Information for staff on Attention Deficit (Hyperactivity) Disorder
- Attention skills
- Organisational skills and memory
- Regarding re-framing, people with ADHD often have
- In one-to-one meetings
- Suggestions for Students
- There is information for adults with ADHD at:
Between 3% and 5% of children may have Attention Deficit. Numbers in adults and HE have not been accurately surveyed in the UK, but such students are beginning to apply to universities just as dyslexic people did 15 years ago.
At DMU, Student Services offers support for students with ADHD in the Disability Unit and Student Learning Advisory Service. However, it is important that all staff are aware of the nature of ADHD and of learning and teaching approaches which can be helpful. It is recognised as a disability, and hence our response to it is covered by the Disability Discrimination Act Part IV (also known as SENDA).
ADHD has three key indicators: inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsivity. Examples of behaviours under these headings are:
- Becoming rapidly bored with a task
- Lack of planning and organisation
- Easily distracted
- Shifting from one incomplete activity to another
- Losing property or forgetting equipment
- Restless and fidgety
- Frequent talking
- Doing several things at once
- Attracted by highly stimulating activities
- Interrupting others
- Difficulty awaiting turn in a group
- Inappropriate comments
ADHD is not the result of diet, drug abuse, life-style or bad parenting. A student with ADHD will have exhibited these behaviours over many years, and they will probably have harmed his/her social relationships and educational achievement. S/he may well be depressed and anxious, and drawn to alcohol or substance abuse as a way of dulling the problems.
ADHD is part of what might be called ‘neurodiversity’. Its indicators can overlap with dyslexia in respect of lack of concentration and difficulties with personal organisation. On the other hand, there are said to be some potential advantages of this kind of brain:
- Ability to see the ‘big picture’
- Being creative and inventive
- Ability to focus intensely for a time
- High levels of energy
- Risk-taking can lead to discoveries
- Being intuitive
Support for students with ADHD should combine educational, psychological and sometimes medical strategies. Medication such as methylphenidate (Ritalin) and dexamphetamine (Dexedrine) can help. Cognitive behavioural counselling is also useful, as is the approach known as ‘life coaching’. A key issue is persuading the student to accept that help is needed.
Approaches to a student with ADHD might include:
• Make sure you have the student’s attention before giving an instruction
• Use frequent eye contact
• Identify times and places where the student is more focused
• Emphasise critical pieces of information
• Give frequent reminders about how much time is left
• Consider seating arrangements
• Integrate stretch breaks or relaxation exercises
Organisational skills and memory
• Focus on tangible, short-term steps rather than long-term plans
• Agree on a concrete starting point
• Provide structure and routine
• Facilitate sound recording of lectures and other meetings
• Offer copies of OHTs
• Suggest an hourly alarm on phone or watch to keep track of time
• Suggest colour-coded ring-binders / notebooks for each subject area
• Suggest daily reminder schedules or ‘To do’ lists but highlight or star the most important tasks
• Adopt the re-framing technique, i.e. acknowledgement of ADHD by the student but also understanding himself as a capable, competent individual
• Give positive ‘strokes’ where possible
• Use assertive and positive communication
• Encourage positive self-talk and internal locus of control
Regarding re-framing, people with ADHD often have:
• Ability to see the ‘big picture’
• Creativity and inventiveness
• A ‘risk-taking’ approach which can produce important discoveries
• Ability to process information and make broader observations
• High levels of energy
• Good negotiation skills
• Ability to hyper-focus
In one-to-one meetings
• Set ground rules, such as agreement on the type of feedback the student wants
• Negotiate contracts
• Ask succinct questions to help the student stop and reflect
• Encourage problem-solving skills
• Provide encouragement
• Monitor via phone calls or e mail.
Suggestions for Students
The student should be encouraged to take ownership of dealing with aspects of ADHD which bring him into conflict with others. These suggestions for a student are taken from Weinstein C (1994) ‘Cognitive remediation strategies’ J of Psychotherapy Practice and Research 3(1):44-57 :
When necessary, ask the tutor to repeat instructions rather than guessing
Break large assignments into small tasks. Set a deadline for each task and reward yourself as you complete each on
Each day, make a list of what you need to do. Plan the best order for doing each task. Then make a schedule for doing them. Use a calendar or daily planner to keep yourself on track
Work in a quiet area. Do one thing at a time. Give yourself short breaks
Write things you need to remember in a notebook with dividers. Write different kinds of information like assignments and appointments in different sections. Keep the book with you all the time
Post reminder notes to yourself about things you need to do. Stick them to the bathroom mirror, fridge etc.
Store similar things together, e.g. computer disks, different types of paper
Create a routine. Get yourself ready for university at the same time, in the same way, every day
Exercise, eat a balanced diet and get enough sleep.
The hardest item for a student will probably be the fourth, because ADHD people are drawn to high-stimulus activities and attempted multi-tasking. Taking ownership of the issue has to start with acknowledging that it is a problem.
There is information for adults with ADHD at:
There is a leaflet for students available through Student Services/SLAS entitled ‘What is ADHD?’.
The drop-in and group sessions at the Dyslexia Centre are for all students with specific learning differences, and this includes ADHD. Drop-ins can be booked by visiting SLAS reception on the first floor of Gateway House, or ringing 7254.
ADHD is recognised as a disability. The Disability Unit in Student Services can help students by arranging assessment by an Educational Psychologist and enabling them to apply for the Disabled Students’ Allowance. The Disability Discrimination Act Part IV obliges us to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for students with ADHD, as we do for dyslexic students.
For further information, contact David Pollak on ext 7831.
Barkley R (1990) Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A
handbook for diagnosis and treatment. New York, The Guilford
Cooper P and Bilton, K (2002) Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity
Disorder: A Practical Guide for Teachers. London, David Fulton
Derrington C (2004) Learning support for students with ADHD. Presentation at DMU conference, ‘Specific learning differences in HE and FE: dealing with neurodiversity’. Copies available from David Pollak, Student Services:SLAS.
Kewley GD (2001) Attention Deficit Hyperactivity
Disorder. London, David Fulton
Quinn P and McCormick M (ed) (1998) Re-Thinking
AD/HD: A guide to fostering success in students with AD/HD
at the college level. Maryland, Advantage Books