Q: “How Do I Explain Dyslexia and ADHD to My Child Who Has Both?”
“How you talk to your child about dyslexia and ADHD will depend on their age. With younger children, you need not focus on challenges just yet. For tweens and teens, acknowledging challenges is essential to helping them feel understood and supported.”
Q: “How do I talk about dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to my child who is diagnosed with both conditions? I want to uplift and support them, but I don’t want to overlook the challenges they currently face and will encounter.”
Your child is not alone. ADHD and dyslexia commonly appear together and can sometimes be confused for one another.
Ultimately, how you talk to your child about dyslexia and ADHD will depend on their age. With younger children, you need not focus on challenges just yet. For tweens and teens, acknowledging challenges is essential to helping them feel understood and supported. For all ages, you’ll want to nurture strengths, instill a growth mindset, and show unconditional love and support.
How to Support Young Children with ADHD and Dyslexia
- Emphasize that everyone’s brain is different. How We Are Smart(#CommissionsEarned) is a great book on all the ways intelligence manifests – from passion for dance to passion for nature and the outdoors. As the author notes, “It’s not about how smart you are, but how you are smart.” Young children are likely already aware of areas where they struggle, and it’s best to uplift at this early age by focusing on neurodiversity and inherent differences.
- Lead with your child’s strengths. Support your child’s interests and notice where they shine. Ask them what they enjoy – their answers might surprise you. Praise them for their strengths, whether they’re good at swimming, at taking care of their pet, and/or at being a great sibling.
Talking to Tweens and Teens About ADHD and Dyslexia
- Be honest. I’m not afraid to tell the patients I see in this age range that co-occurring dyslexia and ADHD means things will be harder for them, and that they’ll have to work a bit harder than their peers. Honesty about these challenges will validate your child’s experiences and reduce shame. However…
- Be optimistic. Assure your child that you, their teachers, and their providers will work to the ends of the Earth to support them.
- Maintain perspective. Remind your child that there is more to them than ADHD and dyslexia. They are not defined by these conditions, but by who they are as individuals. Involve them in activities such as scouts, sports, volunteering, or 4-H clubs so they might find joy in something to offset the pressures of school.
- Seek support groups and encourage your teen to join them. Support groups help people connect with others who have shared experiences. Your child will be able to talk openly about their challenges to others who simply get it, which will do wonders for their self-esteem. The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) and CHADD are a few places to start.
How to Explain Dyslexia to a Child with ADHD: Next Steps
- Free Download: What Learning Disabilities Look Like In the Classroom
- Read: When Your Child Has ADHD and Dyslexia – Treatment for Complex Symptoms
- Read: The Defining Signs of Dyslexia Too Often Ignored
The content for this article was derived, in part, from the ADDitude ADHD Experts webinar titled, “When Dyslexia and ADHD Overlap: Symptoms, Misconceptions, and Interventions [Video Replay & Podcast #403],” with Cheryl Chase, Ph.D., which was broadcast on June 1, 2022.
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