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Fact Sheet: Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder


Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) is a neurobiological disorder. Typically people with AD/HD have developmentally inappropriate behavior, including:

  • poor attention skills
  • impulsivity
  • hyperactivity

People with AD/HD may also experience problems in the areas of social skills and self esteem.


AD/HD is estimated to affect between 3-5 % of the school-aged population.


An individual with AD/HD is often described as having a short attention span and as being distractible. The individual will have difficulty with one or all parts of the attention process:

  • focusing (choosing something to pay attention to)
  • sustaining focus (paying attention for as long as is necessary)
  • shifting focus (moving attention from one thing to another)

An individual who has symptoms of inattention often:

  • fails to give close attention to details, making careless mistakes
  • has difficulty sustaining attention to tasks
  • appears not to be listening when spoken to directly
  • has difficulty following through on instructions; may fail to finish tasks (not due to oppositional behavior or failure to understand instructions)
  • has difficulty organizing tasks and activities
  • avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort
  • loses things necessary for tasks or activities (e.g., office supplies, books, or tools)
  • is easily distracted by extraneous stimuli
  • is forgetful in daily activities

Symptoms of hyperactivity include:

  • fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat
  • leaves seat in classroom or in other situations in which remaining seated is expected
  • runs about or climbs excessively in situations in which this is inappropriate
  • has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly; is on the go or acts as if driven by a motor
  • talks excessively

Impulsiveness with AD/HD happens when people act before thinking. An individual who has symptoms of impulsivity often:

  • blurts out answers before questions have been completed
  • has difficulty awaiting his/her turn
  • interrupts or intrudes on others (during conversations or games)

Note: From time to time all people will be inattentive, impulsive, and overly active. In the case of AD/HD, these behaviors are the rule, not the exception.

Vocational Implications

Planning for the vocational needs of a person with AD/HD begins with an accurate diagnosis. People suspected of having AD/HD must be appropriately diagnosed by a knowledgeable, well-trained clinician. Treatment plans may include behavioral and educational interventions and sometimes medication.

Many people with AD/HD experience great difficulty in environments where attention and impulse/motor control are necessary for success. People with AD/HD tend to overreact to changes in their environment. They respond best in a structured, predictable environment with clear and consistent rules and expectations.

Adaptations which might be helpful (but will not cure AD/HD):

  • post daily schedules and assignments
  • call attention to schedule changes
  • set specific times for specific tasks
  • design a quiet work space for use upon request
  • provide frequent, regularly scheduled breaks
  • teach organization and study skills
  • supplement verbal instructions with visual instructions
  • modify test delivery

Resources for further information on attention deficit disorders:

(Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorders)

499 NW 70th Avenue
Suite 101
Plantation, FL 33317
Voice: (954) 587-3700 or (800) 233-4050
(voice mail to request information packet)
Web site:

National Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA)

1788 Second Street, Suite 200
Highland Park, IL 60035
Voice: (847) 432-ADDA ; Fax: (847) 432-5874

Additional resources are listed in the resource section at the end of this manual.

Adapted from NICHCY Fact Sheet Number 19 (FS19), 1998

National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities

P.O. Box 1492
Washington, DC 20013
1-800-695-0285 (Voice/TT)

This fact sheet is made possible through Cooperative Agreement #H030A30003 between the Academy for Educational Development and the Office of Special Education Programs. The contents of this publication do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products or organizations imply endorsement by the U. S. Government.

This information is in the public domain unless otherwise indicated. Readers are encouraged to copy and share it, but please credit the National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities (NICHCY).