Eastern Michigan University

Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

ADHD is a neurobiological, genetic disorder, characterized by difficulty sustaining focus and attention, hyperactivity, and /or difficulty controlling behavior. Although ADHD appears in childhood, the disorder is often lifelong. There are three subtypes of ADHD, which include:

  • Predominantly Inattentive Type - students with this subtype may fail to give close attention to details, lose things, be forgetful, be disorganized, be easily distracted, not appear to be listening while spoken to directly, and have difficulty sustaining attention and following through on tasks.
  • Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type - students with this subtype may have difficulty waiting their turn, answer before questions are completely asked, interrupt or intrude, talk excessively, be restless, and have difficulty with self-control.
  • Combined Type - meets the criteria for both of the first two types.
Students with ADHD may also exhibit or experience the following:
  • Creativity, imagination, and high energy. Dr. Ned Hallowell (author of Driven to Distraction, Delivered from Distraction, etc.) describes the ADHD mind as "like having a race car for a brain, a Ferrari engine for a brain. It will propel you to win many races in your lifetime. However, there is one problem. You have bicycle brakes!"
  • Deficits in executive functions such as prioritizing, initiating, organizing, and regulating cognitive activities.
  • Difficulty with following through on ideas and completing projects by the deadline.Become overwhelmed when faced with a large project and may procrastinate.
  • Hyper-focus when engaged in a topic or hobby that is of great interest to them.
Impact of the Environment on the Disability

Students with ADHD will likely perform best in courses that incorporate the following elements, which may also benefit other students:

  • Various forms of instruction - group work, hands-on instruction, and interactive discussion. Students with ADHD often have difficulty staying engaged in lecture-only courses
  • Visual presentations - incorporate pictures, videos, diagrams, etc
  • Syllabi containing structured expectations and clearly defined course requirements
  • Notes provided in advance of class
  • More than one format of assessing students' knowledge of course content - examinations, in-class participation, presentations, homework, papers, projects, etc
  • Classroom and testing environment that minimizes distractions and recognizes that all students process information differently, some requiring more or less time
  • Regularly scheduled office hours - the Disability Resource Center (DRC) encourages students to attend their faculty's regularly scheduled office hours. Students with ADHD may request help with organizing their thoughts into smaller, more manageable steps in order to successfully complete projects and papers. Students with ADHD will likely perform to the best of their ability when given guidance, patience, and understanding.

When the environment and the disability are not compatible, students with ADHD commonly receive any or all of the following accommodations:

  • Note-takers and/or permission to tape record lectures in case details of lecture are missed
  • Periodic classroom breaks to refocus attention
  • Preferential seating to minimize distractions
  • Quiet environment for testing in order to minimize distractions
  • Extended test time for those who require more time to process information
Sources and Additional Information


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