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Is ADHD a Learning Disability?


Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurological disorder characterized by a collection of symptoms affecting an individual’s attentional capacities and development. Sufferers may find that their concentration on particular tasks is lacking, display hyperactive behaviors such as fidgeting, and may also indulge in certain impulsive behaviors which can affect their performance at school or work. 

Some may wonder whether ADHD can be categorized as a learning disability. Although those with ADHD may have issues learning at school or college, the condition by itself is not a learning disability. Learning disabilities affect a child’s ability to develop certain specialized skills such as reading (dyslexia), handwriting (dysgraphia), or math (dyscalculia). In contrast, ADHD is more of a global issue, in the sense that it affects the overall functioning of the brain – and is not limited to a specific skillset. This means that difficulty performing well in a learning or academic environment can occur as a result – not as the cause – of ADHD. 

is adhd a learning disability

To make things a little more complicated, ADHD and learning disabilities can sometimes co-occur, which can make it more difficult to tease apart these conditions and diagnose them accurately. There is some research to imply this can actually be quite common, with close to half of ADHD-diagnosed children also suffering from a learning disability. More evidence suggests that the presence of ADHD increases a child’s chance of being diagnosed with more than one (often severe) learning disability. So, practically speaking, although ADHD is not a learning disability, it can definitely be related to problems with learning, whether that’s through a co-occurring disability or a consequence of ADHD’s general effects.  

It’s important to understand, though, that these conditions are not black-or-white but occur along a spectrum. This means it’s vital to focus treatments depending on the extent of resulting issues than a pure diagnosis. Even today, many adults with ADHD go undiagnosed and have problems functioning in their day-to-day life without access to treatment.

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