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It is very common for children with ADHD to also have one or more learning disabilities. This discussion is not meant to be an exhaustive examination of learning disabilities but to make you familiar with what the most common ones look like and to alert you to the most common signs or indications. Learning Disabilities fall into three basic areas: Reading (Dyslexia), Writing (Dysgraphia) and Arithmetic (Dyscalculia). Sound familiar? Some things never change.
Dyslexia (Reading Disability)
Dyslexia is not the inability to read. Children with dyslexia can read; they just have trouble with reading, often read slowly and have difficulty retaining what they read. There can be many reasons why a child may have trouble reading which is why a good diagnostic assessment is so important (click on Evaluation). However, here are some common signs to look for:
- Mixing up of the mirror letters “b” and “d”
- Writing letters like “s” and “p” backwards
- The substitution of letters like the “I” for the “e” in “big” and “beg”
- The reversal of letters, like seeing the word “was” but reading “saw”
- Skips over words when reading out loud
- Makes up words reading out loud
- Reads slowly
- Doesn’t like to read
Dysgraphia (Writing Disability)
Children with dysgraphia, simply put, have trouble writing. The trouble can take the form of poor letter formation with their letters running into each other or not staying on the line. More commonly with children who also have ADHD you will see poor spelling, punctuation and grammar and difficulty organizing their ideas and themes. As a result, some children with dysgraphia will put off written assignments or write the bare minimum while other children with dysgraphia will write out something as quickly as possible with little regard for spelling and punctuation—just to get it out before they forget what they are trying to write. Here’s an example of the latter:
Here is another success story from one of our patients with Dysgraphia, as described in a letter from his mother.
And here is his first place essay, amazingly the subject is Dysgraphia.
Dyscalculia – (Math Disability)
Many children have trouble with math; it doesn’t mean they have a disability. The difficulty with recognizing it stems from the fact that sometimes you see it and sometimes you don’t. Perhaps you’ve had the experience in which you’re helping your child with her math problems one night and she seems to understand them fairly well. Then the next night you’re helping her with very similar, almost identical problems and she doesn’t appear to have a clue. The problem is that she is not able to keep the rules for problem-solving in her head all the time.
Here are two types of problems we see in this area:
Children with Dyscalculia have significant problems understanding and using the numbers or symbols necessary to solve math problems. It is not a motivation problem. It simply means that your child is not able to keep the rules consistently in his head. Signs to look for:
- Reversing “+” and “-” adding when the problem calls for subtracting and vice versa
- Getting “lost” during complex computations
- Coming up with answers that are not even “in the ballpark” and being oblivious to how far off his answers actually are
The sooner Learning Disabilities are detected and treated the better. Do not wait until your child’s grades begin to drop off, because by that time his attitude towards school along with his self-esteem may already be suffering.
Learning disabilities frequently coexist, or are co-morbid with ADHD and ODD. This is why a thorough diagnostic assessment is the key to understanding the challenges your child faces. The evaluation should also act as a guide to providing your child the help he or she needs both in school and at home.