ADHD and Learning Disabilities

How can you help your child cope with ADHD and subsequent Learning Difficulties? There is a way.

Eileen Bailey

ADHD and Learning Disabilities


ADHD is not considered to be a learning disability although it can sometimes interfere with a child’s ability to do well in school.  The National Institute of Mental Health indicates that 20%-30% of children with ADHD also have a learning disability.  Learning Disabilities can appear in preschool children as problems in understanding sounds or words or having a hard time using words to express themselves.  School age children with learning disabilities can have difficulty in reading, spelling, writing and/or arithmetic.  One of the most well known learning disability is dyslexia, a reading disability.  It is estimated that up to 8% of school age children have a reading disability.


Some symptoms, such as disorganization, weak executive functioning and the inability to use strategies can be present in both ADHD and Learning Disabilities.  Children frustrated with Learning Disabilities can also exhibit symptoms similar to ADHD, such as inattention and inability to focus.  Even so, ADHD and Learning Disabilities are separate and independent disorders.  Although some people have suggested that the co-morbidity between ADHD and Learning Disabilities is high enough to warrant evaluation for all children with ADHD, most school districts will not perform tests without a child exhibiting symptoms of Learning Disabilities.  Some parents choose to have their child tested independently of the school to determine if both exist. 


Some of the more common Learning Disabilities include:


Developmental Speech and Language Disorder     

  • Developmental Articulation Disorder – A child having difficulty controlling their rate of speech.  Young children may be slower in beginning to make speech sounds.
  • Developmental Expressive Language Disorder – A child having difficulty expressing themselves with words.
  • Developmental Receptive Language Disorder – A child having difficulty distinguishing sounds.
 Academic Skills Disorders 
  • Developmental Reading Disorder – This is more commonly known as Dyslexia.  Difficulties with any of the processes involved in reading are included in Dyslexia; however, many people may also have trouble distinguishing or separating sounds in the spoken word.
  • Developmental Writing Disorder – A child has problems with any of the functions involved in writing including vocabulary, hand movement and memory.
  • Developmental Arithmetic Disorder – This is also called Dyscalculia and includes problems with basic math facts, alignment of math problems, and recognition of numbers and difficulty with memorization of facts.
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