Health & Medicine

Is Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder(ADHD) a learning disability?


ADHD or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a common neurobiological disorder that is usually noticed during preschool or in the first grades of school.

ADHD can affect around 5 to 12% of the student population, that is, in each classroom, there maybe 1 or 2 students with ADHD.

Is ADHD a learning disability or a mental illness?

The condition known as ADHD is characterized by an inappropriate level of inattention, that is, a great facility to be distracted. It also includes hyperactivity and impulsivity.

ADHD itself is not a learning disability, although it frequently coexists with the learning disability. About 30 to 50% of children with ADHD also have a learning disability. Both conditions can interact and make learning difficult.

Of course, if you can’t concentrate when trying to learn or read a book, it will be much more difficult to incorporate new knowledge.

ADHD is a learning disability How does ADHD affect learning?

To learn, you need to use a brain function known as the “executive functions.”

Executive functions are a group of cognitive skills necessary to manage behavior and self-control. This group of skills includes working memory, mental flexibility, and self-control. Thanks to these functions we can concentrate, follow instructions, achieve goals, and control emotions.

ADHD affects these executive functions of the brain. Many people with this problem have difficulty learning new things and doing satisfactory school work. However, the impact on learning is not always sufficient to diagnose a learning disability.

What is a learning disability?

Learning disability can affect the way a person learns to read, speak, do calculations, and write. They are caused by differences in the brain, that is, they have a neurobiological origin. It often affects the way the brain works, although it can sometimes affect the structure as well. They are problems that affect the way in which the brain can process information.

It is important to clarify that learning disabilities are not a reflection of intelligence or the effort applied to learning. Learning disability only causes the new information to be received and processed differently than usual.

People who have learning disabilities often have average or even higher than average intelligence. Although, there is a clear difference between your achievements and the potential you have. Now, you can get the expected achievements to your intelligence through support and appropriate interventions to demonstrate your real abilities.

Some examples of learning problems:

  • Dysgraphia: a disorder that affects writing. People with dysgraphia may have trouble writing within a defined space, forming letters, or even writing their thoughts.
  • Auditory processing disorder: This condition causes problems understanding or remembering assignments associated with language. They often have difficulty explaining things, following directions, or understanding jokes. They can easily confuse words.
  • Dyslexia: reading problems. You have trouble reading words easily and accurately. It also affects the ability to spell and understand sentences or recognize familiar words.
  • Visual processing disorder.
  • Dyscalculia: mathematical disorder. They often have difficulty understanding math concepts and doing sums or numerical measurements.
  • Dysphasia/aphasia: disorder associated with language. It involves trouble saying what they want to say.

ADHD symptoms. How to recognize it?

 ADHD is a medical diagnosis classified into two groups of symptoms, the symptoms of inattention and the symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity. ADHD symptoms can also appear in combination.

Symptoms of inattention:

It is common to have problems attending to a specific task. They tend to daydream very frequently and are easily diverted from events around them.

The person with ADHD is often unable to pay careful attention to detail. You often make careless mistakes in your activities.

Although he is being spoken to directly, he appears not to be listening.

Homework or schoolwork is very difficult to complete and often has trouble following directions.

He does not like activities that require mental effort or concentration, he usually avoids them frequently.

It is common for them to lose the necessary elements to carry out the activities or tasks assigned, for example, pencils, toys, among others.

You often forget to do some daily assignments like homework or homework.

Symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity

Hyperactivity is a constant problem in controlling your activity level. Children with this problem are often fidgety or tapping with their hands or feet. They can also squirm in their seat.

They are usually in constant motion it is difficult for them to remain seated in the classroom or other situations.

They often talk too much or interrupt conversations. They tend to give very hasty answers, interrupting whoever asks the question.

They have trouble playing or doing quiet activities.

How is the impact of learning disabilities in children with ADHD?

Learning disabilities can greatly affect a child’s self-esteem. A false myth, claims that smart people do well in school. But this is not necessarily true, especially in people with ADHD and a learning disability.

People with ADHD have trouble learning and demonstrating their knowledge in the expected or traditional way of doing it. However, their intelligence may be much higher than that reflected in their school grades.


A child with ADHD may feel isolated and different when he notices that other children easily do activities that are difficult for him. However, with the right interventions, the child can learn and become successful.

Examples of successful people with ADHD:

  • Richard Branson, the founder of the billionaire Virgin empire.
  • Jim Carrey, actor.
  • Michael Jordan, NBA player.
  • Michael Phelps, Olympic medalist in swimming.
  • Ryan Gosling, actor, writer, and musician with ADHD and a learning disability.
  • Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft.
  • Jennifer Lawrence, actress


  • Harris, M. N., Voigt, R. G., Barbaresi, W. J., Voge, G. A., Killian, J. M., Weaver, A. L., Colby, C. E., Carey, W. A., & Katusic, S. K. (2013). ADHD and learning disabilities in former late preterm infants: a population-based birth cohort. Pediatrics, 132(3), e630–e636.
  • Magnus W, Nazir S, Anilkumar AC, Shaban K. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. 2020 Jun 29. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan–. PMID: 28722868.

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