ADHD in the Classroom

Inattention. Hyperactivity. Impulsivity. Distractibility. These are just some of the characteristics that can make it difficult for children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to succeed in school, according to experts.

What's more, contending with the many misperceptions surrounding the disorder can be a challenge. "Most kids who are diagnosed with ADD or ADHD grow up thinking they are lazy and dumb because that's what they are told from a young age," says Michelle Rodkey, a counselor at St. Bonaventure University.

Diagnosis Is Key

Although ADHD students may exhibit classic symptoms, including an inability to concentrate, the disorder frequently goes undiagnosed. And when a student who has ADHD but is not diagnosed goes to school or college, he or she is faced with new difficulties.

Students who have ADHD may attempt to take notes in class, but end up "zoning out" instead, and may act or speak without thinking. "They will say that they recognize that they're intelligent and capable people, but they often cannot concentrate, focus, or finish assignments," Rodkey explains.

As a result, these students may fall behind on their schoolwork or even receive failing grades. In extreme cases, "ADHD college students get anxious, stop going to classes, and cannot face their professors," Rodkey says. "Then they get depressed because they're so behind, and their family starts coming down on them because they're not being successful in a [learning] environment."

Flourishing in the Classroom—and Beyond

Mitchell Boyczuk was diagnosed with ADHD his freshmen year of college after a meeting with his academic advisor. Boyczuk now takes medication once a day and has seen a difference in his behavior and an improvement in his grades.

"I noticed a significant increase in my focus in class," Boyczuk says. "My eyes didn't wander as much, and I heard fewer distractions from other people." What's more, he has found the medication not only benefited his school performance; Boyczuk has also seen social and interpersonal improvements.

"People with ADHD have the hyperactivity component as well as the distractibility," he notes. "So they're often really talkative and hyper, and that can get on people's nerves." At the same time, Rodkey is quick to point out that patience, acceptance, communication, and understanding can go a long way toward improving relationships with ADHD people.

"It's really important to maximize the strengths associated with ADHD, she says. "Most kids and adults with ADD or ADHD are incredibly creative and intelligent. They think completely outside the box. They come up with new ideas and new ways of thinking—as a result, they're very exciting people to be around."