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Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that can affect the regulation of attention, activity level, 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 regulating their activity levels. 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 may struggle with time management and organization. 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 ADHD may struggle to sustain attention for prolonged periods of time. This can affect their ability to focus during lectures, exams, or self-directed study time. Students who struggle to sustain attention and take notes in lectures may benefit from using a note-taking tool, such as a Smartpen. Students who struggle to sustain attention during exams may benefit from stop-time breaks and/or a distraction-reduced workspace.


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, self-directed learning in post-secondary, students may struggle to stay on top of the workload to meet academic expectations. 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, study skill 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 for students with ADHD may include:

  • Learning Strategist or Academic Coach can help students learn how to manage their time and workload, and develop better study skills and work habits.
  • note-taker or audio recording of lectures can reduce the demand on a student’s sustained attention, allowing them to have to refer back to notes or audio recordings if they have missed an important detail during a lecture.
  • reduced course load (i.e., fewer classes per semester) can ensure that students stay on top of academic expectations. 
  • Stop-time breaks while writing exams can allow students to refocus and resume their test without concerns about time.
  • An alternate exam location, such as a quiet room or in a smaller group, can allow students with attention challenges to be less distractible during tests or exams. 
  • Adaptive technology, such as text-to-speech software, may improve a student's ability to focus on reading materials. Use of speech-to-text and mind mapping software may help students express and organize their ideas in writing. 


Documentation Requirements

The following information outlines common documentation requirements. Visit our Colleges or Universities section and contact your post-secondary school’s AS 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 Psychoeducational Assessment conducted by a Psychologist or a medical form from a Physician.
  • Staff at your school’s AS office should be able to assist with a referral to a Psychologist if a Psychoeducational Assessment is needed.  They may also be able to discuss possible financial aid to go towards paying for such an assessment.
  • For post-secondary institutions that require a medical form or letter, they will likely have a specialized 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 the AS office (see above).  Some of the services that may be particularly appropriate for students with ADHD 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 secondary and post-secondary education, anticipate and address potential problems, and provide an avenue for students to connect with school supports.


Academic Support & 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

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