Everyone learns differently. Some are more visual; others need to be hands-on. Learning disabilities are becoming more prominent in the 21st century, as the medical and educational communities discover more about learning. When talking about the subject, many people wonder is ADHD a learning disability? The short answer is not quite—they are not interchangeable. Let’s look at the differences between the two.
What is a Learning Disability?
To express the differences between ADHD and learning disabilities, it’s important to define each. Learning disabilities refer to the specific learning issues a person may have. These issues make it difficult or impossible for success in standard learning environments. It typically requires specialized help. They include dyslexia, dysgraphia, nonverbal learning disorder, and auditory processing issues.
In the categorization of learning disabilities used in the public schools system, ADHD is not included. Students with ADHD can sometimes qualify for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This enables eligibility to receive special education services. But ADHD is always noted as “Other.”
Because learning disabilities and ADHD have overlapping symptoms, it’s normal to ask is ADHD a learning disability. It may not be a disability, but it does make learning more challenging.
ADHD Does Make Learning Hard
There’s no doubt that ADHD makes learning harder. Those with ADHD often learn in unique ways and need key skills and behaviors to develop a greater learning capacity.
ADHD is a constellation of traits that paint a particular profile. These traits have to do with an inability to inhibit behavior:
- Trouble staying focused
- Starting and completing tasks and projects
- Remembering to do things
- Planning and preparing before acting
- Becoming easily overwhelmed
The key is to get students the help needed to overcome these challenges. However, you’ll most likely have to find specialists outside of the public schools system.
ADHD and Learning Disabilities
It’s common for someone to have both ADHD and learning disabilities, most often represented in slower than average mental processing. Diagnosis of each should be done by professionals.
ADHD and learning disabilities also require different kinds of specialized help. You can’t expect a reading specialist to know how to treat ADHD. In turn, an ADHD coach wouldn’t be teaching skills to overcome dyslexia.
Starting with the right professionals early builds the foundation kids need to thrive and understand how to handle their often uncontrollable behaviors. However, most often the diagnosis of the learning disability comes way before the one for ADHD. In fact, the ADHD diagnosis may not come until adulthood. The important thing is to reach a diagnosis sooner rather than later on ADHD and learning disabilities for the best chance of success.