Skip to main content.

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)
  • hyperactivity and impulsiveness

Some symptoms of ADHD:

  • Carelessness and lack of attention to detail
  • 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.

  • Students with ADHD generally perform better if given a syllabus with clear explanations of tasks and specific due-dates. 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.