ADHD And Learning Disabilities

The connection between ADHD and learning disabilities is still not fully understood.

As the result of ongoing research, however, it is becoming more clear. For example, we know the phenomenom of ADHD and coexisting conditions is pretty common. 

Specifically, those with ADHD are more likely to suffer from conditions such as depression, bipolar, anxiety, substance abuse, addiction, autism, and learning disorders such as dyslexia.

In fact, according to the research and based on my own clinical experience, it seems that these co-occuring conditions are becoming the norm rather than the exception in folks with ADHD.

The Research

Mayes, Cahou, and Powell (2012) at the Department of Psychiatry at Penn State University College of Medicine found a learning disability (LD) was present in 70% of the children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Specifically, a learning disability in written expression was two times more common (65%) than a learning disability in other areas such as reading, math, or spelling.

In addition, children diagnosed with both a learning disability and ADHD had more severe learning problems than children who had only one of the disorders.

adhd and learning disabilities

Interestingly, they found that children who had ADHD but no diagnosis of a learning disability had some degree of learning challenges, and children with a learning disability but no official ADHD diagnosis displayed challenges in the area of attention.

In another prominent study, Ponde (2012) at the Bahia School Of Medicine found a very strong association between attention deficit and learning problems.

Their results suggest that either ADHD leads to learning challenges or that ADHD and learning disorders are co-occurring (comorbid) conditions, in which case learning problems may also contribute to secondary symptoms in ADHD.

Are Genetic Factors Involved In ADHD And Learning Disabilities?

Another important phenomenon is that both ADHD and learning disabilities tend to run in families. Such a genetic connection suggests there are biological correlates between attention and learning.

The meta research suggest that learning and attention problems are on a continuum, are interrelated, and usually coexist.


The connection between learning disabilities and ADHD is complex, but becoming more clear with ongoing research.

If your child is suffering from ADHD, get them tested for learning disabilities. Similarly, if your child is suffering from a learning disability, get them assessed for ADHD.

Both conditions are treatable and through proper diagnosis your child can receive the targeted treatment and support necessary to help them succeed.

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