Working with Students with ADHD

Characteristics of the Condition

  • Motor activity:
    • Excessive motor activity (e.g., leg bouncing, finger or pencil tapping).
    • Restlessness; difficulty remaining seated, inclination to pace
    • Difficulty sitting down and getting started on independent work
  • Impulsivity:
    • Interrupting others when talking
    • Talking a lot, but seeming to talk in circles
    • Inclination to move quickly from task to task
    • apparent “carelessness” in work habits
    • Impatience with solutions that are not “quick fixes”
  • Inattentiveness:
    • Difficulty sustaining concentration on a task (though sometimes hyper-focusing).
    • Appearing not to be listening when spoken to, as mind wanders.
    • Overt inattention (e.g., staring out the window during class or study session)
    • Failure to maintain eye contact during conversation, or offering replies tangential to subject
  • Organization/Time Management:
    • Difficulty meeting deadlines, keeping appointments
    • Losing materials, equipment, other possessions
    • Misunderstanding assignments, requirements, expectations despite instructions
    • Trouble making decisions, sticking with plans

Impact on Classroom Performance

  • Arriving late to class; missing appointments
  • Misunderstanding assignments, instructions, test questions
  • Assignments are turned in late or not at all
  • Difficulty taking useful notes in class

Impact on Writing

  • Illegible or highly variable handwriting
  • Sentence fragments, poor sentence structure, run-on sentences, spelling errors
  • Simple sentence structure, OR long, rambling, convoluted, ungrammatical multi-clausal structures
  • Ambiguous or obscure pronoun references
  • Words missing from a sentence
  • Chronic inconsistency of tense; more rarely, errors in number, case agreement
  • Lacking a clear thesis statement
  • Content disorganization; unexpected shifts and digressions
  • Absence of coherent argument or expository structure (e.g., no stated conclusion)
  • Anomalous quantities of writing in either direction
  • Large amounts of linear, disorganized and repetitive writing (“tunnel writing”)
  • Meager production, especially given the knowledge the student can articulate

Interaction with Student

  • Suggest organization and planning strategies for study, reading and writing projects
  • Suggest reading strategies that aim at active, purposeful information gathering
  • Provide coaching on pre-writing activities that help structure information
  • Suggest assisted proof-reading of work: e.g., computer or another person reads passages exactly as written. This allows the student to hear and potentially identify errors that may be not be detected in silent proof-reading.
  • Provide suggestions for organization and time management, then follow up to see if they are being used.