Learning Disabilities and ADHD

Nearly 3 million students receive special education services every year, and of those, half are diagnosed with a learning disability. Statistics show than nearly half of all parents who suspect that their child may have a learning difficulty wait an entire year before acknowledging that their child may have a serious problem. Students with learning disabilities are more likely to drop out of school, but many experts believe it’s because they’re less likely to get the help they need, and so they get frustrated and quit. We’re hoping that the information provided on this site will move parents to act more quickly, as that lost year is significant in the academic life of a learning disabled student.

It is almost universally accepted that learning disorders are the result of varying types of malfunctions in the way the brain operates. Unfortunately, there is very little information on what actually causes these malfunctions.

Studies going back as far as 1973 provide strong evidence that certain environmental factors, such as smoking or excessive alcohol consumption or drug use by a mother during pregnancy, may be at least partially responsible for certain learning and behavioral disorders.

After birth, exposure to second-hand smoke can also affect a child’s brain development as can an infection involving the central nervous system, physical trauma or poor nutrition.

There has been a lot of media attention given to rumors that an ingredient used in childhood vaccinations, thimerosal, may be a contributing factor in the case of autism. While scientific studies have not completely ruled this out, the evidence so far is heavily weighted against it being true. It should also be noted that thimerosal was removed from vaccination formulations in 2001 and the rate of autism spectrum disorders being diagnosed has not changed markedly.

Learning and behavioral disorders seem to run in families so it seems they may have a genetic component, meaning they seem to be inherited.
Until more is known about causes, the focus should be on proper diagnosis and treatment. Many children with ADHD also have learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, and auditory or visual perception issues. The fact that these conditions can co-exist often complicates the diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Although ADHD is not specifically referred to as a learning disability, if it accompanies a learning disability it can make it even harder for a child to perform well in school.

Imagine if you were a child who is already struggling with reading or math, and in addition, teachers and parents are complaining about your short attention span and seeming unwillingness to finish projects or homework assignments? These children often feel frustrated, angry, and hopeless. If their double issues of an LD and ADHD are not addressed individually, attempts to deal with one or the other can be frustrating.

Here are the most common forms of learning disability:

Dyslexia – a language-based learning disability in which a person has trouble understanding written words. It may also be referred to as reading disability or reading disorder.

Dyscalculia – a mathematical learning disability in which a person has a difficult time solving arithmetic problems and grasping math concepts.

Dysgraphia – a writing disability in which a person finds it hard to form letters or write within a defined space.

Auditory and Visual Processing Disorders – sensory disabilities in which a person has difficulty understanding language despite normal hearing and vision.

Learning disorder diagnosis involves more than just academic tests. Your doctor may ask about your child’s developmental and medical history as well as your family medical history. Learning disorders tend to run in families.