Have you considered how to better support students in your class who have Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?  

Michele Toner an educator in ADHD, presented an informative webinar with the Australian Disability Clearing House on Education and Training (ADCET) about how you can assist students with ADHD in the tertiary sector.  She suggested following the tips for keeping students with ADHD on track and supporting them to achieve success.

1. Create a sense of belonging  

As soon as you learn about a student who has ADHD, refer them to Accessibility Services by using tips from Referring students with access requirements (LX resource).  

Create a welcoming class throughout the session as students with ADHD are often reluctant to seek support for fear of stigma. They may struggle to articulate their knowledge on the night before an assessment is due.  Halfway through the session, students can find themselves falling behind, overwhelmed and likely to quit instead of seeing someone for help.  

2. Help students get started  

Help students find an entry point. This can help mitigate students who find they can’t get started and/or delay tasks until they can do them perfectly.  ADHD can prevent students from seeing and imagining the final product, so make the reason for the assessment visible. 

3. Provide clear guidance to help the student plan  

Students living with ADHD can often see the bigger picture, and can be highly skilled at generating ideas. However, it can be hard to move between the big picture versus the detail to achieve subject requirements and goals. 

  • Provide clear routines and course structure.
  • Break tasks up into logical, achievable steps.
  • Encourage students to pace themselves.

4. Be mindful of the students’ working memory 

ADHD impacts an individual’s working memory – how they hold multiple pieces of information in their brains to organise tasks and then use the information to direct their activity or answer a question. The challenge is greater as the instructions get more complex, that’s why it’s important to:   

  • Provide practical examples and solutions.
  • Encourage note-taking to assist memory.
  • Prompt students to externalise their working memory – that it’s beneficial to write things down instead of trying to remember.
  • Encourage students to keep a diary.

5. Use Universal Design for Learning (UDL) 

  • Follow Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles in your course and subject design. UDL principles encourage offering meaningful and challenging learning opportunities that cover the areas of Engagement, Representation, Action & Expression. 
  • Use UDL strategies – from planning active learning to incorporating personal interests into projects. Supporting students’ individual strengths increases confidence and reduces anxiety. That way everyone can absorb new information and develop new skills. 
  • Offer flexibility in assessment delivery so students have a choice between what suits them best.  

6. Be conscious of how you present information 

Lists are an effective time-management system that students can turn into a daily action plan (learn more on this subject in this Content Structure resource). 

  • Create an accessible task list
  • Tabular information is helpful
  • Don’t include too much information

7. Recommend the Focus Formula  

The following Focus Formula keeps students engaged, organised and shift focus to what is specifically required from the task. It can be beneficial for in class tasks and for the students’ longer study sessions.  

  • Plan – have visible steps to achieve tasks
  • Set up – what do you need to do to get the assignment started? 
  • Sprint – advise students to set mindfulness alerts using a buzzer or timer; sprint breaks are important indicators to keep them on task
  • Brain dump – When the student needs to stop for a break, writing a note to their future self makes it easier to pick up where they have left off

8. Make time visible  

Use calendars in Canvas to assist students with time management, and provide reminders at pivotal points for assessment due dates and performance. 

9. Share these assessment tips with students 

  • Turn assessments into a series of dot points.
  • What’s the first thing you would do? 
  • Find a research topic.
  • Be specific – find five research papers and just read those.
  • Start by doing the first five questions rather than trying to do the whole assignment in one go.

10. Encourage study buddies  

Peer-to-peer support is very beneficial and valuable to help students feel connected and stay on track.  

11. Refer to these helpful resources

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