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Does Your ADHD Child Have a Learning Disorder

You've been doing everything you can for your ADHD child, but you haven't noticed a change in school performance.  Could your child be suffering from an undiagnosed learning disorder? 

It's not uncommon for children with ADHD to experience learning disorders; after all, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a condition that indicates a developmental delay. Studies show that 30-50% of children with ADHD experience learning disabilities like dyslexia, dyspraxia, and auditory processing disorder.  The reverse is also possible; children with these learning disorders tend to have symptoms such as inattention, fidgeting, and poor school performance, which can easily lead to an ADHD misdiagnosis. 

The first thing you should do is look beyond the ADHD diagnosis.  An ADHD diagnosis is essentially a name given to a certain set of symptoms, but it does not mean that inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity are the only problems experienced by the ADHD child.  The important thing is to look at what's causing these symptoms and treat them accordingly.  It's tricky to differentiate symptoms of a learning disorder from ADHD symptoms, especially since learning disorders manifest themselves in different ways.  These general guidelines might help.

In preschool, children are expected to develop socialization skills, motor skills, and language skills. They should also start to learn how to write, make sound-letter associations, and understand the concepts of numbers.

Children with learning disabilities tend to experience:

  • Motor coordination problems, like delays in learning how to use crayons or scissors, or how to write.
  • Language and speech problems, such as difficulties with speech comprehension. This often leads to problems with social interaction or the inability to follow instructions.

In the early elementary school years, children are expected to read words aloud, form letters, and do simple punctuation.  They are also expected to master simple math concepts like addition and subtraction. Children with learning disabilities experience:

  • Difficulties recognizing letters, learning the units of sound (phonemes), and sight-reading
  • Problems with spelling and basic grammar
  • Problems doing simple math
  • Difficulty understanding abstract concepts and information
  • Being forgetful, easily losing school materials, having trouble remembering facts
  • Difficulty comprehending oral instructions

If you notice these problems in your child, ask the school guidance office for an evaluation or take your child to a learning specialist.  The first leg of the evaluation process might include one-on-one time with the teacher and observation from a school official.  If improvements are not found, your child should go through a complete testing protocol to isolate the problem and find the best approach to treat it.