Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Cause and Treatment

Current opinion is that this condition is caused by insufficient activity of the neurotransmitter which maintains synaptic connections and which focuses and sustains attention. For example, norepinephrine is associated with focused attention and maintenance of mental arousal, and a deficiency causes attention to wander involuntarily. Similarly, acetylcholine is associated with voluntary and involuntary motor activity, and a deficiency of that chemical causes involuntary muscular movement.

Insufficient levels of these neurotransmitters can make voluntary effort to pay attention and to suppress activity ineffective. Increased effort to organize is unproductive. Stimulants may be prescribed to improve synaptic connections. Individuals may turn to caffeine and other stimulants instead of prescriptions.

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Some Considerations

  • The academic manifestations of ADHD include distractibility in class and while doing homework, impulsive and unplanned reactions to environmental stimuli, inability to maintain regular schedules of any type, and the habit of procrastination until urgency helps to focus attention.
  • When a singular work assignment is being procrastinated, the habit of procrastination until urgency often has moderate success.
  • When work assignments are long and complex, last minute efforts cannot be compressed into the available remaining time.
  • Because of the inability to correctly perceive the passage of time, the following behaviors are frequently manifested: poor nutrition, insufficient rest and sleep, as well as the development of communicable infections.
  • The student may experience a reasonable uncertainty about due dates being met, causing anxiety about performance quality to occur.
  • The individual often becomes discouraged and expresses emotional detachment.
  • ADHD may serve to undermine mental health, especially after individuals with these disabilities have made exhaustive efforts over a period of time to produce quality work without success.

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Instructional Strategies

  • Invite students to self-identify on the first day of class by making a public statement such as: "Please contact me to request disability accommodations."
  • Include a disability access statement in the course syllabus such as: "To obtain disability-related academic adjustments and/or auxiliary aids, students with disabilities must contact the course instructor and Disability Resources and Educational Services (DRES) as soon as possible. To contact DRES you may visit 1207 S. Oak St., Champaign, call 333-4603, or e-mail"
  • Helpful accommodations may include extended time on exams, taking exams in a distraction-reduced environement, and preferential seating in the front row.
  • Keep instructions as brief and uncomplicated as possible. Repeat exactly without paraphrasing.
  • Assist the student in finding effective notetakers from the class (see Note Taking Services).
  • Allow the student to tape record lectures.
  • Clearly define course requirements, the dates of exams, and when assignments are due. Provide advance notice of any changes.
  • Present lecture information in both an auditory and a visual format (e.g., chalkboard, overheads, PowerPoint slides, handouts).
  • Use more than one way to demonstrate or explain information.
  • Have copies of the syllabus ready no less than six weeks prior to the beginning of the semester so textbooks can be converted in as timely a manner as possible (see Text Conversion).
  • When teaching, state objectives, review previous lessons and summarize periodically.
  • Allow time for clarification of directions and essential information. Provide study guides or review sheets for exams.
  • Provide help in breaking down assignments and setting due dates for smaller pieces of the assignment to be due.
  • Provide assistance with proofreading written work. Student may need help in narrowing down a topic.
  • Allow the use of spell-check and grammar-assistive devices when appropriate to the course.
  • When in doubt about how to assist the student, ask him or her as privately as possible without drawing attention to the student or the disability.

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