Attention Deficit & Hyperactivity
Implications for Learning

Two hands folded on top of an open book, a pencil intertwined between two fingers.

According to Cox (2013):

Most individuals diagnosed with ADHD have a problem retaining information in working memory due to inattentiveness or impairment in inhibiting environmental interference. When working memory is impaired, newly learned information is not fully encoded, and is thus unavailable from memory stores when searched for later.

Typically, learning in a postsecondary environment is conducted in such a way that it requires lengthy periods of sustained attention, independent self-regulation, time-management and organization – both inside and outside of classrooms - which can pose challenges for students with ADHD. 4

A person with ADHD will likely face significant challenges with many of the tasks and environments associated with a common postsecondary academic experience. Research indicates that only 5 - 15% college students with ADHD complete their degree compared to their non-ADHD peers (41- 48%). 5, 6 However, other research conducted by Allsop, Minskoff, and Bolt (2005) has highlighted that students with ADHD can be successful in postsecondary education environments when using individualized strategies to compensate for the challenges they face and when taught by supportive instructors.

Common Accommodations

The following accommodations and classroom adaptations are a list of suggested accommodations, but are not comprehensive or exhaustive, nor will all accommodations listed be necessary in all cases. Other accommodations may be implemented based on the individual needs of each student as recommended by your campus Disability Services Office or other professionals.

Common Characteristics of a Student with ADHD Commonly Suggested Accommodations/Classroom Adaptations
Appears anxious/restless and/or has difficulty sustaining attention during class and/or tests and exams. Short breaks to help the student refocus attention.
Reserve a seat for the student at the front of the class.
Write instructions on the board.
Begin the class by summarizing the important points from the previous class and the topics to be discussed today.
Allow the student to move without distracting their classmates.
Allow student to write tests and exams in a distraction- reduced location.
Has difficulty taking notes during class. Note taking support and/or permission to record lectures.
Provide a written copy of notes.
Submits incomplete assignments or assignments with many careless mistakes. Encourage the student to review their work, especially if the student hands their assignment or test in early.
Submits late assignments. Clearly set out course guidelines, expectations, and due dates for assignments.
  • 4. Wolf, Simkowitz, and Carlson (2009).
  • 5. Lee, Oakland, Jackson, and Glutting (2008).
  • 6. Kuriyan et al. (2013).