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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a neurological disorder that is defined by a pattern of behaviours that are distinguished by inattention (finding it hard to concentrate), hyperactivity (restlessness, unable to sit still, overly active), and impulsivity (saying or doing things without fully considering the consequences).


There are three subtypes of ADHD

Where the behaviours are specific to inattention rather than hyperactivity and impulsivity.

Examples Include:

  • Having issues focusing on a task/sustaining focus
  • Getting distracted easily
  • Process information slower
  • Difficulty in organising thoughts/activities

"I would love it if the uni provided neurodiversity training for lecturers, so they are better informed about how to support and offer suggestions to students". - Warwick Student

These characteristics of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity are often the main descriptors of ADHD. However, there are other behavioural and internal experiences that are common among adults and children with ADHD that are worth mentioning.

What are some characteristics of students with ADHD?

Especially in seminars and lectures, those with ADHD may find it hard to focus for long periods of time. One avenue of support is to ensure there are scheduled breaks during these sessions.

Mind Wandering

Mind wandering refers to when an individuals attention is directed towards inner thoughts and feelings, away from external situations, tasks or conversations. It is a common experience among most people, regardless of their neurodivergence. (Mowlem et al, 2019).

It is more common in people with ADHD to experience spontaneous and excessive mind wandering (Franklin et al, 2017). It is difficult to control these spontaneous thoughts and is linked to impairment (Mowlem et al., 2019).

Time Blindness

Often, those with ADHD may experience effects on their time perception, due to decreased activity in the areas of the brain that are connected with time and memory processing (Mette, 2023). Aspects such as time perception, time horizon, time management, time sequencing or time reproduction are often affected (ADDA, 2023).

This could present in an individual as struggling to stick to a schedule, underestimating/overestimating the amount of time needed, losing track of time, trouble focusing on long-term goals or procrastinating to the last minute (ADDA, 2023).

Support and Guidance

  • Establishing Routine: you can help support students with ADHD by encouraging them to establish a healthy and reliable routine. Advice on how to manage time or how/what to prioritise.
  • Small Tasks: breaking down large assignments/tasks into small, achievable bitesize chunks can help students not feel so overwhelmed and avoid procrastinating if the tasks feel more manageable. One strategy is to have 'tomorrow tasks', where there is dedicated time at the end of the day to identify tasks that are necessary for the next day to reduce the amount of stress and choice in the morning.
  • Golden Hour: Dedicated time (an hour before bed) to wind down and relax before going to sleep, in order to reduce the adverse effect that stress can have on sleep.
  • Time-Blocking:A time management method that requires you to separate your time into blocks (each block has tasks within them). It helps create a more focused schedule and allows you to prioritise your time as well as avoiding an open-ended to do list.

Supportive Techniques

Body Doubling: a strategy where the presence or physical closeness/support of others can induce a better working environment and encourage those with ADHD to stay on task. Body doubling could look like another person sitting with them, going to a cafe or using online tools such as YouTube (Eagle et al. 2023).

Brain Dumping: the technique where all the tasks and information that are taking up mental space are written out on a paper and allows the individual to assess levels of importance and work through which tasks require priority. It can also be used as a revision technique, dumping as much information that is remembered for an upcoming exam, then the student can look over their notes and identify where their gaps in knowledge are.

Priority Matrix: a task management tool that helps someone identify which tasks deserve prioritisation and to organise their time effectively. It divides tasks into four boxes: tasks to complete first, tasks to delegate, tasks to delay and tasks to delete (Asana, 2024).

Gender Differences in ADHD

There is a disproportionate amount of males being diagnosed over females. This is not necessarily a reflection on the prevalence being higher in males, but rather the behaviours associated with ADHD are often more likely to show hyperactive and impulsive symptoms that are more obvious.

Gender Differences in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Exploring Female Students' Experiences of ADHD and its Impact on Social, Academic, and Psychological Functioning