Disability Services for Students

302 Memorial Union Univeristy of Rhode Island Kingston, RI 02881


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Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder

(Includes definition, how disability affects participation, and helpful strategies.)

From a student with ADHD, Spring 1997:

“The most helpful thing that a teacher did for me was to take the time to explain things more, help me understand things better, improve ways of thinking…Not only with class material but with life.”


The essential feature of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsiveness that is more frequent and severe than is typically observed in individuals at a comparable level of development.

Some symptoms that cause impairment must have been present before age 7 years, although many individuals are diagnosed after symptoms have been present a number of years” (DSM-IV, p. 78).

The symptoms must cause interference with social, academic or occupational functioning.

The symptoms must be present in at least two settings.

The symptoms cannot be accounted for by another learning or emotional disorder.

The diagnosis may be:

ADHD-predominantly inattentive type, ADHD-predominantly hyperactive type, or ADHD-combined. It is important to note that symptoms of ADHD tend to worsen when an individual is in group situations or in a situation that calls for sustained attention.

How ADHD may affect student participation:

Intellectual range is generally average to superior.

Students may think differently and/or more creatively than peers. However, they often experience:

Difficulty paying attention to details which may lead to careless mistakes or work that is sub-par for neatness,

Difficulty listening, Difficulty responding to and organizing tasks,

Difficulty accepting tasks that involve sustained attention and self-application,

 Difficulty staying focused and/staying seated for a long period of time (hyperactivity).

Distraction caused by otherwise irrelevant stimuli (i.e., side conversation).

 Helpful strategies for instructing students:

“Signs of [ADHD] may be minimal or absent when the person is under very strict control, is in a novel setting, is engaged in especially interesting activities, is in a one-to-one situation, or while the person experiences frequent rewards for appropriate behavior” (DSM-IV, p. 79).

Exercise patience and empathy.

Gain students’ attention when highlighting significant points by using eye contact, voice inflection, and body gesturing.

Help students to follow lectures with three steps: >preview>lecture>review

Use a multi-sensory approach when providing information to students.

 Increased learning can occur when material is presented simultaneously in a variety of ways, e.g., visual images with auditory descriptions.

Identify, in private and with sensitivity, inappropriate behaviors, if necessary.

 Create novel, interesting settings for learning whenever possible;

 experiential learning techniques are often effective.

Offer one-to-one learning whenever possible.

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