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Can ADHD & Learning Disabilities Be Related?
Many questions are raised about this topic, so we decided to make a blog post dedicated to making clarifications regarding the relationship between ADHD and Learning. Is it true that ADHD is a part of the learning disabilities that a person can experience? Should a child with a learning disability be considered someone with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder? Let’s find out here.
ADHD and various learning disabilities are conditions that can be experienced by children separately or together. But, they can share some symptoms and are connected through our brain's executive function, which allows us to plan, organize, and complete tasks. However, their differences remain evident.
A learning disability is a neurological disorder that affects reading, writing, math skills, or the ability to process information. It occurs when the brain has difficulty receiving and processing information. Examples of learning disabilities a child can have are dyslexia (difficulty reading), dysgraphia (problem with writing), and dyscalculia (math difficulties). These disorders are often diagnosed in elementary school-aged children as they begin to struggle academically compared with their peers. 🙋♀️
On the other hand, ADHD is a neurodivergent disorder characterized by problems in paying attention, excessive activity, or getting distracted easily. These ADHD symptoms can make us get bored quickly with learning uninteresting topics or get hyperfocused if we are too eager to learn about something we are passionate about. The lapses in our attention span can also affect how we obtain knowledge. 😵
ADHD Affects How We Learn
An ADHD brain may sometimes be a complicated thing to understand. There are instances when we can know how it works, but there are times when we just can't. Having ADHD can sometimes affect our ability to learn - positively or negatively. In other words, there's a chance that ADHD might make learning difficult for us, but there are times when we can benefit from having this condition.
There is a saying, "Not everyone learns in the same way." And I can agree with that. Not all people learn the same way, and we can have different ways of learning, especially those children with ADHD. 😉 We all obtain knowledge differently because we're unique. So what's it like to learn with an ADHD brain?
The Negative Effects of ADHD on Learning
When I was still a student, learning new things was complicated, especially during junior school, where all information should be remembered and absorbed as much as possible. It felt like my brain couldn't function properly. Every time my teacher introduced a new topic, my brain would wander off elsewhere and become too uninterested in learning them.
The thought of learning something we cannot use soon can make us slack off and not exert any effort on learning them. The uninteresting topics “forces” us to do something better or far more exciting. 🥺
However, since “uninteresting things” are still part of the academic work that we should accomplish, not completing them often results in consequences. We can be reprimanded daily because of our behavior with tasks and tests. Our self-esteem can easily get affected because of unnecessary remarks like "You are smart, but why can't you focus on your studies?", "You're not trying hard enough," or oftentimes, "You're just lazy." 😭
These uncalled for remarks can create a lasting impression on some students with ADHD, making them compensate more and do strategies that are often exhausting. I had a fair share of this experience when my elementary teacher called me out because I had a bad record on my daily report card. She said that I should try harder and be more attentive in class. Upon hearing these words, I was hurt and immediately tried to devote my extra time to studying, finishing my homework folder, and receiving positive reinforcement from her subject. But still, even though I tried so hard, I couldn't meet her expectations.
ADHD Can Be Helpful to Learning
But on a positive note, I had this other teacher that gave me the proper support that I needed when I was just a kid. There were times that I struggled with her subject, but with close collaboration with my classmates, I took on a helpful attitude and produced a positive learning environment.
Sometimes, the people who are willing to support us fill our ADHD brain's gap in learning new things. Many children with ADHD can get easily discouraged, especially if they feel that they can never meet expectations. Still, it is essential to remember that we should focus on our capabilities and use them as a stepping stone to success. 💪
There are times when ADHD can help a child succeed. Our neurodivergent disorder can make a child learn all depths of something he perceives more critically even if faced with many difficulties. The hyperactivity of a child's brain with ADHD can easily pick on these exciting topics. They might spend the entire day gaining knowledge about them. Learning new things, especially when we feel our dopamine levels kick in, can make the tasks “easy”. 👌
ADHD can be an advantage, particularly if we are given the right support. Growing up, I sometimes got too interested and "invested" in some talents or topics that I found entertaining. Thus, when I'm too engaged in these subject matters, I enjoy learning them. I quickly remember everything and develop hobbies related to my interests. Our concentration level looks so high and uninterrupted when what's served on our minds interests us the most.
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Symptoms of ADHD that Can Affect Learning
An inattentive mind or hyperactive brain can influence your study skills when inside a learning facility or a classroom.
Sometimes, the level of interest we have is directly proportional to the amount of our productivity. Hence, when we are uninterested in certain areas, our attitude towards it becomes more apprehensive.
Many children with ADHD can struggle a lot with learning, but so do a lot of adults with ADHD as well. The National Resource Center on ADHD stated that 4.4% of U.S adults had been diagnosed with ADHD, and the number of those affected with learning disabilities is also significantly high. Many individuals with ADHD often find it hard to focus, remember things, and be organized, leading to problems both inside and outside the classroom.
When other people easily judge us as someone who always has a hard time studying, it can easily affect our confidence and make us believe that we're not good enough. Many children with ADHD grow up thinking that they can never achieve anything in their lives because they find it difficult to focus on things, especially when they need to learn something new. A child's self-esteem is fragile 😨: it can quickly limit their abilities and knowledge if they don't have the proper support.
Getting bored can happen to anyone, even neurotypicals. But, boredom for many children (or adults) with ADHD is different because of our tendency to get bored even if we want to learn new things 😴. It can be challenging to focus on a single task for a long time, so we might need to take short breaks more often. ADHD affects us by making us feel restless. It is hard to focus when we are bored, which can quickly lead to problems in our studies.
We are easily attracted by the things our brain sees as something interesting. But there are also times that this interest can quickly fade while we are in the middle of learning something. It would be challenging to focus and find the motivation to continue when we have lost all interest in what we are doing. So it's still essential to have the right behavior and a positive learning environment to help us continue despite feeling uninterested.
Gets Discouraged Easily
When we think that we are deeply paying attention to the lesson but still can't understand a single thing about it, we might get discouraged and stop trying anymore. 😭 After all, it feels like we are trying hard, but it’s still not enough. We feel inferior and think that we are the only ones who can't seem to understand what's happening. Many children with ADHD seem to quit easily and feel like they can't do anything right.
When everything is like a mess inside our brain, it can be hard to focus on a single task and finish it. We might need more time to complete a project because we need to regroup and organize everything.
It can be frustrating when we know what to do, but can't seem to get started because we don't know where to begin. It can also make learning difficult when everything is cluttered, especially when students with ADHD do homework. 📝 A less conducive study area can easily make us unfocused, unlike a classroom setting where there is a particular place for everything.
How To Adapt in Learning With ADHD
Learning can be greatly affected when you have an ADHD diagnosis or have thoughts of having ADHD because of the symptoms you experience. Other students may also affect you, and you might have a more challenging time in school. The good news is you can adapt by practicing certain steps, such as the following.
- Get an early diagnosis – This can help you and your parents understand your symptoms and how it affects your schooling. It can also help you get the necessary treatments and interventions as soon as possible. 👩⚕️
- Prefer schools that offer support to students with ADHD - there are schools with ADHD accommodations to give support to children with ADHD. The environment you create must be well-suited for a child with ADHD.
- Manage Symptoms of ADHD - You can try to learn how to manage the symptoms of ADHD so that it would not get in the way of your schooling. This can be done with the help of a professional who can help you understand your condition and give you ways to cope. Medications and therapy can as well help you with your education.
- Use study tools - Utilize different tools that can help you study despite having ADHD. This can be in the form of apps or software that can help you focus on your studies. Some people also prefer using a whiteboard or a corkboard to help them organize their thoughts better. A child's progress can also be measured and monitored with these tools.
- Explore Outside Your Comfort Zone - Others, like you, have ADHD, too and are looking for ways to adapt to their schooling. Everything cannot be learned inside a classroom entirely, and some students have a different learning curve from the others. Knowledge is not based on how high your grades are, so don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.
- Create A Support System - It is essential to have people around you that understand what you are going through. These people can help you with your studies and give you the motivation to continue despite the challenges. A sound support system will make it easier for you to overcome challenges. Teachers, parents, or other students willing to help, can be a great asset to have. ❤️
- Set Your Own Pace - Learning is not a race. There will be times when the pressure will make you feel you are struggling but remember that everyone learns differently. It is okay to take your time and focus on understanding the material rather than just getting it done quickly.
- Intervene As Soon As Possible - One thing can lead to another. Good behavior can be essential in helping you be in the right attitude and mindset towards learning. This can prevent other disorders from developing, such as Conduct Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and Anxiety. Even though there are lapses in education, it would be much easier to cope and adapt with a positive attitude.
- Join ADHD Support Groups - ADHD affects us differently, and who else can understand us well? Those who we share our struggles and challenges with can help us get through difficult times and make us realize that there's more to our neurodivergent disorders.
- Inquire About State-Sponsored Programs - Each state has different programs to help individuals with ADHD. Some of these programs can offer academic coaching, behavior management, and other necessary support to help you in school. An Individualized education program and even special services for ADHD kids can also help you with your schooling.
- Reach Out for Help When Needed - Never be afraid or ashamed to seek help when you need it. It is always better to get assistance early on so that the condition does not get worse. Many people are willing to help, and all you have to do is ask for it.
Last, and the most important thing you should know about ADHD and Learning, is about being kind to yourself. 😘 It would be best to work together with your ADHD brain, not against it, to reach your full potential. You may do simple things that can make a difference in your struggles, like breaking down the work at hand into minor tasks and making them more achievable. Enjoying what you do can also help you focus more. Be patient with yourself and always remember that there is nothing wrong with you. You are just wired differently.
ADHD and Learning: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Is ADHD a learning disability?
ADHD is not considered a learning disability. It is a neurodivergent disorder characterized by inattention and/or impulsivity-hyperactivity. Learning disabilities have many types, like dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia. However, ADHD and learning disabilities may share some symptoms and occur together in a person.
Why is it that many people with ADHD also struggle with learning new things?
Many people with ADHD struggle to learn new things because several ADHD symptoms affect their focus, time management, and organization. Getting easily distracted and being inattentive, for instance, are not conducive for learning.
What can help children and adults with ADHD to help them become more successful in school?
The first step is to have an official diagnosis. Are you experiencing learning difficulty because of your ADHD symptoms or do you truly have a learning disability? From there, you and your doctor can work on ways to cope and improve you study skills.