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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

  • Common Characteristics
  • Possible Accommodations
  • Challenges

    Common Characteristics

    Neurophysiological Characteristics
    According to W.H. Gaddes and D. Edgell in their book, Learning Disabilities and Brain Function: A Neurophysiological Approach, research using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), Electroencephalograms (EEG), and blood flow studies document that there are biological reasons for this disorder. MRI's show that in the student without ADHD, the right frontal region of the brain is larger than the left frontal region. In the brain of the student with ADHD, the opposite is true. An EEG of these students will show that ADHD students will have trouble shifting their brains into faster brainwave patterns needed for effective attention and concentration. These students remain in the slower brainwave patterns characteristic of daydreaming and lack of focused thought.

    Gaddes and Edgell also cite other interesting evidence regarding blood flow studies and studies on neurotransmitters. ADHD students show decreased blood flow to the frontal lobe. The blood flow increased following treatment with Ritalin, which tends to improve concentration. Treatment with Ritalin also leads to decreased blood flow to the motor cortex, which leads to decreased motor activity. Medications of this type are prescribed to approximately 70% of students with ADHD.

    This condition is not due to poor parenting, emotional problems, or a lack of motivation. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is not a learned behavior; it is a medical condition that requires medical supervision and lifestyle adjustments.

    Behavioral Characteristics
    Positive traits often seen in students with ADHD are high energy, creativity, and intensity about interests. Many successful entrepreneurs have ADHD. They tend to make great TV and radio talk show hosts and politicians. Sales, public relations and the military (because of its structured lifestyle) are often career choices of those with ADHD.

    1) ADHD Inattentive type or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)

    A student with Attention Deficit Disorder will have difficulty:

    Paying Attention
    Attention spans fluctuate during lectures. Students have trouble focusing for longer than 30-45 minutes without a break. These students may appear to daydream, seem spacey, unmotivated, or internally preoccupied.
    These students absorb all stimuli around them and have difficulty filtering out unnecessary information. These students are easily distracted.
    Completing Projects
    Because these students are so easily distracted, completing projects is very difficult. These students often overload on multiple tasks and have difficulty with follow through on routine tasks. Poor time management skills and organizational skills are often characteristic.

    Because these students "zone out" rather than disrupt the class with hyperactive behavior, this disorder often goes undiagnosed.

    2) ADHD Hyperactive/Impulsive Type

    A student with ADHD Hyperactive/Impulsive Type will manifest the following characteristics in addition to those listed above:

  • restlessness, fidgety behavior, impatience, and a low frustration threshold
  • often acts and speaks without considering the consequences

    3) ADHD Combined Type

    A student with ADHD Combined Type will exhibit characteristics of both the other types of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

    Though most of us exhibit some of the traits characteristic of ADHD at various points in our lives, students with ADHD struggle with impulse control, concentration and memory problems, and distractibility day in and day out and at a much greater level of intensity than the general population.

    Because students with attention deficits often need more time to process and retrieve information and redirect their thoughts when distracted, the environment in which they are tested becomes very important.

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  • Possible Accomodations

  • extended time for tests in a less distracting environment,
  • tape recording lectures,
  • using books on tape
  • priority seating in the classroom

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    Students with an attention deficit disorder usually perform below their intellectual level in school. Their lack of organization and inability to establish and maintain a routine frustrates them so that depression, anxiety and low self-esteem are the likely result. Even with help, when they try to discipline themselves, forgetfulness and poor memory add to their confusion and torpedoes their efforts.

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  • Contact CDS Updated 03/20/02