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Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorders (AD/HD)

The photo shows a  person writing with a pen, surrounded by crumpled paper from previous attempts.

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorders are among the most common neurological disorders that can affect children, adolescents, and adults. AD/HD is a medical term that is not synonymous with Learning Disabilities. Students with AD/HD may or may not have specific accompanying Learning Disabilities. Although these students have symptoms of both inattention and hyperactivity- impulsivity, there are some students in whom one or the other is predominant.

Functional Limitations

  • Difficulty with time management
  • Inadequate organizational skills, procrastination
  • Low self-esteem
  • Difficulty keeping current with assignments
  • Problems in personal relationships and mood stability that affect academic performance
  • Distractibility and difficulty focusing
  • Impulse control
  • Auditory processing problems
  • Problems with reading comprehension and memory
  • Inadequate note-taking or writing skills
  • Lack of perseverance
  • Sleep problems
  • Behaviors: Inattention

  • Fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork or other related activities, resulting in work that is often messy and performed carelessly and without considered thought
  • Has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks
  • Does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
  • Does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties due to inattention and not due to a failure to understand instructions
  • Has difficulty organizing tasks and activities
  • Avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort; e.g., homework or paperwork
  • Loses things necessary for tasks or activities e.g., school assignments notes, books, or tools
  • Is easily distracted by extraneous stimuli that are usually and easily ignored by others; e.g., a car honking, a background conversation
  • Fidgets or is always “on the go”
  • Has difficulty regulating attention
  • Blurts out answers before questions have been completed
  • Forgetful in daily activities; e.g., missing appointments
  • Behaviors: Hyperactivity

  • Fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat or is often “on the go”
  • Has difficulty engaging in group activities
  • Often talks excessively
  • Behaviors: Impulsivity

  • Blurts out answers before questions have been completed
  • Has difficulty waiting their turn
  • Interrupts or walks in on others
  • The photo shows a student taking notes for another student.


  • A note-taker or audio recorder
  • Calculator (with or without voice synthesizer)
  • Small classes (when available)
  • Clear and concise directions (if possible in written form)
  • Extended time to complete reading and writing assignments
  • Least distractive environment for testing
  • Extended time on exams
  • Alternative exam format
  • Teaching Strategies

  • Recognize the issue of compliance versus comprehension, and be able to distinguish between these two types of behavior
  • Supplement oral instructions with visual reinforcement, such that the student can frequently check that they are following instructions (e.g., write the assignment on the board, photocopy printed instructions, use an overhead, or have matched instructions on tape)
  • Modify tests if necessary (e.g., provide extra time, or divide the test into two parts to be completed at different times during the day)
  • Modify assignments, if necessary (e.g., assign fewer questions in math, use contracts for longer assignments)
  • Consider where the student with AD/HD is seated. A quiet seat in close proximity to the instructor may help the student to stay on task
  • Work with the student to develop social interaction skills (e.g., interpreting non-verbal communication cues)
  • Prepare the student for transitions or unusual events by explaining the situation and describing appropriate behavior in advance
  • Address essential academic and behavioral expectations in the class syllabus
  • Outline class presentations and provide written list of key terms and points
  • Repeat and summarize segments of each presentation and review it in its entirety
  • Paraphrase abstract concepts in specific terms and illustrate them with examples
  • Provide concrete examples, personal experiences, hands-on models, and helpful visual materials as charts and graphs
  • Make required book lists available prior to the first day of class to allow students to begin their reading early and/or to obtain text in an alternate format
  • Keep all instructions concise and reinforce them with brief cue words
  • Repeat or re-word complicated directions
  • Use color codes or supplementary symbols to help students overcome perceptual problems
  • Orient students to the class laboratory and equipment.
  • Label equipment, tools, and material
  • Use cue cards or labels designating each step of a procedure
  • Allow students to use computers with speech output, spellcheck, and/or grammar check
  • Our Sources and Additional Resources:

  • National Center for Learning Disabilities:
  • Center for Universal Design in Instruction:
  • Applying Universal Design for Instruction to online and blended course:
  • Access to post-secondary education through universal design learning (Colorado State University):
  • Awareness of Chronic Health Conditions (New Brunswick DOE):