This section introduces Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The information explores how these may impact on a student's academic performance and participation in university life. Here, the main focus is to suggest ways in which you as a staff member can support students with ADD or ADHD in their role of being a student.
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are characterised by inattention significantly affecting aspects of daily life. Hyperactivity and impulsivity can be particularly apparent within ADHD. These conditions are often considered together within the acronym ADHD and will be for the purposes of this information.
Many students entering university may already have a diagnosis of ADHD and have become accustomed to their possible difficulties, and may have developed effective coping strategies. Some students however may only receive a diagnosis when they come to university.
Difficulties that may be experienced by university students with ADHD
- The transition from the supported and structured environments of secondary school and home to university can prove difficult for students with ADHD. The nature of university learning environment can pose a challenge for students with ADHD. Self-directed learning may be particularly challenging.
- Students may miss important information in lectures because of poor concentration and difficulties taking notes. Students may lose focus in lectures due to distracting stimuli in the environment.
- Students with ADHD often have significant difficulties with organisation and time management in university. Students may have difficulty developing plans, and setting and remembering goals.
- Organising and sequencing information can be a challenge for students with ADHD. This may be evident in written work. Often, students with ADHD may initiate work without reading the instructions fully, or understanding exactly what is asked. This may result in incomplete or incorrect work.
- Students with ADHD may have associated mental health difficulties or learning difficulties.
Strategies staff can use to support students
- As explained here, students may have disclosed their ADHD to their School. Access the LENS report for details on how you can support the student. Implement and support a student’s reasonable accommodations with efficiency and discretion. Be mindful of how having ADHD may impact a student’s experience of university life.
- Make lecture notes available in advance if possible. As explained, a student with ADHD may have difficulty paying attention and writing notes in lectures. Access to lecture notes in advance allows the student to review and become familiar with the lecture content. Having access to the notes within the lecture (printed or on a laptop) facilitates the student to follow the format of the lecture, and add in notes as appropriate. Try to be consistent with where material can be accessed.
- Provide, where possible, course material that is presented through varied and accessible methods, to engage students with different learning styles. Typically, a university environment focuses on learning through the written word, with less emphasis on visual, auditory, and kinaesthetic (learning by doing) styles. Students with ADHD may have a preference for these alternative learning styles.
- Students with ADHD may find it difficult to manage time and plan ahead. A clear time line of events, assignments, and deadlines in the course handbook would support students to know when things are due.
- A written outline of the course in the student handbook may assist a student with ADHD to follow the course and revise for exams. Provision of clear lecture notes on each topic can be very helpful for a student with ADHD. Try to avoid presenting too much information on each slide.
- Outlining each lecture at the beginning and highlighting new terms and key points can help a student to focus. Periodic summaries of the lecture and summaries at appropriate points in the course can also be helpful.
- Providing templates or guidance for assignments online may be useful for supporting a student to understanding the expectations of third level education.
- Prioritise reading lists if possible. Students with ADHD often find it difficult to access and organise information, so prioritising reading might help to direct the student to the most pertinent texts.
- Students with ADHD are often easily distracted. Be mindful when giving instructions or directions to be clear and concise.
- In many instances, a student with ADHD may also have an associated learning difficulty. If necessary, please refer to the guidelines for specific learning difficulties.
- Follow Trinity Inclusive Curriculum guidelines as much as possible.
- Help and advice on using the College Accessible information policy
See the following links for more information about ADHD and useful resources: