At a Glance
ADHD is not a learning disability (LD), but it’s common in kids and adults with LD.
There are no medical treatments for learning disabilities.
ADHD and learning disabilities are genetic.
In a large survey by the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), nearly everyone asked had heard of dyslexia. But only one-third knew about other learning disabilities (LD). And more than half of the people thought that wearing glasses can treat certain learning disabilities (which isn’t true).
Here are nine key facts about learning disabilities and ADHD.
1. There are no medical tests to diagnose LD. Researchers are beginning to learn the role of genetics in learning disabilities. But there’s no blood test or brain scan that can tell you if a person has one.
Identifying LD is a complex process. It should start with having a doctor rule out vision, hearing, or developmental issues that can hide an underlying LD. For school-age kids, families work with teachers and the school to observe and collect information about the child’s learning and performance.
Then professionals do the testing, verify the information, and learn how the child processes information. Similar tests are used for diagnosing LD in adults.
2. ADHD is not a learning disability. However, ADHD can interfere with learning. And experts estimate that one-third to one-half of people with LD also have ADHD.
3. Vision, hearing, or motor impairments are not learning disabilities. That’s not to say these conditions don’t affect learning—they can. And people with LD may also have impairments in some of these areas.
This might seem confusing. But the key is to have professionals sort out the main cause of the symptoms. In some cases, a medical condition (like poor vision or hearing) is the cause. In other cases, it’s LD.
4. Medication doesn’t “cure” ADHD. Medication can be helpful for many people with ADHD. But it isn’t a cure. Medication combined with other therapies is often the most effective treatment for ADHD. Tutoring, coaching, and counseling can help people learn practical skills (like organizing) and improve their focus and attention. Medication can help them thrive in those efforts.
6. Learning disabilities and ADHD run in families. A child with ADHD, for example, has about a one in four chance of having a sibling or parent with ADHD. And many siblings of kids with dyslexia have similar issues with reading.
7. LD is not the same as an intellectual disability. More than four out of 10 people surveyed by NCLD think that learning disabilities are related to intelligence. They ’re not, though. The truth is that most people with LD have average or above-average intelligence.
8. More boys are identified with LD compared to girls. Only half of all public school students are boys, yet two-thirds of the students getting special education services for LD are boys. The reasons for this gender gap aren’t clear. But it’s consistent across all racial and ethnic groups.
9. LD isn’t caused by the environment in which kids are raised. Surprisingly, most of the people surveyed believe environment does cause LD—and four in 10 teachers do, too.
Most people with LD have average or above-average intelligence.
Boys tend to be identified with LD more than girls.
Learning disabilities and ADHD tend to run in families.