Demystifying ADHD and Learning Disabilities

ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and learning disabilities affect a child’s ability to learn, remember and recall information. Each may have an impact on speech, reading, writing and doing math. While ADHD and learning disabilities are separate and distinct, children who have ADHD often have learning challenges and children with learning challenges frequently have ADHD. According to the Learning Disabilities Association of America, between 30–50% of children with learning issues have both ADHD and a learning disability, which interact to make learning especially challenging.

ADHD impacts behavior. Children with ADHD have a hard time paying attention, sitting still (hyperactivity) and controlling impulses, which can affect all areas of learning. In contrast to other learning challenges, ADHD can affect a child’s ability to get along with others. This can impact social and emotional development if it isn’t addressed. Children who have ADHD may have a hard time both at home and school. ADHD is believed to be inherited/genetic and not caused by parenting style.

Learning disabilities affect about 13% of children in public schools, according to the U.S. National Center for Education Statistics. The most common learning challenges include:

  • Dyslexia, which not only affects children’s ability to use and understand language but also impacts reading, writing and speaking. Children with dyslexia may have trouble distinguishing between sounds, letters and words.
  • Dyscalculia, which impacts abilities to do math, tell time or count money.
  • Dysgraphia, which affects handwriting, spelling and writing.
  • Processing Disorders, which can impact the way a person receives and processes information through hearing or seeing it. While a child’s vision or hearing may be perfect, learning by using those senses – such as listening to a teacher or looking at a chart of information – may present a challenge.

Early signs of possible learning disabilities include behavioral issues, forgetfulness, trouble paying attention or following directions, and problems with listening, speaking or understanding. If you have any concerns about your child, speak to your health-care provider about possible testing and intervention. Early identification and assistance with ADHD and learning disabilities can help your child develop, grow and reach their greatest potential.

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