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Difference Between ADHD and Learning Disability

ADHD Vs Learning Disability

There has been an ongoing misconception in interpreting ADHD to be the same as learning disability. ADHD, acronym for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is a condition that can seriously affect the learning ability of the child. But this does not mean however that all ADHD children have learning disabilities. In fact, it is said that only 30% of ADHD patients have true learning disabilities.

Nonetheless, the majority of ADHD children have general learning problems and not disabilities. Having a form of problem related to learning is different from learning disability because the former may be because of ADHD’s nature of having no focus at all. With this, the ADHD child will truly have a hard time learning new concepts because he cannot concentrate well. He easily shifts attention from one task to the other. It is like he has learning problems in all cognitive areas 24/7.

Learning disability, on the contrary, means that the child has a certain deficit in a single area or perhaps two or more areas. It’s the same as saying that even if a child has a learning disability to Math then it is not immediately assumed that he also has a disability in English. But this also implies that not all areas are affected and that the other areas are still normal. In the school setting, students who are suspected of having learning disabilities are those who have a significant disparity between the result of their achievement tests and their IQ.

To sum up, the learning problem in ADHD is more generalized in nature. This means that it affects most or all cognitive processes and not just a one, two, three, etc. it cannot be checked by means of administering a test unlike in learning disability.

Another difference between ADHD and learning disability is that the ADHD is more severe than learning disability. It has a deficit in cognition that can only be assessed and examined by professional doctors. The latter can be diagnosed by the school through their unique testing system to spot for areas of learning disabilities.

1. ADHD is a more serious cognitive medical disorder that may have a biologic cause.

2. ADHD can be diagnosed by medical doctors only whereas learning disability can be diagnosed by other professionals, aside from doctors, like those experts from the school.

3. ADHD has a more general effect on most or all learning areas while learning disability just affects one or two areas.

4. In learning disability, there is a distinct disability of learning that’s limited to certain areas while in ADHD there are multiple problems of learning.

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  1. I think the learning issues can come from sensory overload and not necessarily from ADHD. It’s not that they can’t learn, they just can’t concentrate if there are too many distractions. I like what Brain Balance has to say about the issue – that all neurobehavioral disorders have in common an underlying condition called functional disconnection syndrome. Through diet, behavior modification, exercises that repair the disconnection, you can reduce or eliminate symptoms. While their site doesn’t really talk cause (pesticides, etc.) it is worth a read, particularly the “truth” section.

    • Jennifer, while I can totally appreciate your rather vague view on ADHD, I believe you may be making a generalization. When someone makes a statement along the line of “it’s not that they can’t learn, it’s just that they can’t concentrate if there are too many distractions” i cannot help but feel the need to give a little firsthand education because clearly anyone who would write such an uneducated and inadvertently insulting comment clearly has no direct experience with what ADHD actually is. First of all, no medically accepted theories, books, or documents ever insinuated that having ADHD prevents the ability to learn. If it prevented people from learning we wouldn’t be able to function beyond basic motor skills IF THAT. Secondly, having ADHD does not at all mean you need some huge distraction in order to become distracted from whatever you are doing. Something as simple as watching a ceiling fan spin may be enough to take your focus away from classwork. In saying we can’t concentrate if there are “too many distractions” you could be interpreted as attempting to invalidate years of research. Yes it is completely true that it would be difficult to hold my attention in a classroom if there was a carnival outside, however, that is a pretty extreme example of what a “distraction” can actually be for a person with ADHD. If you actually had ADHD, (which i can clearly tell you do not simply based off of your ignorant word choice when describing people with ADHD as “they” as if people with ADHD need to be in a separate category from the rest of society) you would probably understand that in a situation that requires focus on a less than intriguing topic in a less than captivating environment,(ohh i don’t know lets venture a classroom perhaps?) it does not take anything more than glancing at the clock on the wall to lure your attention away from the topics being discussed in class. So suggesting that “too many distractions” is what causes students with ADHD to lose focus is a little ridiculous considering anything can be a distraction to a student with ADHD. And assuming all “distracting” items were removed from the classroom, a student with ADHD would probably not fair any better. Why is that? I’m glad you asked. One of the common “gifts” that many people with ADHD posses is unusually advanced creativity. I can tell you from experience i do not need a physical distraction around me to create a whole world of them in my head. It’s called daydreaming, and it is one of the first signs that teachers will look in a student they believe might have ADHD. This helps them make as accurate of an educated GUESS as they can when advising parents to have their child evaluated because while teachers CAN diagnose a learning disability, they CANNOT diagnose ADHD due to its more complex nature. Therefor, i would urge you to try and understand that as long as a human has brain function, they have the ability to become distracted. While i do agree that diet and several other factors can help reduce the magnitude of many symptoms, I also believe that in many cases, having the child put on a medication is going to yield far more dramatic results, especially when it comes to test scores and grades. Behavior modification looks great conceptually, yet it greatly depends on the willingness and cooperation of the patient, which would more often than not be a child as most people are diagnosed with ADHD during elementary years. For many children, myself (at the time) included, behavioral therapy, or “behavior modification” is worse than almost anything else. Not many children diagnosed with ADHD are excited to find out they are different than their peers, and going to a psychologist to talk about it is often met with great resistance. Reflecting on and learning from the emotional and academic turmoil i have been through since 4th grade when i was diagnosed, i can safely say at the age of 20 i now have the confidence as well as motivation and extensive firsthand knowledge to actually help educate private school teachers, specifically high school teachers, on how to approach educating students with ADHD in the classroom. I specifically focus on the importance of the teacher’s accountability when it comes to the student’s emotional stability, which plays an extremely large factor in academic success, yet is so often overlooked due to behavioral struggles, particularly in males. Conclusively, ADHD shows many similar symptoms in different people, however, each case is different and should be treated as such.

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