ADHD - what is it?


ADHD is characterised by an inability to sustain attention, impulsivity and hyperactivity (American Psychiatric Association 2000)

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) exists with or without hyperactivity. In most cases people with this disorder are often easily distracted, have particular difficulty commencing and switching tasks and a very short attention span. They may fail to make effective use of the feedback they receive and have weak listening skills.


145 students or 2% of the student population registered with disabilities in Higher Education in Ireland have ADD/ADHD (AHEAD, 2011).

Signs and Symptoms

  • Often easily distracted by external stimuli i.e. not being able to concentrate during lecture or study periods
  • Often starts a project or task without reading or listening to the directions properly. This may lead to incomplete work, or work that does not fully take account of all of the instructions
  • Often shows poor follow through on promises he or she makes.
  • Often has difficulty stopping activities when they should do so this can lead to procrastination and difficulty in managing deadlines.
  • Often has problems doing things in proper order or sequence. This may manifest as problems with goal setting which can impact on study and assignment submission
  • May not seem to listen when spoken to directly.

Functional Implications

  • Problems in aspects of executive functioning for example decision making.
  • Difficulties in focusing, sustaining and shifting attention from task to task.
  • Difficulties regulating alertness, sustaining effort and processing speed.
  • Deficits in working memory and active recall.
  • Self-regulation and monitoring including modulation of emotions.
  • Difficulty with group tasks.

Several functional limitations have also been found to affect specifically higher level students with ADHD including difficulty developing realistic plans, activating and sustaining effort across time, remembering goals, and regulating intense emotional reactions to daily frustrations.

Supports available through DSS

  • Please refer to the section on Inclusive Teaching and Assessment.
  • When the student registers with the Disability Support Service they receive a detailed needs assessment report
  • This report details the supports that the student needs in higher education.
  • The Disability Support Service will also put in place, exam accommodations, assistive technology, and should the student require, act as an advocate on their behalf.

Key Points

  • People with ADHD are easily distracted. Try to remember this when giving instructions or directions.
  • Be patient; remember that unusual or inappropriate behaviour is not their fault.
  • In many instances a student with ADHD may also have an associated learning difficulty. If necessary please refer to the guidelines for Specific Learning Difficulties.


Recommendations for Examination Accommodations

  • Separate examination room to avoid distraction.
  • Extra time.
  • Use of a computer.
  • Notification of Dyslexia/SLD Sticker

Disability Support Service

Seirbhís Tacaíochta do Dhaoine faoi Mhíchumas

South Lodge, UCC, College Road, Cork