Some Facts About ADD and Schools

Attention Deficit Disorder, or ADD, is a biologically based disorder affecting approximately two million students in America’s schools.  This figure represents four percent  (4%) of our current student population. Individuals with ADD tend to be easily distracted, impulsive and often hyperactive.  These behavioral tendencies may significantly interfere with a student’s ability to learn. In fact, it is estimated that ten to thirty-three percent (10%-33%) of students with ADD also have learning disabilities.  The news, however, is not that alarming.  Most students with ADD can and do succeed in regular classroom settings learning regular curriculum if reasonable accommodations are made for them by those responsible for their education.  While there is no prescribed “cure” for ADD, negative effects might be ameliorated through medication.  However, schools may not require that ADD students take such medication to remain in the classroom.

Identifying Students with ADD

A medical diagnosis of ADD alone does not satisfy eligibility criteria to identify a student for special education.  Special education evaluation must consider the doctor’s diagnosis, if one exists of course, but it must also include evaluation of the student in the home setting and in a variety of school settings to determine just how the ADD manifests itself and to what extent this impacts learning.

An evaluation checklist may include:

  • A review of the history of a student’s school performance.
  • A review of implemented behavioral or academic interventions if appropriate.
  • A comparative evaluation of the student’s academic functions in different academic settings under diverse conditions (e.g. music v. biology; art v. English).
  • A series of observations of the student in class noting distractibility, hyperactivity and inattention compared to peers.
  • Interviews with the student, the parents, former and current teachers and other educators as to typical performance and expectations.
  • A review of the medical diagnosis if available.

ADD generally manifests itself in students’ learning abilities in one of four ways: 1) they may be typical students who learn through generally designed instruction; 2) they may be students who need remediation and intervention; 3) they may need reasonable accommodations; or 4) they may need specially designed instruction.  The severity of ADD will dictate a student’s placement on the learning scale.  The majority of ADD students are currently receiving reasonable accommodations, level 3 from above.

Accommodations for Students with ADD

Accommodations for ADD students should be selected carefully and based on an individual’s needs and abilities.  They can be categorized into three basic groups: classroom structure, academic environment and behavior modification.  Some conventional accommodations include:

Classroom Structure

  • Allow preferential seating.
  • Set clear, concise classroom rules.
  • Provide student with large desktop.
  • Allow sufficient space between desks.
  • Minimize visual and/or auditory distractions.
  • Permit standing.

Academic Environment

  • Ensure instructional level is correct.
  • Present directions in writing.
  • Simplify directions.
  • Allow cursive writing or printing.
  • Accept audiotape in place of written work.
  • Increase test-taking time.
  • Provide spacious work paper and test forms.
  • Provide assignment organizers and notebook organizers.

Behavior Modification

  • Set student expectations.
  • Use positive reinforcements.
  • Clarify and reinforce rules.
  • Permit minor disruptions.
  • Provide immediate feedback.
  • Minimize inappropriate behavior and increase positive behavior through a formalized behavior management plan.

Service Agreements and IEPs[1]

  Students needing such accommodations must have, by Pennsylvania law, a Service Agreement.  This agreement establishes the accommodations the school entity promises to provide.  An Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is required for students whose ADD contributes to specific learning disabilities or other health impairments and who consequently need specially designed instruction (SDI).

For Further Information on ADD

  • Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder (CH.A.D.D.), 499 NW 70th Avenue, Suite 109, Plantation, FL 33317, (954) 587-3700, e-mail:
  • ADD Warehouse, books and educational materials, 300 NW 70th Avenue, Suite 102, Plantation, FL 33317, 1-800-233-9273, e-mail:
  • Attention Deficit Disorder Association, 1788 Second Street, Suite 200, Highland Park, IL  60035, (847) 432-ADDA, e-mail:
  • Attention Deficit Information Network, 475 Hillside Avenue, Needham, MA 02194 (781) 455-9895,  e-mail:

[1] Unless the school district has applied for an received waivers for Chapter 15, Protected Handicapped Students.

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