What is the Relationship Between ADHD and Learning Disabilities?

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  • Written By: Tara Barnett
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 25 July 2019
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ADHD and learning disabilities have a complex relationship, because some people classify ADHD as a learning disability while others do not. In general, a learning disability is considered to be an impairment that prevents knowledge or learning in a specific way that does not necessarily relate to the person's overall intelligence. The medical conditions that are considered learning disabilities differ by area and also differ between professional and colloquial understandings. Many people connect ADHD and learning disabilities because ADHD can make it seem difficult for a person to learn, but does not have much bearing on how intelligent a person can become. In fact, ADHD can make it significantly easier to learn, but very difficult to follow directions or learn when someone does not want to.

Whether or not ADHD and learning disabilities are related depends on perspective. Problems like dyslexia that prevent information from entering the brain easily when provided in certain formats are more clearly learning disabilities. ADHD could be considered a condition that prevents information from reaching the brain in that it prevents the person in question from being able to focus on learning. On the other hand, it is also clear that the problem is focus, not the ability to physically comprehend the information. In that sense, ADHD and learning disabilities may not be related.


Another common connection between ADHD and learning disabilities is that they often co-occur. A person with a learning disability may have ADD or ADHD, making the learning disability more pronounced. With certain disorders, it can be difficult to figure out where one disorder ends and another begins, leading to many cases of ADHD misdiagnosis. It is important to note that the medications used to treat ADHD do not help with learning disorders like autism or dyslexia, so a proper diagnosis is key to recovery.

The connection between ADHD and learning disabilities often puts students with ADHD in special education courses. Generally, all students with learning disabilities require special attention that allows their particular way of learning to be acknowledged, so this is not necessarily a bad decision. On the other hand, a serious problem with special education is that it is stigmatized in many areas, leading to students feeling irrationally that they are unable to learn.

While many people consider ADHD to be a learning disability, this definition is not agreed upon universally. In fact, ADHD does not often impede learning so long as the student is learning in a way that suits his or her desires. People with ADHD often have an encyclopedic knowledge of certain types of information and can often sit down and focus on a project for hours when they are in the right mood. As such, ADHD is often classified as a behavior disorder rather than a problem with learning.



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