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There are several learning problems associated with teen with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Studies have shown over 25-30% of teens with ADHD/ADD have learning disabilities. Higher rates of learning disabilities are found when the teen is tested in written form.

Is ADHD a Learning Disability

Fig 1: Is ADHD a Learning Disability?

Mary Alexa, Autism Behavior Therapy specialist explains, “Parents often ask me, “Is ADHD a Learning Disability”? In short, the answer is no! ADHD is all about a child not being able to adequately focus on the subject at hand. The subject could range from anywhere between learning a new subject to actively listening and participating in a conversation. Since the symptoms of ADHD are most profound in learning disability problems, parents are often wrongfully equating ADHD to learning disabilities.”

Common ADHD Symptoms

Here are some of the known symptoms of ADHD in children:

Visible symptoms of ADHD in Children

Fig 2: Visible symptoms of ADHD / ADD in Children

Is ADHD a Learning Disability?

Now, when it comes to learning disability problems in children, most of them are directly related to the symptoms of ADHD as discussed above. Here are 4 of the common learning problems that a child with ADHD faces on a day to day basis:

Poor Concentration

Difficulty listening in class, daydreaming, misses class and forgets homework. Teens also exhibit lack in attention to detail, make careless mistakes, does not notice their errors in grammar, capitalization or punctuation or even have difficulty with mathematical symbols.


Rushing through work, not understanding directions or guidelines, taking shortcuts, not reading the entire question or instructions, never double checks work. Pursues instant gratification without much consideration for longer-term objectives – therefore, a project due in the future means nothing.

Impaired Sense of Time

Cannot judge the amount of time needed to finish a piece of work/project, cannot judge how much time has passed, loses track of time, gets late, and becomes impatient if made to wait. They are poor at time management, procrastinates, puts off whatever they can and have difficulty in adhering to a timeline for completion of homework

Lack Or Poor Organizational Skills

Disorganized, misplaces homework, books, pencils, supplies and even gym clothes. They have problems sequencing ideas and writing essays or term type papers. They face difficulty in starting such a project and struggle to ahead for completion long-term term project.

Learning Disability Problems with ADHD

ADHD_Common learning disability causes

Table 1: Is ADHD a Learning Disability? Not quite but ADHD is one cause of learning disability

Speech Deficiencies with ADHD

There are several language and speech processing problems common with ADHD/ADD. The language deficits include:

  • Talks spontaneously before thinking out the answer
  • Embarrassed or shy to answer questions out loud in class
  • Slow at reading and writing
  • Difficulty in organizing and communicating their thoughts

ADHD Learning Disabilities with Written Communication

Teens with ADHD also have a difficult time writing essays because of the difficulty in organizing their thoughts and completing the work. Written tests are always a challenge and if given the same test orally they might score better. Difficulty in following directions and getting confused easily is also common.

Comprehension and Reading Disabilities

Reading comprehension is poor and children with ADHD may take several attempts at reading the book before they can comprehend. Teens with ADHD will also have problems with mathematical computations. It is difficult for them to readily recall even the basic math skills of adding, subtracting, multiplying and division in order to process new concepts.

Memory Deficiencies with ADHD

Students with ADHD/ADD have difficulty with short-term, long-term and working memory. If the working memory is inhibited, it is difficult for the concept to be stored and recalled from long-term memory. Poor or short-term memory causes problems with:

  • Memorizing directions
  • Instructions that take longer than 20 seconds to present
  • Instructions having multiple parts

Since there is such difficulty in retrieving information from long-term memory it is difficult for children to learn multiplication tables

Poor Motor Skills

Students will often exhibit poor fine motor skill coordination. Handwriting is usually poor and difficult to read. Usually, printing is all a child with ADHD/ADD learns. Your child might write very slowly in order not to have to complete other homework.

Note: Even though there are problems with fine motor skills in writing, teens seem to have no problem with art and artistic motor coordination.

What Can You Do to Help a Child with ADHD?

In the United States under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) “students with attention deficits are clearly eligible for classroom accommodations.” In essence, this means that your child, under this act is entitled to have specific help in any area they are deficient.

Firstly, read our ADHD Case Study. Teachers and parents need to be aware, of the many challenges their teens face. If a teen may have a problem copying notes from the board while listening to what is being explained, they are entitled to a scribe to take notes for them. If your teen may not write well, they too are entitled to a scribe.

There are many, many options under the IDEA program. Teens with problems reading a test can have it read to them. Perseverance on the part of the parent to have these programs is imperative. It is your child’s right to receive assistance in their education.

Therefore, to conclude, Is ADHD a Learning Disability? The clear answer to this is No. ADHD cannot be directly equated to learning disability problems as learning disability in children is only a subset of all ADHD symptoms. Hence, it is incorrect to assume that a child with learning disability will have ADHD. The opposite side of the argument may however be true i.e. a child with ADHD may suffer from some form of learning disability.

Join the discussion One Comment

  • My son in his school days was diagnosed with Specific Learning Difficulty. SPELD.
    He was sent to what was then called- Opportunity School which did practicaly nothing for him at all. He is now 56 and is on a Disibility Pension. Suffers Deppression. Now divorced and after losing his small cottage through an unfair marriage aggreement which he had to sign, coerced by the then father in law. He now lives at his mothers house and unfortunately this impacts upon him meeting a female friend as no one wants a bloke with no job or no house of his own. Can not even afford to rent. A major worry for me a widow at 82 yrs.

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