Is ADHD a Learning Disability? Information for Parents and Educators

Is ADHD a Learning Disability?  Information for Parents and Educators
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What Is ADHD?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD is a familiar condition that makes it tough for the child to have power over his or her behavior and conduct.

The majority of children with ADHD will have behavior or attention problems that can effect their daily routine and life. These children often have a difficult time getting through their daily lives without extra help or assistance. Unfortunately, most individuals find this disability lasts a lifetime.

The different symptoms that can be found in ADHD-disabled children are mentioned below. However, a case may exhibit one or more of these symptoms in a combination. The symptoms are:

  • Inattention: Children suffering from ADHD may have problems with paying attention for long periods and often end up in a state of daydreaming.
  • Hyperactivity: Children suffering from ADHD might not be able stay idle. They are forever moving or talking too much.
  • Impulsiveness: Children suffering from ADHD may act or talk without thinking. Other cases include the individual interrupting frequently or demonstrating reduced judgment.

What Is a Learning Disability?

A learning disability is a neurobiological disorder. It is related to having problems with one or more areas of learning. Children with learning disabilities learn in a different manner because their brain structure and functioning is not the same as with other children. Learning disabilities can affect a child’s spoken language, written language, math, reasoning, memory, social behavior, physical coordination, organization, or meta-cognition.

Answering the Big Question

Learning disabilities and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder are two very different types of challenges. However, in some cases they can be seen together. As per a study by Stormom et. al., around 20 to 30 percent of children suffering from ADHD also seem to possess learning disabilities.[1]

Those difficulties in preschool children include problems understanding certain sounds and expressing oneself. School going children may find difficulty reading, spelling, writing, or solving arithmetic problems.

Thus ADHD and learning disabilities are two different disorders, but ADHD affects learning in almost 30 percent of the cases. ADHD can influence learning as a whole and puts pressure on all cognitive functions. Early intervention and assistance by teachers, colleagues, and parents can diagnose most learning disabilities. On the other hand, ADHD, while it can impact learning, is a medical condition that must be properly diagnosed by a physician.

To understand the difference more clearly, follow this example: Imagine the brain has twenty different functions only. These functions include reading, writing, reasoning, etc. A child suffering from a learning disability will stop the functioning of just two or three abilities. However, ADHD would soften or minimize the functionality of all abilities. As with learning disorders, ADHD affects the person at all times and not only in times when he is performing certain cognitive activities.

Does the ADHD Learner Need an IEP?

Thus, children suffering from ADHD should also be tested for learning disorders. If the child is tested positive to have a disorder, it is advisable to contact the school authorities for help. The school would then evaluate the child and decide whether the child needs special help or not. In case he or she does, the child may qualify for an Individualized Education Plan that is designed specifically for them.


[1] Stormom M., Stebbins M. S., McIntosh D. L. Characteristics and types of services received by children with two types of attention deficits. School Psychology International 1999; 20(4)365–375


  • The information offered in this article is based on the author’s extensive experience working in a fully-inclusive classroom setting.