Attention Deficits


Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a psychiatric disorder in which there are significant problems of attention, hyperactivity, or acting impulsively that are not appropriate for a person’s age. Lack of focus may result in poor school performance.

Between 30 to 70 percent of children diagnosed with these deficits continue to have residual symptoms that persist into adulthood that impact to a significant degree in social, academic and occupational functioning.

As well, with adults, other conditions often co-exist with attention deficits that include learning disabilities as well as mental health issues including anxiety and depression.


Academic Accommodations

Some of the most commonly provided academic accommodations to students with ADHD include:

  • reduced course load (encourage taking fewer courses per term to help manage workload)
  • provision of a note taker for lectures (due to problems with listening and note-taking done simultaneously)
  • access to a computer to organize and edit assignments
  • provision of extended time for tests and exams. The amount of extra time is determined by the disability support office, but is usually time and a half.
  • tape recording of lectures
  • short breaks to help the student refocus attention (testing situations included)
  • writing exams/tests in a quiet room free from distractions
  • time extensions on assignments (to be negotiated ahead of time between student and professor)

Educational Impacts


Problems with “tuning out” or “drifting away” in the middle of reading a page in a book, or in conversations with others or in following a lecture in class. The ability to screen out distractions in class and focus on what is said or demonstrated can be a major problem. This can lead to problems with both listening and note-taking.


Tendency to say what comes to mind without considering the timing or appropriateness of the remark. Being impulsive verbally (ex. interrupting or blurting out answers in class). Other acts of impulse may also be seen behaviourally; e.g. impulsive spending, changing plans, enacting new schemes or career plans.


Individuals exhibit excessive restlessness. They have significant problems sitting through long lectures without fidgeting or moving. They may talk excessively, and appear to be always “on the go”. Sustaining attention for long periods of time is problematic. Other difficulties include organization and time management that can affect both academic and social functioning. Getting started on a task, organizing and planning the activity, and persisting with the task to completion is often a challenge. Missing deadlines on assignments, forgetting test schedules, coming to class on the wrong day or missing appointments are quite common.


  • clear guidelines and expectations about the course, including time-lines
  • some flexibility in terms of when assignments are due (spacing them out)
  • encourage the use of student planners so that everything is written down and the student is not relying on oral instructions
  • combine lectures with classroom demonstration, visuals, and videos
  • provide reminders about homework, assignment and test dates
  • students should be encouraged to sit near the front to maximize attention
  • minimize room distractions
  • work closely with the Accessibility Services office to ensure a successful learning experience for the student