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Studying with AD(H)D

AD(H)D stands for Attention Deficit(-Hyperactivity) Disorder, which is a common disorder that can impact your learning at Leiden University.

The symptoms of AD(H)D include issues with organisation or maintaining concentration, distractibility and hyperfocus. This means that studying with AD(H)D may require additional time and effort. Many students study successfully and accomplish many things despite their diagnosis. Leiden University has a range of study adjustments available to support you throughout your studies.

This is a support group for students with AD(H)D, led by the Fenestra Disability Centre. Here, students with AD(H)D can exchange study tips, discuss student life and support each other as peers. If you would like to join, please contact Fenestra.

Adaptations can be made to the ways in which you follow classes and take exams. Special arrangements and facilities offered by Leiden University for students with AD(H)D are:

  • Text-to-speech software, that reads your study materials aloud whilst highlighting the text. For this you will need digital versions of your study materials. You can contact Fenestra for both the software and the digital versions.
  • Extensions to assignment deadlines
  • Additional time for exams (maximum of 30 minutes extra for a three hour exam)
  • Examination papers in a larger format
  • Taking examinations in a separate room with fewer students
  • Use of laptop for examinations
  • Alternative study plan with a reduced workload
  • Taking personal circumstances into consideration for your BSA (Binding Study Advice)

Request adaptations

Make an appointment

To arrange special adaptations for your studies, please make an appointment with Fenestra Disability Centre, Leiden University’s information centre for students with a disability.

Exception: additional time for exams

If you only require additional exam time and have an official diagnosis, you can submit a request as follows: 

  1. Make a digital copy of your diagnosis, i.e. a letter issued by a doctor or clinic. This can be either in Dutch or English. If you need to have your diagnosis translated from a different language, mention this when completing the contact form – see next step. 
  2. Complete and submit the contact form (select ‘Additional time for exams’)
After submitting your request
  • Within two weeks, one of our staff members will be in touch with you.
  • For most faculties, these adjustments will automatically continue for all your exams. However, some faculties unfortunately do not offer an automated system and require you to arrange additional time for each exam individually. Please talk to the study adviser of your programme or with Fenestra Disability Centre if you are unsure whether your faculty offers an automated system or not.

Inform your study adviser

Make sure to let your study adviser know that you have requested advice from Fenestra.

Fenestra’s specialist for AD(H)D support is Romke Biagioni (r.t.biagioni@sea.leidenuniv.nl), but you are also welcome to contact other Fenestra staff members.

Other guidance & advisors

If you need extra assistance, guidance or adaptations there are several staff members who can help.

Read more about other guidance & advisers

Leiden University offers a number of courses that may be helpful for students with AD(H)D. For example, courses in thesis writing and dealing with procrastination. Visit the courses website for an overview of upcoming courses.

The tips below can help you to study more effectively and keep the difficulties caused by your ADD or ADHD to a minimum. Try a few of them to find out what works best for you. Give it a few weeks. Research proves that it takes 21 days to change a habit.

Planning and organising

  • Use a well-structured agenda.
  • Make sure your workspace is organised.
  • Attend all your lectures and work groups.
  • Always make a clear and achievable plan.
  • Avoid doing things at the last minute.
  • Set priorities.
  • Divide tasks into manageable portions.
  • Monitor your own progress.
  • Share your planning with someone else and ask them to keep an eye on your progress.

Dealing with distractions

  • Make sure your workspace is tidy.
  • Switch off your phone, radio and TV.
  • Close your emails or other distracting websites.
  • Ask other people not to disturb you.
  • Avoid places with too many distractions. For example, don’t sit by a window.
  • Find a quiet room. Many Leiden University buildings have one. Ask at the reception.
  • Some students study better with ‘white noise’ in the background. This is a monotone sound that cancels out background noise. You can find free ‘white noise’ via various websites.
  • The Pomodoro technique is a good method to help you concentrate on your studies. For periods of 25 minutes you focus intently on your studies, then take a short break and repeat.

Processing study materials

  • Before reading a text, first look at chapter and paragraph titles.
  • Read the introduction and conclusion first, then the rest.
  • Summarise longer texts into a different format such as a list or diagram.
  • Study graphics, diagrams and tables carefully.
  • Repeat what you have read out loud, but in your own words.
  • Discuss the materials with fellow students to improve your understanding and test what you have learnt.

Following lectures

  • Find a quiet place in the lecture theatre.
  • Try to find out in advance what the lecturer is going to cover that day so you can look at the materials in advance. Check if the sheets and notes that your lecturer will use are available in the digital learning environment. If not, ask your lecturer for them.
  • Ask your lecturer if you may record the lecture.
  • Don’t try to include everything in your written notes. Instead, note down key words and fill in the details later.
  • Ask a fellow student if you may copy his or her notes.
  • You can buy study notes and summaries via SIL and JoHo.

Taking part in work groups

  • Choose a quiet place in the room.
  • Don’t react immediately. Write down your questions and comments.
  • Explain your situation to the lecturer or a fellow student and ask them to give you a sign if you’re going too far or your attention is wandering.

Taking exams

  • Prepare well. Make sure you begin your revision on time and know which materials you need to learn. Find out if you will have multiple choice or open questions. Practice doing old exam papers and let fellow students test you.
  • Find a quiet place in the exam room with few distractions.
  • Before starting, read the instructions carefully. Check how many questions you must answer and how much time you have.
  • First answer the questions you immediately know the answers to. Then do the questions you find more difficult.
  • Try to remain relaxed. Take short breaks now and then and try doing relaxation exercises.
  • Once you have finished your exam, go through it carefully one more time. Check you haven’t missed any questions or pages.
  • If you frequently run out of time in exams, request extra exam time.

Written assignments

  • Divide your written assignment into smaller steps and complete them one by one.
  • If you find it hard to order your thoughts, first record your ideas on a voice recorder, then put them on paper.
  • Don’t try to make it perfect first time round. Make a rough version. Once you have all the basics on paper, start working on the style. More information can be found in the ebook Thesis writing for students with AD(H)D.

Talk to your lecturer

  • If you find it hard to process all the materials handed out by your lecturer on time, make agreements with him or her. For example, ask if you can receive the texts a day earlier.
  • If you have difficulty meeting deadlines, ask your lecturer to set a ‘deadline before the deadline’. That way, if you’re running late you should still be able to meet the official deadline.
  • If you realise in advance that you’re not going to complete an assignment before the deadline, ask your lecturer if you can have an extension.
  • Have regular meetings with your thesis supervisor and agree on deadlines for the various phases of your thesis.

Guidance & advisors

Fenestra Disability Centre provides advice on all disability-related matters. If you need support in other areas, there are other advisers available.
See all advisers and guidance services


Additional facilities in the home might be both needed and welcome if you have a disability.
Read more about housing

Financial support

Students with a disability can incur additional expenses both during their studies and in daily life. There are a number of regulations, funds and special allowances in place that can help to ease the financial burden.
Read more about financial support

Healthcare and home care

In some circumstances you might need additional healthcare or home care facilities or support.  
Read more about healthcare and home care

Legal protection

According to the Act on the Equal Treatment of the Disabled and Chronically Ill, it is strictly forbidden to discriminate on the grounds of disability and chronic illness when providing employment, accommodation, goods and services.
Read more about legal protection

Social support

Staying in contact with other students might not always be easy but it is very important. Find out about the different ways in which you can meet other students.

Studying with AD(H)D

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