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Learning Differences: ADHD


This guide focuses on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and studying. It includes:

What is ADHD?

What is ADHD? by How to ADHD

What is ADHD?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurological condition that causes difficulties with concentration and attention. ADHD affects every person differentlyThere are three types of ADHD:

  1. Inattentive - Students may appear quiet and to be daydreaming, may appear as if they are not paying attention during lectures or conversations.
  2. Hyperactive/impulsive - Students may appear extremely energetic; unable to sit still; and may make impulsive decisions such as interrupting, intruding and risk-taking.
  3. Combined - Students may experience both types of symptoms.

ADHD is often also connected to anxiety and overthinking. 


Image credit: Donovan, D. (2019). Also ADHD [Illustration]. |  @danidonovan | |

Learning Strategies for Students

These learning strategies might be useful to help you manage your study

Limit distractions
  • Find a space in your classroom or study area where distractions are minimal. This may mean:
    • sitting at the front of the classroom so you can only see your tutor
    • turning you back to windows so you can't see people passing by
    • closing your laptop screen and putting your phone away
  • Listen to white noise or music without lyrics to help you focus
Be creative
  • Support your memory by using these techniques or these techniques.
  • Try using mnemonics, creating rhymes or songs, drawing picture and diagrams, and using colour instead of just writing words. 
Choose interesting topics
  • If you get to choose a topic for an activity, choose something that really interests you.
Find a study buddy
  • Find a study buddy and work alongside each other 
    • You can help each other stay on track, problem solve together, and have study related conversations
Set focus times
  • Set a timer for short bursts of time. This could be for as little as 20 minutes. During this time, plan to focus on one activity. After that, take a break. 
  • Set a short timers for your breaks too. Leave your screen and take a walk. 
Write to-do lists / menus

To-do lists and menus are great because they can help you see what needs to be done, and can help you stay on track.

  • Create lists or menus for different assignments or course modules. Tick them off as you complete them. 
  • Use the Assignment Scheduler to break your assignment into smaller tasks with a time line. Turn longer instructions into bullet points.
Putting your ideas into writing
  • Make a mindmap of list your ideas and key points before starting to write. 
  • Copy and paste the tasks from your course descriptor into a Word document. 
    • This can help you plan and structure your thoughts.
  • Talk through your ideas with someone before writing them down. 
  • Use the free Dictate feature on your device.
    • This was you can speak your thoughts and your device will type them for you.
Set alarms
  • If you find that you forget appointments or due dates, set reminders in your phone calendars.
    • Set them for the due dates, as well as for a few weeks ahead.
Managing anxiety

Try some of these grounding techniques to help manage any anxiety you may be experiencing.

Reward yourself Plan a reward once you have completed a certain task. This could help you maintain motivation and finish your task quicker. 

Take a moment: Choose one or two learning strategies to try this week. 

Teaching Strategies for Tutors

The best things you can do to support your students with ADHD are:

  • Get you know your students and their learning preferences. 
  • Learn more about ADHD

These strategies may be useful when teaching students with ADHD

Create supportive learning environments
  • Show patience and tolerance when teaching students with ADHD. Let them feel safe in the classroom. 
  • Think about the sensory input that students may be perceiving. Limit this where possible. 
  • Ensure there is a calm space students can work with limited distractions, as well as a space where they can go to re-energise themselves if they are feeling overwhelmed.
  • Incorporate regular breaks with time to move around. 
Develop predictable routines
  • Provide a clear structure of each lesson at the beginning of each class. 
  • Set learning objectives for activities and classes. 
  • Be consistent with routines where possible.
  • Let students know what time they will be able to take breaks. 
  • Provide user-friendly class timetables and planners
Give clear instructions and information 
  • Give clear, detailed instructions in unambiguous language in multiple formats (verbal, visual, written).
  • Break tasks and instructions down into smaller, more manageable chunks.
  • Use numbered bullet points that can be ticked off once complete.
  • Use Moodle to share lecture slides and course resources prior to class.
  • Teach effective learning strategies, as well as model organisation and time management strategies.
Present content in different and engaging ways
  • Enhance your verbal communication with visual cues, such as using charts, pictures, videos in your teaching.
  • Facilitate active and engaging activities suitable for shorter attention spans
  • Point out key information through highlighting or underlining.
  • Support memory weaknesses by using mnemonics, repetition, visual maps, colour, reviewing prior learning, etc. 
  • Summarise what you have covered at the end of each session.
Use visual cues
  • Establish some personal cues between you and your students to signal when they may need time out or when they need to be refocused. This could include the Turn-A-Card system, or hand signals.
  • Use visual timers and provide friendly reminders of time limits. 
Facilitate group activities
  • Mix up how students are grouped. Use a range of tutor-selected and student-selected groups.
  • Provide structure in group activities with clear tasks and time frames. 
  • Check in with students to ensure they stay focused and on track.

Students with ADHD can bring energy and life to your classroom. They are creative, imaginative and curious. Draw on their strengths to create an environment where students with ADHD will thrive. 

Does this sound like you?

Want to check if you might have ADHD?

  • Click the arrow on the right to answer some questions.
  • If you answer yes to many of these questions, then you might be experiencing the effects of ADHD.

This self-assessment can give you an idea of whether you might have ADHD. It shouldn't be used to diagnose yourself. Talk to your Accessibility Coordinator for more information.


  • I find it hard to finish tasks.
  • I find it hard to organise myself and my tasks.
  • I often lose my things.
  • I find it hard to remember appointments.



  • I find it hard to sit still. I often feel fidgety.
  • I have trouble unwinding and relaxing.
  • I often do things without thinking them through properly.
  • It's hard for me to concentrate on one thing at a time.



  • I make careless mistakes when the work is boring or challenging. 
  • I find it hard to pay attention when things are boring. 
  • I find it hard to focus on what people are saying.
  • I procrastinate if a task requires a lot of thought.



  • Sometimes I think that I talk too much. 
  • I can be impatient, and find it hard to wait my turn. 
  • Sometimes I find that my brain works faster than I can talk or write. 
  • I am often distracted by my surroundings.



  • I can focus on something I am interested in for a long time.
  • I am good at solving problems.
  • I describe myself as creative.
  • I like to try new things.


What is body doubling?

What is a "body double", and how does it help? by How to ADHD

Book: This is ADHD

ADHD & How Anyone Can Improve Their Focus

ADHD & How Anyone Can Improve Their Focus by Huberman (2022)

Modules: ADHD learners in tertiary education

ADHD NZ and TEC have developed some modules to help you learning about ADHD in tertiary education. 

  • Understanding learners with ADHD
  • How to effectively engage learners with ADHD
  • Strategies to optimise the tertiary outcomes for learners with ADHD
  • Tips for developing inclusive lessons and integrated learning strategies. 

Check them out here. 

References & Useful Links



Parrish, N. (2021). ADHD: An Overview. The Education Hub.

Ministry of Education. (n.d.) Guide to ADHD and learning. Te Kete Ipurangi.  

If you want to talk about any information on these pages, please contact Wayne Samways, the Accessibility Coordinator. or 027 218 9180


Thank you to the team at Te PÅ«kenga Weltec Whitireia who gave us permission to adapt and use their guide on Learning Differences