Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD)

A chemical problem that undermines the brain’s management system. Around 50% of those with ADHD may also have dyspraxia; another 50% dyslexia; some will have both.

Characteristics at university:

Inattention/distractibility (though can over-focus)

May involve losing track of time, forgetting appointments or failing to eat; losing track in the middle of a conversation.

Difficulties with:

  • shifting attention, dealing with background noise, listening to lectures, starting essays;
  • routine tasks such as scheduling; reading without skipping lines; missing words out in essays and misspelling.

Organisation and memory problems

Difficulties with:

  • planning, time management and prioritizing, learning from experience, planning ahead;
  • forgetting and losing things;
  • arriving late and rushed or missing appointments.

© Matthew Tizzard


May be unable to sit still in lectures and have to leave; fidgeting.


May blurt out things in lectures or seminars;

Need for immediate gratification can lead to addiction problems;

May seek out high-risk situations, chop and change or start in the middle of things.


Probably intractable.

Sleeping difficulties

Probably intractable without medication.


Many ADHD students may have been assessed as Biopolar or having Borderline Personality Disorder.

Mental health

Almost certainly have depression, anxiety or other disorders.

Possible strengths

Creativity, originality, big picture problem-solving skills; high energy can be very productive; risk-taking tendency may lead to discoveries, hyper-focusing may lead to seeing things others do not; can be very determined and never give up; resilient and generous; entrepreneurial skills.


Colley, M. (2009) in Pollak, D. (ed.) Neurodiversity In Higher Education: positive responses to specific learning differences Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, pp.169-194; Asherton, P. (2019) ADHD in Higher Education London. (Lecture at Bloomsbury Institute, 21 Feb. 2019)

ADHD: Self-help bibliography:

Hallowell, E. and Ratey, J. (2010) Answers to Distraction London: Penguin Random House

Hallowell, E. and Ratey, J. (2005) Delivered from Distraction: getting the most out of life with Attention Deficit Disorder New York: Ballantine Books

Kohlberg, J. and Nadeau, K. (2016) ADD-Friendly Way to Organise your Life (2nd edn) London: Routledge

Krcmar, K. and Horsman, T. (2016) Mindfulness for Study: from procrastination to action (available from publisher

© Matthew Tizzard