Is It a Learning Disability or Inattentive ADD/ADHD?

Problems with organization, focus, and time management often point to Inattentive Type ADHD. But sometimes Learning Disabilities are overlooked. How to tell what's behind the symptoms...

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Lessons Learned

What do these two stories show? Both women had organization and time-planning problems. Jane’s problems were secondary to inattentive-type ADHD. She responded beautifully to a stimulant medication. Jessica, on the other hand, had organizational problems that resulted from learning disabilities. She needed special-education interventions. Some children or adults have both problems, and require medication and coaching or special-ed services.

The Right Help

Some school professionals are too quick to interpret symptoms of inattention and problems with executive function (specifically, organization and time planning) as ADHD.

In fact, many school-evaluation teams focus on the findings that support an ADHD diagnosis. Your family physician might use these results as evidence for prescribing medication. This is well and good if the medication significantly improves the child’s inattentive symptoms. But what if it doesn’t? Be aware that symptoms might stem from learning disabilities, which require a different treatment plan.

What about adults? Say, you’ve been diagnosed with inattentive-type ADHD, take a stimulant, and work with an organizational coach. If these don’t help, chances are, you have a learning disability. Think back to your school days: Did you struggle with academics? Do certain “academic” tasks — math on an expense report, say — complicate your career and life? If so, you may benefit from a special education-focused intervention. It is never too late to get help. Next: Inattentive ADHD in a Nutshell

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