However, it's not always an either/or situation. It's relatively common for people with ADHD to also have a learning disability. That can feel like a double whammy for someone who is already experiencing educational challenges. But fortunately, there are a number of methods and strategies available to help make studying more effective when you have ADHD and a learning disability.
Get more details about how ADHD and learning disabilities are related, and discover tips for learning more effectively when you're dealing with both.
Is ADHD a Type of Learning Disability?
ADHD is not a type of learning disability. However, learning disabilities and ADHD are both neurodevelopmental disorders, and they can coexist at the same time. In fact, it's estimated that about 30% to 50% of children with ADHD also have a learning disability.
Having ADHD can make learning more difficult in certain situations, especially when it causes inattention to detail, distractibility, forgetfulness, hyperactivity, interrupting, and trouble following through on tasks and assignments. But when you add a learning disability into the mix, it creates more complications.
Learning disabilities and ADHD have one very important thing in common: they are not indicators of intelligence. Both of these disorders result from differences in the brain that impact the way information is processed. Having a learning disability and/or ADHD doesn't mean that someone isn't smart — it just means they may need to learn a little differently than neurotypical people.
What Types of Learning Disabilities Can Someone with ADHD Have?
There are a number of learning disabilities which can co-occur with ADHD. Someone may even have more than one learning disability in addition to ADHD. The type of learning disability someone has is affected by which types of skills they struggle with. Some of the most common types of learning disabilities include:
- Dyslexia (Reading)
- Dysgraphia (Written expression)
- Aphasia or dysphasia (Language)
- Dyscalculia (Mathematics)
- Visual processing disorder (Vision)
- Auditory processing disorder (Hearing)
- Dyspraxia (Motor skills)
When a child is diagnosed with ADHD, the age at which they receive that diagnosis should be taken into account when determining whether they have a learning disability. For example, imagine a scenario in which a child doesn't get an ADHD diagnosis until age 10. Prior to that, their academic struggles were attributed to dyslexia. However, there is a chance that those educational issues resulted from ADHD symptoms which created gaps in the child's reading skills. Following the ADHD diagnosis, the child should be reevaluated for dyslexia to find out whether they have a co-occurring learning disability or their academic challenges were simply misdiagnosed previously.
Learning and Studying Tips for People with ADHD
Does your child have ADHD plus a learning disability? If so, you already know that traditional learning methods aren’t always effective for them. Fortunately, there are some learning and studying strategies you can use to make sure that information is processed in a way that makes sense for your child.
In addition to helping with educational goals, getting a hang of these learning strategies can have lifelong benefits. We all continue learning well past our school years, and since learning disabilities and ADHD can persist into adulthood, mastering a few methods like the ones mentioned below can continue to provide positive outcomes. Learning tips for ADHD are especially useful in work settings, but they can also be useful when trying to absorb any information or master new skills.
Here are the best studying methods to try when you're dealing with ADHD and a learning disability:
Create a helpful workspace
When you have ADHD and a learning disability, it helps to create the best environment for learning or studying to take place. Start by decluttering the area to minimize distractions. If you're using a computer or tablet, try temporarily blocking distracting games, programs or applications.
You might also want to incorporate other sensory elements that help you stay focused. For example, some people with ADHD find that brown noise can help improve concentration.
For people with ADHD, cramming usually doesn't work. Instead, repetition is a more effective way to process information. It gives your brain more time to grasp the material. Plus, shorter sessions over many days rather than a single hours-long session the night before a test is more conducive to ADHD since you're less likely to get distracted during brief study periods.
Track your progress
Rewarding yourself for studying may help to provide much-needed motivation. Think about which rewards are most useful for you, though. For example, maybe you love sweets, so enjoying some candy or a cookie at the conclusion of a study session will be effective.
Keeping track of accomplishments can be a useful tool as well, especially if you can visualize it on a chart or other physical reference point. Try logging your successful study sessions where you stayed focused on the material, even if it's just 15 minutes at a time. This can help motivate you to keep going.
Get up and move around
A little bit of exercise can help boost concentration. In fact, studies have found that exercise improves attention and alertness. If you're preparing for a study session, consider timing it after an aerobic activity, like participating in sports, doing some yoga, or taking the dog for a brisk walk. This can help to sharpen your focus so you can study more effectively.
Ask for accommodations
The right studying and learning tactics may only take you so far. Many people with ADHD and learning disabilities also need accommodations at school or at work to help them perform to the best of their ability. A clinician may be able to help complete appropriate paperwork to request accommodation(s) that you are entitled to under the law so it is important that you discuss this with your clinician.
ADHD is a recognized disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and students with learning disabilities are eligible for individualized education programs (IEPs). People who are dealing with either or both of these disorders should not hesitate to ask for the accommodations they need to level the playing field.
A few examples of accommodations which may be given for ADHD and/or learning disabilities include:
- Seating placement with fewer distractions, like in the front row of a classroom
- Permission to take more frequent breaks or to use active seating
- Permission to use noise-canceling headphones to help with focus
- Using assistive technology, such as timers or text-to-speech software
- Extra time allotted for testing
- Permission to use fidgets or use gum to help with the restlessness that often impacts individuals with ADHD.
- In youth, permission to use stand desks to permit some movement to help manage hyperactivity
In addition to the tips above, managing your ADHD symptoms with medication can be one of the most effective methods for improving learning and studying outcomes. When your ADHD symptoms are under control, there are fewer distractions to keep you from focusing on what you need to. Feel free to reach out to us at Done if you need help finding the right ADHD treatment.