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Difference Between ADHD and Learning Disability

Approximate_Prevalence_Distribution_of_the_Subtypes_of_ADHDDifference between Learning disability and ADHD

Attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) and Learning disability are two separate entities that can coexist in a child. If a pre-schooler has issues related to reading, writing, completing a task, learning a new task, social skills, making friends or while communicating, he definitely needs help. Some children are fast learners while some are slow. But if a child is much behind in his class and also has certain behavioural issues then he must be tested for learning disability or ADHD by an experienced counsellor or paediatrician. These conditions if diagnosed early can be treated to a major extent. Let us understand each of these conditions in detail.

ADHD – Symptoms

A child with this disorder has three major issues. He has difficulty in staying focussed or paying attention to instructions while performing a task. He is also extremely hyperactive. Around 30-50 percent of the children suffering from ADHD also have learning disability as learning, memorising and recalling becomes a mountainous task. According to a recent data around 9-10% of kids between 3-17 years of age are suffering from ADHD in United States alone. ADHD can be diagnosed with certainty only by the age of 4 when the child begins school.

Neurologists note that children with ADHD have certain difference in their brain structures as well. Those areas of the brain that are responsible for attention are less developed. There is decreased level of neurotransmitter Dopamine which is responsible for mood regulation, controlled movement and attention. Even the frontal lobe that is responsible for social behaviour and learning of social skills is slightly underdeveloped in such children. Boys seem to be more affected than girls with genetics and heredity playing a major role. Consumption of nicotine and alcohol during pregnancy has also been related to birth of ADHD children.

ADHD is of three types

a) Predominantly Hyperactive – Impulsive presentation

b) Predominantly Inattentive presentation

c) Combination of the two

A child with ADHD might be confused and day dreaming. He may not understand and follow instructions like his peers of the same age. He is unable to complete a task and jumps from one task to another. He may be impatient, performs repeated movement of a body part unknowingly, breaks the queue, speaks out of turn, have emotional outbursts, go into depression, or throw tantrums if he doesn’t have his way. He may be fidgety, easily distractible, constantly on the move or speak continuously. Sitting in one place and having a meal or completing his homework becomes difficult. Simple tasks like tying shoe laces, tidying up a room, organising, planning and executing a task etc. are difficult for such children.

The symptoms of ADHD continue through adulthood but they are able to manage their symptoms by that time.

Children with ADHD need to be understood both at home and school. Proper medications, social skill training, behaviour therapy and psychotherapy can help children and parents to deal with this issue. ADHD support groups are a great way for parents to come together, discuss their children’ problems and find a solution.

Learning Disabilities – Problem and Symptoms

Learning disabilities constitute dyslexia (similar letters appear jumbled up), dysgraphia (difficulty in writing), dyscalculia (difficulty in performing simple math calculations, time telling, money matters), Auditory processing disorder (confusing similar sounding words) and visual processing disorder (mismatch between what the eyes see and the brain understands).

A child suffering from learning disabilities will have difficulty in listening, understanding, interpreting and working according to instructions. These children have speech, reading, writing and problem solving issues at school and work. These children are not dumb or imbecile with an abnormally low IQ. They are slightly different from other children as their brain parts are wired a bit differently and so interpret things differently. These kids are actually very intelligent and many of them have become successful entrepreneurs in adulthood.

Signs of learning disorder can be seen right at the preschool stage when the child has difficulty in identifying colours, memorising days of the week, alphabets, learning nursery rhymes or learning new words. Older children struggle with reading aloud, telling time, math calculations, frequent spelling mistakes, expressing their thoughts aloud, organising their room etc. They are slow to learn.

Increasing awareness in parents, teachers and paediatricians have helped in early diagnosis and finding out ways to deal with this problem. Such cases must be handled on an individual basis with the help of a special educator who correctly identifies the type of learning disorder and works towards it. All the care givers must exercise extreme patience when dealing with their wards. All kids with learning disorder have some strengths and hobbies that must be nurtured and appreciated so that they have a good self-esteem.

Children with ADHD or learning disorders must be brought up with a lot of love and care. They are already overwhelmed with the world around them. Parents and caregivers can help them understand their world in a simpler manner and align them with the mainstream.

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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.

  2. This is an extremely inaccurate article on several fronts. I suggest you read up a bit more.

  3. How rude are you …… what this man above was telling everyone is brilliant …If you are looking at this page then adhd is in you’re life …somehow. Open your mind ..Well said Alex

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