What AD(H)D Is
College tutors need to understand what AD(H)D is before learning how to accommodate this condition. The three most important symptoms of AD(H)D are inattentiveness, impulsivity, and hyperactivity (DSM-IV, 1994; Hallowell & Ratey, 1994; Latham, 2000). The Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Health (DSM-IV) explains that simply having these symptoms is not enough to diagnose AD(H)D because everyone sometimes has the same symptoms. These symptoms must be "persistent" and they must be "more frequent and severe" than they are for other people at about the same level of development (DSM-IV, p. 78).
It is possible to diagnose AD(H)D later in life, but only if the symptoms began before age 7. Also, symptoms should cause problems in two or more settings, for example at both work and home. Furthermore, AD(H)D can only be diagnosed if the symptoms make it hard for the person to learn how to function well socially, academically, and at work (DSM-IV, p. 78). Symptoms might not show up if the person is under "very strict control," is in a new
place, or is doing "especially interesting" activities, or is working with only one other person (p. 79).
AD(H)D is not a single condition; instead, there are three subtypes. People with the predominantly inattentive type have trouble paying attention. Those with the predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type are hyperactive and impulsive. The combined type includes all three major symptoms (DSM-IV, p. 80). Perhaps the most well known symptom of AD(H)D is hyperactivity, but Hallowell and Ratey (1994) emphasize that not all people with AD(H)D are hyperactive. Indeed, they say that many people with ADD-mostly girls and women-are quiet daydreamers (p. 153). Robertson (2000) notes that children with AD(H)D are "consistently inconsistent." That means the same student could do very well in school one month then very poorly the next (Hallowell & Ratey, p. 65). Hallowell and Ratey also point out that people with AD(H)D are sometime able to hyper focus. That means they may focus very well on one thing for a long time and will have trouble stopping when it is time to finish.