When kids who are adopted have learning and attention issues, parents may face some unique challenges. Kids come to their new families with their own cultural and health backgrounds. It can be hard for parents to know if some of the problems they see are related to adoption, learning and attention issues or both.
This is especially true if parents don’t know a lot about their child’s early life. They may be missing key information about his biological family and medical history. They may also not be aware of things he experienced.
Possible Risk Factors in Adopted Children
Kids who are adopted are roughly twice as likely to have learning and attention issues, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. One out of five adopted kids has learning disabilities. For non-adopted kids, it’s less than one in 10.
There’s no concrete data that explains why adopted children may be more at risk for learning and attention issues. It’s possible that several factors play a role. These include:
- Exposure to drugs or alcohol before birth
- Complications at birth
- Poor nutrition, neglect or abuse
- Genetics—ADHD and many learning issues run in families
The Stress Connection
Researchers also believe that stress and trauma early in life may raise the risk for learning and attention issues. Constant stress causes the brain to release higher levels of certain chemicals. When that happens, it can interfere with the way the brain develops. This often occurs with kids who spend a lot of time in orphanages and don’t have a caregiver to bond with.
When kids are adopted from another country they often lose their first language. This is known as “subtractive bilingualism.” And it’s another risk factor for learning and attention issues.
Kids who are raised in bilingual homes usually have caregivers who speak both languages. But adopted kids often don’t. They have to lose their first language before learning the second.
That process can delay how quickly they’re able to master their new language. And those language delays can cause behavioral and other issues that may impact a child’s educational success.
Sorting Through the Challenges
Learning and attention issues can cause anxiety for many kids. But adopted kids may have an extra layer. They may worry that their issues were the reason their birth parents “gave them up.” They may also be anxious about being “different” in not just one way, but two (being adopted and having learning and attention issues).
If your child is anxious, there are things you can do to address his worries and help him understand why he’s struggling. A full evaluation for learning and attention issues can help you learn exactly what his challenges are. Once you know, you can start talking to him about his issues and finding the support he needs.