Poor executive function, behavioral problems, inattention and more are the stereotypical symptoms of ADHD but just because a person has those symptoms does not necessarily mean they have the condition – or just the condition. Dyslexia or other learning disabilities are common coexisting conditions in people with ADHD.
ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is not a learning disability – but it can make learning difficult. For example, if you struggle with focus on a regular basis, it may be hard to listen to what a teacher is saying or difficult to sit down to pay attention to the content in a book.
Although ADHD is not a learning disability, it is possible to have both. ADHD and learning disabilities (LD) often co-exist. In fact, children with ADHD are more likely to battle learning disabilities than those who do not have the condition.
The process of learning something employs executive functions within the brain, including the ability to pay attention, focus and engage with a task while putting working memory to use. It is known that ADHD has an effect on the brain’s executive functions, which makes it unsurprising that many people with ADHD can struggle with schoolwork and learning.
If many people with ADHD have an LD, then why is ADHD not considered to be a learning disability? Although the executive function problems related to their ADHD affect their learning, people with ADHD do not often have enough of an impairment to be clinically diagnosed with a learning disability.
A person who has both ADHD and LD often have a broad impairment of the executive functions within the brain in combination with the impairment of the skills needed for writing, reading and math.
Is it ADHD or Something Else?
Your child may have symptoms of inattentiveness, over activity and/or impulsivity but these behaviors might be caused by other disorders or additional disorders. If a child has any of these problems, they should be diagnosed. Speak to a family doctor and ask for a referral to a mental health professional.
If Your Child has Trouble Learning
A learning disability is defined as a neurological disorder that is the result of the difference in the way a person’s brain is wired. A person with a learning disability has a brain that receives and processes information in a unique way.
LDs can make spelling, reading, math and writing difficult and can also affect one’s ability to organize and recall information. People with learning disabilities also commonly struggle with listening and speaking as well as long term memory.
Numerous learning challenges fall under the umbrella term, learning disability. A learning disability is not a problem with learning because of hearing or vision problems or from learning a second language. Rather, people with LDs have a high level of intelligence but also a discrepancy between their potential and actual achievements.
If Your Child has Emotional Problems
Nearly fifty percent of people diagnosed with ADHD have regulatory problems – or difficulty regulating their emotions. Some may have panic attacks or battle anxiety while others might have some type of mood disorder. Other children might have difficulty controlling their anger while others battle regulating behaviors and thoughts, resulting in obsessive-compulsive disorder. Others battle motor behavior control, presenting tic symptoms.
These problems are also caused by faulty wiring in the brain outside of that involved in ADHD.
If Your Child has Behavioral Problems
Behavioral problems are not chronic or pervasive like regulatory problems. They often begin around third grade or middle school and tend to occur during certain settings, such as during periods of classwork. They are more frequently caused by failures or frustrations experienced by a child prior to the diagnosis of his or her ADHD.
Some kids have a tendency to externalize their problems, taking no responsibility for their behavior while blaming others. This type of condition is known as oppositional defiant disorder or can also be classified as conduct disorder if it is more severe.
Other kids keep their pain inside and have a low image of self, showing clinical evidence of mood disorders or anxiety.
If Your Child Experiences Family Problems
Children with symptoms of ADHD may have concerned parents how are overwhelmed by managing their child’s behavior. They may be unsure about how to proceed with treatment or a course of action, leading to stress or marital problems that can affect a child negatively.
If Your Child has Social Skills Problems
Children who act inappropriately or odd with schoolmates or friends prior to an ADHD diagnosis or treatment may find that their peers have a hard time looking past that image of him or her. The child may need to learn new social skills.
Sometimes children have struggles relating to peers and other causes should be explored aside from ADHD.
If Your Child has ADHD and a Co-Existing Condition
It is important to record your child’s symptoms, difficulties and behaviors carefully. Use that information to advocate for specific school accommodations for your child and for an accurate or updated treatment plan if the current one does not seem to be working.
Keep in mind that disorders such as these may not disappear after childhood. They may continue on to a degree into adulthood.
It can be hard to succeed when you can’t remember, focus or pay attention. Although your child may be otherwise intelligent and imaginative, it may be hard for him to stay on point. If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD and seems to be struggling still, it may be a good idea to have him assessed for other mental health conditions, such as learning disabilities or other co-existing conditions so he can get all the help he needs.