents, teachers, professionals, and others.
Definitions and general information. MedlinePlus is a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine from the National Institutes of Health
National Institute of Mental Health
A detailed booklet that describes ADHD symptoms, causes, and treatments, with information on getting help and coping. (2008).
National Resource Center on ADHD
Advertised as “the nation's clearinghouse for science-based information about all aspects of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD),” the National Resource Center on ADHD is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

General Disability Resources

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
ADA Home Page (U.S. Department of Justice)
ERIC Digest
Overview of ADA, IDEA, and Section 504
Equal Access to Software and Information (EASI)
Workshops, publications, and resources about computer access for people with disabilities
University of Washington - Disability-Related Resources on the Internet
A comprehensive list of Web sites and discussion lists related to disability.
Faculty Room
The Faculty Room is a site for faculty and administrators at postsecondary institutions to learn about how to create classroom environments and activities that maximize the learning of all students, including those with disabilities. This page is specific to faculty rights.
PACER Center – Champions for Children with Disabilities
ADA Q& A: Section 504 & Postsecondary Education
U.S Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights
Three documents by the Office of Civil Rights describing the rights of wounded warriors to a postsecondary education under the new GI Bill:
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS),
Office of Civil Rights (OCR)
Discrimination on the Basis of Disability
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
Titles I and V of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)

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