It is a misconception that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is considered a learning disability. This is because ADHD is usually accompanied by certain learning disabilities, at least 30% of them do. Anthony Henley, PsyD, wrote, “The standard definition of a learning disability is the presence of a significant discrepancy between a student’s cognitive potential and their documented academic achievement.” Technically, a child with ADHD is characterized by difficulty focusing and paying attention, which is most likely the reason why he does not effectively learn without help. ADHD kids who have one or more learning disabilities make it more difficult for them to communicate effectively and understand what others are trying to tell them, as they have trouble organizing their thoughts as well.
Some common learning disabilities that may accompany ADHD are:
Dysgraphia. It is a disability that causes one to have trouble expressing his thoughts into writing. Kids (and adults) with dysgraphia usually have poor handwriting and spelling skills. They also have difficulty holding a pencil. Christina Watson, PsyD, wrote, “Their handwriting is poor with inconsistent spacing, illegible letter formation, and mistakes in capitalization and punctuation.” Teachers often have trouble reading what these kids are writing. If you have a child with ADHD and you’re wondering if he has dysgraphia, here are the other important signs to watch out for:
- After writing for a few minutes, they get very tired
- They talk while writing
- They don’t want to use crayons, pencils, and brushes
- Sometimes they don’t finish what they’re writing
- They have trouble writing what they’re thinking
Dyslexia. A learning disability which consists of a range of symptoms that result in problems involving an individual’s language skills, such as spelling, grammar, pronunciation, and writing. Wendy Rice, PsyD, wrote, “Dyslexia is a learning disorder that affects a child’s ability to read accurately and fluently.” Children with ADHD and dyslexia qualify for special accommodations or services, as they may often feel stressed and insecure due to their academic problems. Some kids with dyslexia are very intelligent but are just unable to spell, write and understand under normal conditions.
Dyscalculia. This learning disability is specific to Math. Individuals with dyscalculia don’t often comprehend simple to complex arithmetic, such as solving mathematical problems. Research has shown that about 20% of ADHD kids also have dyscalculia. This makes it even more difficult for them because they are inattentive and most of them find the subject boring or less interesting. They count using their fingers and they find it very hard to recall numbers.
These disabilities, as with ADHD, are not curable. However, there are various special programs and coping mechanisms that they can get into and learn to be able to manage the challenges that they face. They can very well benefit from individualized educations programs that they are entitled to enroll in.
Other Disorders Associated with ADHD
Apart from disabilities, children with ADHD may also be diagnosed with other disorders that overlap with their hyperactivity symptoms, making it more challenging for them to appropriately perform their daily activities. Some of these disorders are the following:
Sleep disorders. Children with ADHD also manifest with restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea when they are diagnosed with sleep problems.
Tourette Syndrome. Characterized by twitching of the facial muscles, Tourette syndrome is neurological in origin. People affected with Tourette’s often clear their throat, snort, sniff and blurt out words suddenly. Their eyes repeatedly blink, along with other mannerisms.
Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). An estimated 40% of individuals with ADHD present with ODD, and children in particular are defiant and frequently argue with their parents, teachers and other adults. They are also often angry and temperamental.
Though it remains a fact that ADHD is a life-long condition, parents, teachers and the community as a whole should help individuals, especially children, cope with the challenges that they face. They are intelligent beings that should be given an opportunity to shine despite their disabilities. They are to be understood, accepted and considered as essential members of the community, just like anyone.