Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD/ADHD)

How does IDEA define Attention Deficit Disorders and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders?

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are conditions in individuals who have difficulty maintaining an attention span because of their limited ability to concentrate. ADD and ADHD are not included in IDEA as eligible disabilities, but if the ADD or ADHD impacts educational performance, the student may be considered "Other Health Impaired." Here is the specific definition of "other health impaired" from section 300.7(c) of the IDEA regulations.

(9) Other health impairment means having limited strength, vitality or alertness, including a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli, that results in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment, that

(i) Is due to chronic or acute health problems such as asthma, attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, diabetes, epilepsy, a heart condition, hemophilia, lead poisoning, leukemia, nephritis, rheumatic fever, and sickle cell anemia; and 

(ii) Adversely affects a child's educational performance.

ADD and ADHD may not become apparent until a child enters the elementary school environment. Boys with ADD/ADHD tend to out number girls 3 to 1. Children with these disorders may exhibit the following behaviors:

  • difficulty in paying attention to details
  • easily distracted by events that are occurring at the same time
  • puts off anything that requires a sustained mental effort
  • makes careless mistakes
  • appears disorganized (frequently losing school books and assignments)
  • appears not to listen
  • fails to follow through on tasks
  • fidgets or squirms around in their seats
  • talks excessively
  • blurts out answers in class
  • does not wait their turn and/or intrudes on others' conversations or games
  • may be unpopular with their peers
  • is unable to "hold" events or information to apply to the future
  • may be unable to hear the mind's "inner voice" to follow necessary rules and instructions
  • slow to develop self-regulation (needs "instant gratification")
  • has trouble breaking down information or rearranging components to create new responses

Current diagnosis of ADHD is based on a clinical interview, a medical interview/examination (to identify any coexisting conditions and/or rule out conditions that can give rise to ADHD-like symptoms) and behavior rating scales. Initially considered to be exclusively a childhood-based disorder, ADHD is now recognized to endure across the lifespan and it can be diagnosed in adults. Conventional interventions include medications and formal classroom accommodations such as preferred seating, note takers, assistive technology and extended time for examinations.

Common Assistive Technology Devices used by Children with Attention Deficit Disorder

Most commonly, assistive technology used by students with ADD/ADHD helps them to organize their thoughts and activities. Below are some common examples of assistive technology used by students with ADD/ADHD.

  • Print or picture schedule
  • Low tech aids to find materials (e.g. index tabs, color coded folders)
  • Highlight text (e.g. markers, highlight tape, ruler, etc.)
  • Recorded material (books on tape, taped lectures with number coded index, etc.)
  • Voice output reminders for assignments, steps of task, etc.
  • Electronic organizers
  • Pagers and electronic reminders
  • Single word scanners
  • Hand-held scanners
  • Software for concept development/manipulation of objects
  • Software for outlining and organization of ideas
  • Palm computers

It is important to remember that a student with an ADD/ADHD may have trouble with other functional life skills (e.g. reading, writing, recreation and leisure). See the Overview of assistive technology link for suggestions regarding assistive technology for other functional life skills, which may be of benefit to students in these areas.

Other ADD/ADHD Disability Websites

United States Surgeon General Website

Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

National Attention Deficit Disorder Association

Office of Special Education, Attention Deficit Disorder

Disability Resource Center: Attention Deficit Disorder

Special Education and Rehabilitation Internet Resources: Attention Deficit Disorder