Transitioning with AD/HD


One of the goals of this Web Site is to help students understand AD/HD so that they can learn to cope with their disorder and make their transition to college easier. It can also be used for people without AD/HD as a tool for understanding and interacting with those who have AD/HD. We will look at some of the many theories regarding the cause of AD/HD as well as symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options for the disorder. In addition to giving a broad overview of AD/HD, we will also provide information for incoming students on how to receive accommodations at WPI and suggest some coping techniques that have worked for previous students.

A Brief History of AD/HD

AD/HD is not a new disorder. The symptoms of AD/HD have existed throughout history. However, it wasn’t until recently that these symptoms were categorized into a classifiable disorder.


The first written account of AD/HD-like symptoms occurred in 1845 when a German poet by the name of Hoffman published a story about a child named fidgety Phil. This story describes the symptoms of over activity and impulsivity that we now connect with AD/HD.

Early 1900s

The English doctor G.R. Still termed the disorder "abnormal defects in motor control" (Flick, 1998, p. 19). Still was the first to view the neurological symptoms in a systematic and scientific way. Still also considered whether AD/HD may be related to brain injury and/or environmental factors and studied the variations in AD/HD diagnosis between males and females.


Tredgold believed that brain trauma early in life could result in difficulties in school and other AD/HD symptoms later in life. The theory that AD/HD resulted from brain injury is the main reason that the disorder would later be renamed to minimal brain damage.


During the outbreak of encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), many doctors found that the disease could result in symptoms of impulsivity, inattention and hyperactivity. The relationship between encephalitis and AD/HD symptoms is the reason that it was renamed post encephalitic behavior disorder.


The next major advance in the area of AD/HD was by Childers who studied children with symptoms of hyperactivity and differentiated them from children with brain damage. He found that only a small percentage of hyperactive children actually have brain damage. This was a major breakthrough because prior to this date it was believed that physical damage to the brain was the cause of AD/HD neurology.


Some of the first experimental treatments for AD/HD symptoms became available in 1937. Bradlay studied the amphetamine Benzedrine, which was used to reduce headaches, and found that it improved behavior, attention and school performance. The use of this drug was questioned since it is a stimulant and many medical professionals did not believe that this class of drug should be used to cure these types of symptoms.


The potential that there was a treatment for AD/HD symptoms was more widely accepted. The disorder was first renamed to minimal brain damage (MBD) and later would get the name hyperkinetic-impulsive disorder in North America and the name hyperkinetic syndrome by the World Health Organization (WHO).


The era of AD/HD as we know it today began when Virginia Douglas and Susan Campbell reported research to the American Psychological Association (APA) which showed that children could experience problems with sustained attention even in the absence of distraction.


The APA established two diagnostic categories: ADD and ADHD, which were based primarily on Douglas's work.


The APA defined three types of AD/HD: predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type, predominantly inattentive type and combined type.


There has been continued research throughout the 1990s, with major advances primarily in medications. Many of the common myths about AD/HD are being revealed and the general public is beginning to gain a better understanding of the disorder.

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