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Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is an internationally validated medical condition of brain dysfunction in which individuals have difficulties in controlling impulses, inhibiting inappropriate behaviour and sustaining attention. As a result of these difficulties, a child or young person can experience a range of educational, behavioural, social and related issues.

Specific learning difficulties, such as dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia, occur in approximately 40 per cent of children with ADHD, while disruptive behavioural disorders, such as oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder, occur in about 50 per cent of cases. Finally, anxiety disorders occur in about 30 per cent of all individuals with ADHD.


  1. Inattentiveness
    1. having a short attention span and being easily distracted
    2. making careless mistakes – for example, in schoolwork
    3. appearing forgetful or losing things
    4. being unable to stick to tasks that are tedious or time-consuming
    5. appearing to be unable to listen to or carry out instructions
    6. constantly changing activity or task
    7. having difficulty organising tasks
  2. The main signs of hyperactivity and impulsiveness are:
    1. being unable to sit still, especially in calm or quiet surroundings
    2. constantly fidgeting
    3. being unable to concentrate on tasks
    4. excessive physical movement
    5. excessive talking
    6. being unable to wait their turn
    7. acting without thinking
    8. interrupting conversations
    9. little or no sense of danger

Classroom Strategies

  1. Initially, pupils with ADHD can appear quite amusing within a group of learners, but the “class clown” effect soon wears thin, to be replaced by impatience and intolerance of the constant interruptions that can take place. This can lead to the isolation of the individual from his/her peer group.
  2. Seat the child near the teacher but include him/her as part of the regular class
  3. Place the child up front with his/her back to the rest of the class, keeping others out of view
  4. Allow him/her to use objects to manipulative when sitting, as aids to concentration
  5. Surround the child with good role models, preferably those seen as significant others
  6. Encourage peer tutoring and cooperative learning
  7. Avoid distracting stimuli. Try not to place the child near heaters, doors or windows or other potential distractions, such as gas taps in science lab. High levels of traffic or background noise can also be a problem
  8. Try to avoid changes in schedules, physical relocation or unnecessary transitions. These children do not respond well to change or unplanned activities, so monitor them closely on extra-curricular activities such as field trips
  9. Be creative. Produce a reduced-stimuli area or workstation for learners to access
  10. Maintain eye contact with him/her during verbal instruction
  11. Make directions clear and concise and beconsistent with daily instructions
  12. Make sure s/he understands instructions and what is expected before beginning a task
  13. Help him/her to feel comfortable with seeking assistance
  14. Gradually try to reduce the amount of assistance the child receives
  15. Ensure that a daily assignment notebook is kept up to date and that parents and teachers sign daily for homework tasks
  16. Give one task at a time, monitoring frequently and modifying assignments as necessary
  17. Develop an individualised learning programme for specific subjects
  18. Consider the use of headsets to provide a proactive distraction when appropriate
  19. Break assignments down into manageable chunks
  20. Encourage controlled movement during class time
  21. Make appropriate use of computerised programmes and resources for specific learning objectives
  22. Make sure you test knowledge, not attention span.

Further Reading