Most people are unaware of the connection between dyslexia and ADHD. This article will look at what parents need to know about the connection between dyslexia and ADHD.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that almost 50 percent of children diagnosed with ADHD also have another learning ‘disorder’ such as dyslexia. (Read why I don’t consider dyslexia a disorder here.)
The International Dyslexia Association estimates that 30% of those diagnosed with dyslexia have ADHD as well.
The implications of this are huge. ADHD makes learning, especially in the traditional classroom, extremely difficult.
For 20 years, I had no idea that some of my kids were not only struggling with dyslexia but also silently suffering from an agonizing inability to focus – even when they desperately wanted to.
Because of the many myths I believed about ADHD, I overlooked an issue that has resulted in some serious consequences in my kids’ lives. I don’t want that to happen to your family.
This post will share the things I wish I had known when my older kids were still young.
Myths About ADHD
Just as with dyslexia, there are a lot of myths about ADHD that stem from a lack of knowledge of the underlying causes of inattention. Here are some of the most common myths about ADHD.
Myth 1: All kids with ADHD are hyperactive
Fact: Some children with ADHD are hyperactive, but many others with attention problems are not. Children with ADHD who are inattentive, but not overly active, may appear to be spacey and unmotivated. This kind of attention issue is easily overlooked. I talk more about the different types of ADHD below.
Myth 2: Kids with ADHD can never pay attention
Fact: Children with ADHD are often able to concentrate on activities they enjoy. But no matter how hard they try, they have trouble maintaining focus when the task at hand is boring or repetitive. Parents may observe their child spending large amounts of time focusing on building with Legos, playing creatively, playing video games, or while being read to and wrongly assume that they don’t have attention issues.
Myth 3: Kids with ADHD could pay attention if they wanted to
Fact: Children with ADHD may do their best to please their teachers and even strongly desire to do so, but still be unable to sit still, stay quiet, or pay attention. They may appear disobedient, but they are not acting out on purpose. I’ll never forget hearing Jonathan Mooney speak at an International Dyslexia Association conference about his torturous experience with ADHD in the classroom. “When did sitting still become a moral issue?” Myths about ADHD hurt kids. This myth is difficult to accept if you have not personally experienced ADHD.
Myth 4: Kids will grow out of ADHD
Fact: ADHD often continues into adulthood, so waiting for your child to outgrow the problem isn’t a viable option. Treatment can help your child learn to manage and minimize the symptoms.
Myth 5: Medication is the best treatment option for ADHD
Fact: Medication is often prescribed for attention deficit disorder, but it might not be the best option for your child. Effective treatment for ADHD also includes education, behavior therapy, support at home and school, exercise, and proper nutrition.
As with the many myths that surround dyslexia, the myths that surround attention issues such as ADHD can cause a lot of wasted time, misunderstandings, and anxiety.
Types of ADHD
The DSM-V identifies 3 types of ADHD:
- ADHD predominantly inattentive type is characterized by distractibility and difficulty sustaining mental effort and attention.
- ADHD predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type is characterized by fidgeting with hands and feet, squirming in one’s chair, acting as if driven by a motor, and interrupting and intruding upon others.
- ADHD combined type has both sets of inattention and hyperactive/impulsive criteria.
Signs of ADHD
- doesn’t pay attention to details
- makes careless mistakes
- trouble staying focused; is easily distracted
- appears not to listen
- difficulty remembering things and following directions
- trouble staying organized, planning ahead, and finishing projects
- gets bored with a task before it’s completed
- frequently loses or misplaces schoolwork, books, toys or other items
- constantly fidgets and squirms
- runs or climbs inappropriately
- talks too much
- difficulty playing quietly or relaxing
- always on the go – as if driven by a motor
- may have a quick temper
- acts without thinking
- blurts out words without hearing the whole question
- trouble waiting for a turn
- often interrupts
- trouble keeping strong emotions in check – angry or emotional outbursts
- guesses rather than taking time to solve a problem
The Impact of ADHD and Dyslexia on Learning
Just as it is important for parents to understand what it means to be dyslexic, it is also important for them to understand the impact of attention issues such as ADHD on learning. Homeschooling a child who struggles to focus on schoolwork or who has trouble following directions or acts impulsively can be frustrating, especially if you mistakenly believe that the child is acting out willfully.
Understanding and expectations
When parents and teachers understand that a child may desire to sit still and follow directions but be unable to can make a huge difference in their day-to-day relationship with kids with ADHD.
Understanding ADHD can make the difference between daily life becoming a battle of wills or power struggle and becoming one of training and making modifications to the class environment and teaching methods.
Our resources page has been updated with some of the top sites to learn more about ADHD, its causes, research, and possible treatments.
As with dyslexia, getting educated about ADHD is critical to understanding and educating your children.