Child having trouble reading

Learning Disabilities or ADHD: Which Is It?

My child is disorganized, has trouble during homework time and following directions, and doesn’t seem to be reading like other kids his age…Is it ADHD or maybe a learning issue?

ADHD and learning disabilities often co-occur. In fact, about 1/3 of children with ADHD also have an additional learning disability. Sometimes parents might wonder if the ADHD is causing the learning disability or if the learning disability causing the inattention. The fact is that they are two discrete disorders with their own set of symptoms. It is true that some of the symptoms may be common to both disorders including:

–          Poor executive functioning
–          Lack of organizational skills
–          Inefficient use of strategies (mnemonic tricks, imagery, rhymes)
–          Behavior problems
–          Low self-esteem

Learning and attention problems are on a continuum ranging from mild to severe.  With the various overlapping symptoms and the fact that behaviors, that may be a result of a learning disorder, can look like ADHD, it can be difficult to distinguish between the two. Although they are both neurologically based, they are assessed and treated differently. A learning disorder (i.e. dyslexia, reading, writing, math) can affect the way that information is stored and relayed back causing a breakdown in information and learning.

Intervention for learning disorders may include the following:

–          Academic skills tutoring
–          Development of compensatory strategies
–          Self-advocacy skills
–          Implementation of an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or other school accommodations

Although ADHD can interfere with a child’s ability for learning, it is often treated with the following:

–          Behavioral modifications
–          Family counseling and parent training
–          Modifications to the learning environment
–          Implementation of medication
–          Classroom accommodations
–          Executive functioning tutoring

Whether your child struggles with a learning disability, ADHD or both, parent support and education are important to help your child succeed. CHADD.org  is a great website that offers resources such as training and classes that help with parenting and discipline concerns.

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