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Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that can affect the regulation of attention, activity levels, and/or impulses. It is usually first diagnosed in childhood and often lasts into adulthood.

Common Characteristics

Adapted from: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/facts.html  

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder in which individuals have trouble paying attention, controlling their impulses, and/or are overly active. It is usually first diagnosed in childhood and often lasts into adulthood. There are three different types of ADHD, each with its own set of characteristics. The predominantly inattentive type describes an individual who is easily distracted and often forgetful and disorganized. The predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type describes an individual who has difficulties sitting still for extended periods of time and controlling their impulses. The combined presentation includes symptoms of both the inattentive and the hyperactive-impulsive types.

Common Concerns and Struggles

Sustaining Attention

Students with AD/HD may struggle with sustaining attention for prolonged periods of time. This can affect their ability to focus during lectures and exams, or during self-directed study time. Students who struggle to sustain attention and take notes in lectures may benefit from using adaptive technology, such as a Smart Pen, or a note taker in class. Students who struggle to sustain attention during exams may benefit from extra time, breaks, and/or a distraction-reduced workspace during exams.

 

Difficulty with Memory

Some students with ADHD have difficulty with short-term or working memory.  Students with ADHD may find that they have difficulties with the volume of information presented in post-secondary classes. Students experiencing memory difficulties could benefit from visiting a learning strategist to determine new memorization techniques that can help to improve their memory consolidation, or seeking tutoring or academic support in specific subjects.

 

Executive Functioning

Students with ADHD often struggle with executive functioning, which includes skills such as time management, organization, and task initiation.  With the increased need for independent learning and time management skills in post-secondary, students may struggle to manage their learning and assignments in various classes. Procrastination may become an issue, as the departure from the structured classroom experienced in high school generally creates more free time for post-secondary students and requires additional motivation, self-regulation, and attention to complete tasks independently.  Individuals with ADHD may benefit from attending transition programs, workshops or visiting a learning strategist to learn explicit skills to assist with executive functioning.

Accessibility Services

All students with disabilities that impact upon their ability to access the post-secondary curriculum should register with Accessibility Services in order to arrange academic accommodations for their courses.  Accommodations are meant to be matched to specific functional limitations of a student’s disability to provide students with an equal opportunity to participate in the coursework. Possible accommodations for students with ADHD in post-secondary will vary considerably based on the individual.

Accommodations

Accommodations for students with ADHD may include:

  • A Learning Strategist or Academic Coach can help students learn how to manage their time and workload, and develop better learning and studying skills.
  • A note-taker or audio recording of lectures can reduce the demand on a student’s attention and memory, allowing them to have to refer back to notes or audio recording if they have missed an important detail during a lecture
  • A reduced course load can include fewer classes per semester and can allow for more time for each course’s workload.
  • Extra time or breaks while writing exams can allow students with attention challenges enough time to complete the full assignment or exam.
  • An alternate exam location such as a quiet room or in a smaller group can allow students with attention challenges to experience fewer distractions during exams
  • Adaptive technology such as text-to-speech and speech-to-text software assist students in their focus and attention, and mind mapping software to aid in organizing one’s ideas

Documentation Requirements

The following information outlines common documentation requirements.  Visit our Colleges or Universities section and contact your post-secondary school’s Accessibility Office to learn what documentation is required at your school. Requirements can vary widely from school to school, and it is important to learn what specific documentation is required, especially before arranging or paying for an assessment or expecting reimbursement.

  • Documentation required for students with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder will vary considerably from school to school, however most post-secondary institutions require a comprehensive psycho-educational assessment conducted by a psychologist, or a medical form from a qualified medical professional.
  • Staff at your school’s Accessibility Services office should be able to assist with a referral to a psychologist if a psycho-educational assessment is needed.  They may also be able to discuss possible financial aid for paying for such an assessment.
  • For post-secondary institutions that require a medical form or letter, they will likely have a specialised form or template available on their website for a qualified medical professional to complete.

Student Support Services

There are a variety of student support services to meet the many needs of post-secondary students, in addition to those provided by Accessibility Services (see above).  Some of the services that may be particularly appropriate for students with AD/HD are listed below.

Orientation & Transition Programs

Orientation programs provide opportunities for students to familiarize themselves with campus and student services, and meet staff and other students before classes begin. Transition programs help students prepare for the differences between high school and post-secondary school, anticipate and address potential problems, and provide an avenue for students to connect with school support.

Academic Support and Peer Tutoring

Peer tutoring and academic support services can provide support for students in completing assignments or essays, reviewing and studying for tests and exams, as well as general support with coursework.

Academic Advising

Academic advisors can assist students in choosing courses and planning their academic paths. For students who are taking or considering a reduced course load, this is particularly useful.

Community Support Services

National and Provincial Organizations

 

Local Chapters & Community Organizations

Community resources for individuals with ADHD can sometimes be found in chapters of the Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario. To locate information about specific branches, please visit the Learning Disabilities page on our website.