What is Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)?
is an umbrella term used to describe several different disorders that
affect an individual’s ability to concentrate. A person who has ADD
generally has had one or more of the following symptoms over a long
period of time: distractibility; short attention span, impulsivity, and
hyperactivity. There are several types of attention-based disabilities,
including ADD and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The
acronym ADD is often used to represent all of these different types as
is done here.
How is ADD diagnosed?
ADD is generally diagnosed by a psychiatrist, psychologist, or medical
doctor using a behavioral checklist in combination with obtained
history and observations both per self-report and by third parties such
as parents and teachers. The DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual
of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition) lists the following symptoms: lack
of attention to details; makes careless mistakes; difficulty sustaining
attention to tasks; does not seem to listen when spoken to directly;
fails to follow instructions carefully and completely; losing or
forgetting important things; feeling restless, fidgeting with hands or
feet, or squirming; running or climbing excessively; often talks
excessively; often blurts out answers before hearing the whole
question; often has difficulty waiting his or her turn. A certain
number of these symptoms must be present and also be excessive,
pervasive, and long-term. Other medical and psychological factors must
also be ruled out. For example, low blood sugar or an anxiety disorder.
Is poor classroom performance a sign of ADD?
Not always. There are many reasons why some students do not do well in
school. While someone with ADD may be experiencing difficulties in an
academic setting, such as poor exam grades, students without ADD often
face the same difficulties. The opposite is also true. Students with
ADD graduate with honors, go on to medical school, become lawyers and
scientists and college instructors. Many times an instructor won’t even
know a student has ADD. In fact, people with ADD generally have above
average to superior intelligence. It cannot be assumed that every
student with poor classroom performance has ADD, and it cannot be
assumed that a student with high grades does not have ADD.
How do I know if a student in my class has ADD?
The most important sign is self-identification. Students with ADD
generally have been diagnosed at an earlier point in their education,
such as in grade school, but this is not always the case. If a student
is having problems in a class, the most important step is to have a
thorough conversation with the student as to his or her perceptions of
the problem. Simply present your concerns to the student, example,
“I’ve noticed you make a lot of basic mistakes on your exams even
though you really seem to know the material,”or “I notice you have
trouble staying on topic during discussions.”
What should I do if I suspect a student has ADD?
The most important thing to do is to meet with the student and discuss
your concerns. State observable fact rather than speculation, for
example, “I’ve noticed you move around a lot in class and take a lot of
breaks.” Saying, “I think you have ADD,” can be off-putting to a
student or serve as a premature and possibly inaccurate diagnosis. If
the student reports having a history of ADD, refer the student to the
SDS office. If the student is uncertain as to why he or she is having
difficulties, offer the services of SDS. Explain to the student that
when a student is having trouble in class and is not sure why, the SDS
office may be able to help figure it out. If there is a suspicion of
ADD, the office can talk to the student about this in more detail.
What happens once I send the student to SDS?
SDS staff sit with the student and help sort through his or her
concerns. Questions are asked to help the student gain further
understanding into academic difficulties, for example, what are your
strengths in school and what are some of your challenges? We ask
students directly why they suspect they have ADD. We also ask students
they have ever been diagnosed before.
What can the SDS office do?
If a student has not been diagnosed but has an interest in being
tested, we can discuss this process with them. Our role is to provide
information as a starting point for the student to explore this area
further. We can discuss what to expect out of an ADD evaluation in
terms of time, cost, process etc. If the student has been diagnosed we
will ask the student to bring in their documentation for review and
discussion. Once the documentation is received, we will talk with the
student about what services will benefit them.
What kind of help is available for a student with ADD?
Help can be divided into two main areas: (1) Academic accommodations
(sometimes called adjustments) and (2) learning assistance.
adjustments are required under federal law for students with
disabilities. Details as to this process can be found in the section, How to Obtain Accommodations.
Common academic accommodations for students with disabilities include
extended exam time, use of a computer for in-class essays, audio books, private exam location, audio recording lectures, and
preferential seating. These legally required accommodations will be
listed on an Academic Adjustment Notice from the SDS office, which the student is responsible for providing to you.
strategies are ways the students can be helped but are not legally
required accommodations. That means, while you don’t have to do these
things, they can help. An example of a common strategy is meeting with
students one on one during office hours to be sure the student
understands instructions for assignments. This is something any student
has the right to request from an instructor and can benefit from, but
for a student with an ADD, this is often a crucial step in achieving
academic success. It is important to note that it is the student who is
primarily responsible for requesting meetings with the instructor.
Should students with ADD be graded differently?
Absolutely not. Students with ADD have a right to be held to the same
standards as other students. This includes being graded on the same
criteria. As long as accommodations are provided, academic success is
up to the student. The accommodation process is designed to equalize
the playing field so students with ADD have the same chance of success
as other students. To grade students with ADD differently is
discriminatory, as is lowering standards in other ways such as
requiring fewer assignments. However, you can still treat these
students the same as other students in developing extra-credit
assignments, alternative assignments, extensions etc.
What if a student with ADD is not doing well in my class?
Treat the student as you would any other student who is not doing well.
Have a conversation with the student. See if the student is taking
advantage of available resources such as the Learning Center.
Encourage the student to seek assistance if needed and to meet with his
or her academic advisor. Refer the student to SDS to determine if full
accommodations are being utilized.
What if the student is receiving accommodations but still not doing well?
We can guarantee access but not success. While it is important we do
everything we can to help students succeed, we cannot guarantee that
every student will pass every course. Even with accommodations a
student can fail a course. Be sure to refer the student to SDS so we
can ensure appropriate accommodations are being provided.
Does the SDS office offer testing for ADD?
No. However, we can provide the student with information about getting
evaluated and help connect students to available resources. Students
are also encouraged to bring suspicions of ADD to the attention of
their primary care physician and other health-care providers.
Besides providing accommodations, how can I help?
Encourage students to meet with you if they are having any trouble
academically. Make time to meet with them and review the tips on this page.
What if I need more information?
Additional information about working with students with disabilities is
available from the Office of Student Disability Services. For additional information, contact Student Disability Services either via email at email@example.com or phone at 212.229.5626.