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Information & Advice

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Information for staff on Attention Deficit (Hyperactivity) Disorder

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:










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:


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:


Attention skills


         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