Symptoms of ADD in the Classroom: Attention Deficit Learning Problems

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Need for Action

People with attention deficit issues often cannot stop moving. This is due to the fact that ADD and ADHD stimulates the brain more than is normal, since the person wants to do and pay attention to so many things at once. For example, a child may seem to constantly fidget or rock back and forth, which can distrupt the people around her. As an adult, this person may have extreme difficulty sitting at a desk at work and may need a more active job.

This need for action can lead to the next learning problem related to attention deficit: a short attention span.

Attention Span

Two of the main attention deficit learning problems are related to a decreased attention span. Children with either ADD or ADHD often have problems paying attention in school, especially when they are required to listen for a sustained period of time. Although the amount of inattentiveness differs from child to child, a child who has a very inattentive variety of ADD or ADHD tends to have an extremely difficult time in passive learning situations, such as sitting in a classroom listening to a lecture. They also struggle with skills that require repetition in order to master them. Instead, these children thrive in environments that encourage active learning, plenty of movement during learning periods, and the ability to “figure out” the answer to a problem rather than simply hearing how to do so.

A lack of attention span can also lead to a difficulty in finishing the tasks that the child begins. The child has difficulty focusing on these tasks for sustained periods of time, and even when the child begins the project full of motivation, the motivation often wears off long before completing the task. As adults, these attention deficit sufferers may experience frustration when expected to work for hours on the same project.


Many children with attention deficit, especially ADHD, may make extremely impulsive decisions. If they get bored of a task, they may quickly decide to abandon it due to this impulsivity (see the previous section for more details). They may also interrupt other people impulsively, even in situations when this is socially inacceptable, such as in the middle of class or during a job interview.

Additional Learning Disabilities

In addition to these basic attention deficit learning problems that are part and parcel of ADD and ADHD, about 50% of children who have an attention deficit disorder also have some unrelated learning disabilities. For example, some children may have writing disabilities (dysgraphia), reading disabilities (dyslexia), or math disabilities (dyscalculia). These learning problems can be more difficult to spot in these students because the ADD or ADHD symptoms mask them.


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