How common are learning disabilities with ADHD, and what should parents do to make sure their child is getting the best educational outcomes? Learn more about ADHD and learning disabilities to find out.

What Are Learning Disabilities?

A learning disability is a neurological condition that affects the way someone processes information. Different learning disabilities can affect people in very different ways. Someone with a learning disability may have trouble with a particular subject, such as reading, writing, or math. They may struggle with motor skills, language, hearing, or vision. Some examples of learning disabilities (and the primary areas of learning that they affect) include:

  • Dyslexia (Reading)
  • Dysgraphia (Writing)
  • Dyscalculia (Math)
  • Dyspraxia (Motor skills)
  • Aphasia or dysphasia (Language)
  • Auditory processing disorder (Hearing)
  • Visual processing disorder (Vision)

Is ADHD a Learning Disability?

No — ADHD is not a learning disability. However, the behaviors associated with the disorder do have the potential to affect a child’s ability to learn. Symptoms which may impact learning in children with ADHD include:

  • Being easily distracted
  • Trouble maintaining attention to detail and following instructions
  • Making careless mistakes
  • Fidgeting and/or constant motion
  • Struggling to stay engaged in quiet activities
  • Trouble taking turns in games and activities

How Common Are Learning Disabilities with ADHD?

Learning disabilities frequently co-occur with ADHD. It’s estimated that among children with ADHD, 30% to 50% have a specific learning disability. For these children, learning can be particularly tough because they have to work to overcome their ADHD symptoms as well as the challenges presented by their learning disability.

Getting Help for ADHD and Learning Disabilities

The first step in making sure a child is getting the help they need in school is to seek out an accurate diagnosis. It’s important not to assume that just because a child is struggling in school that they have a learning disability. Similarly, just because a child is hyperactive or easily distracted doesn’t mean they have ADHD. A formal diagnosis is needed in order to get the right treatment.

If a child is diagnosed with ADHD and a learning disability, it’s important to seek assistance for both conditions. They’ll need to see a medical specialist to address their ADHD. Learning disabilities, on the other hand, should be addressed by educational specialists.

In terms of treatment, ADHD medication often has the most significant and immediate effect. However, medication alone may not be enough to overcome most ADHD symptoms, which is why many specialists also recommend behavior therapy for children with ADHD.

For learning disabilities, parents should talk to their child’s teacher about setting up an individualized education program (IEP). The child may also need classroom accommodations or extra academic help from professionals outside of school, such as tutors.

Remember that ADHD treatment won’t address the underlying causes of a learning disability. However, it can help children better manage their symptoms, which may make it easier to overcome certain academic challenges.