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How to Teach: ADHD

The symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can be categorized into 2 types of behavioral problems: 

  • inattentiveness (difficulty concentrating and focusing both in class and when doing homework) 
  • hyperactivity and impulsiveness (student has unplanned reactions to environmental stimuli) 

Other symptoms of ADHD: 

  • Carelessness and lack of attention to detail 
  • Inability to maintain a regular schedule 
  • Procrastination until urgency helps to focus attention 
  • Continually starting new tasks before finishing old ones 
  • Poor organizational skills 
  • Inability to focus or prioritize 
  • Continually losing or misplacing things 
  • Forgetfulness 
  • Restlessness and edginess 
  • Difficulty keeping quiet, and speaking out of turn 
  • Blurting out responses and often interrupting others 
  • Mood swings, irritability, and a quick temper 
  • Inability to deal with stress 
  • Extreme impatience 
  • Taking risks in activities, often with little or no regard for personal safety or the safety of others – for example, driving dangerously 

Tips for professors

Review section on learning disabilities, as well as the following.

  • Have clear due dates on syllabus for all assignments and projects. Do not post some due dates on different platforms, some on class emails, some on MyCourses, some on the course syllabus. This is okay but still have list of all due dates on a Master Due Date List for students with challenged executive functioning skills. 
  • As the semester progresses, keep reminding students of impending deadlines: "Remember, the problem sets are due on Friday." 
  • Whenever possible, start each lecture with a summary of material to be covered, or provide a written outline. If you use broad margins and triple-space, students will be able to take notes directly onto the outline: an aid to organization. At the conclusion of each lecture, review major points. 
  • Students with ADHD may tend to "drift" mentally during class, especially during long lectures. They are better able to stay tuned-in when the class material is stimulating and the format varied (for example, lecture alternating with presentations and class discussion). If the class goes on for several hours, be sure to permit several breaks. 
  • For large projects or long papers, help the student break down the task into its component parts. Set deadlines for each part; for example, there might be deadlines for the proposal of an essay topic, for a research plan, for the completion of research, for pre-writing to find the essay's thesis, for a writing-plan or outline, for a first-draft, and for a final edited manuscript. 
  • For longer class sessions and when covering difficult material consider giving the class a short break to refresh their senses 
  • Consider recording your lectures with Echo360 or Zoom so students can revisit material they may have missed the first time.  (contact Instructional Technology and Instructional Development for assistance) 
  • Use Zoom to create a transcript of your lecture so students can revisit material (contact Instructional Technology and Instructional Development for assistance) 
  • Update students on any changes to course organization on the syllabus 
  • When giving verbal instructions be clear and concise. Repeat your instructions and if possible have a written version the students can refer to. 
  • Awareness of your office hours so students can seek 1:1 clarification and support on class material  


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