The Dyslexia and ADHD Connection
ADHD is usually apparent from the first day of school, whereas dyslexia is often not recognized until fourth or fifth grade, when the shift is made from learning to read to reading to learn. How to tell the difference between ADD and its comorbid learning disabilities, and how to get help.
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5 Comments: The Dyslexia and ADHD Connection
After 5th grade I had to read if I wanted to pass because the subjects got more complicated and this was when I began to get low grades in school, your article is on point
Thank you for this eye-opening article. My 6-year-old daughter was diagnosed with ADHD last year and just last week was diagnosed with a learning disability involving reading. Her doctor suspects dislexia, but told us that further evaluation is needed to be sure. We’ve also suspected for years that my husband has dislexia, although he has never been diagnosed. We are just beginning to learn what this might mean for our daughter.
I do have to take mild issue with the mention of Walt Disney though. Although it’s a strong urban legend, Walt did not have dislexia. In fact, his family has stated that he did not have any learning disability at all.
I agree that it is nice that this article helps to spread the word about ADHD/dyslexia comorbidity. But a couple points were not made as clearly as I would have liked or may even serve to mislead the intended audience. First, the statement “It (i.e., dyslexia) manifests itself in different ways in different people.” Some conditions, such as auditory processing disorder, might be adequately described in such a fashion. When a condition falls on a spectrum of varied behaviors or lacks firm diagnostic criteria, it makes sense to elucidate the many common variations of the disorder. Dyslexia is not one of those. Dr. David Kilpatrick defines dyslexia as “poor word-level reading despite adequate effort and opportunity.” We shouldn’t mystify the condition any more than that. Do some poor word decoders or dyslexic individuals also struggle with spelling and math reasoning? Yes, they do. But central to the disorder is a break down in phonological processing that is evident in any number of tasks that relate to discriminating sounds and making sound-symbol relationships. A seminal text for me, as a clinician who diagnoses dyslexia, is Kilpatrick’s Essentials text: https://www.amazon.com/Essentials-Preventing-Overcoming-Difficulties-Psychological/dp/1118845242
Second, I would be cautious, as one of the posters said, with indicating that 4th or 5th grade is when dyslexia is commonly identified. Most commonly, the schools I’ve worked with diagnose this in 2nd or 3rd grade. That’s where the bulk of our elementary referrals are. Many states have standardized reading assessments at 3rd grade that are intended to flag those who have these particular reading deficits. Also, I would take issue with blanket statements by the author and the respondents that “school systems” or “our schools” don’t do this or that; such generalizations are unfortunately the type of broad brush-stroking that we don’t accept in judgments about our children, and schools are the same way. School districts are entities that have a lot of variance from one to the next. My state has implemented universal dyslexia screening for all children in grades K-2. Does that sound like they’re running away from early intervention or believe identification is impossible? Hardly. This is a point of confusion that is mostly semantic in nature. Because most states’ special education laws subsume ‘dyslexia’ under the eligibility area of “specific learning disability in reading,” parents and advocates have the mistaken notion that such children were being ignored. On the contrary, dyslexia is one of the earliest forms of a reading disability that can be identified, and many schools did just that, but didn’t call it dyslexia. The argument can be made, however, that many schools identified dyslexic characteristics in children and didn’t intervene effectively after labeling them. That valid contention is one that I hope is being addressed as dyslexia research is being better conveyed to teachers, and as parent advocates urge the adoption of more phonological strategies and programs by their local schools and districts for early intervention.
Overall this is a positive article with a great personal connection that keeps the reader engaged in the story however, there are some glaring inaccuracies and problematic language that I found difficult to overlook. First of all, someone is not “severely dyslexic”, severely has a connotation of negativity like “severely injured” or “severely disabled”. I prefer the term PROFOUNDLY. I am profoundly dyslexic. My son is profoundly dyslexic. In addition, my son and I both have ADHD however, I believe the acronym should stand for Attention Differentiating Hyper-brain Design. My second issue with the article is that the writer contradicts himself in saying that dyslexia is often not recognized until fourth or fifth grade but had already stated that it was clear from kindergarten that his son was struggling. Dyslexia and learning disabilities associated with reading are usually very apparent early on however our school systems have been convinced that early identification and intervention is not possible, this is simply not true. In reference to ADHD, the article makes a connection between the symptoms of ADHD and the first day of school. This statement perpetuates a negative stereotype of students with ADD or ADHD as the “problem child” in school. People with ADD and ADHD are diagnosed at a wide range of ages from very young to adulthood. Finally, in regards to self-esteem, anxiety is not “due to severe dyslexia and ADHD” but in fact due to the lack of effective intervention and support for students with dyslexia and ADHD. I don’t want to be totally negative, as I said in the first sentence of this post, I believe the article is positive and addresses an important issue, the link between ADHD and dyslexia. I have included at the end of the post a link to the research done by a Spanish Team on the comorbidity of ADHD and Dyslexia. People with ADHD have challenges to overcome. People with dyslexia have struggles in learning. People with both ADHD and dyslexia have an incredibly difficult time learning in schools that do not understand how they learn and have a program to support their learning. I love that Dr. Olivardia speaks out for the importance of a specific diagnosis of dyslexia rather than the vague learning disability associated with reading blah, blah, blah. This is so important. Dyslexia and ADHD are not disabilities, ADHD and dyslexia are neurodiversity. Joe Hitchings, B.Ed and Orton-Gillingham Certified Educator – check this out: Genetic association study of dyslexia and ADHD candidate genes in a Spanish cohort: Implications of comorbid samples – https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0206431
joehitch306– I tried to reply to this comment but the site wouldn’t really let me so I hope you see this! I think both ADHD and dyslexia are heavily misunderstood by schools. As you said, children with ADHD get labeled as the problem child instead of getting help (I was one of these children until high school when I learned to coping skills and then finally got diagnosed). But I think the point that they are making with this article is that even if they are poorly equipped to handle ADHD and stereotype ADHD, schools are worse off to handle dyslexia. When you say that “My second issue with the article is that the writer contradicts himself in saying that dyslexia is often not recognized until fourth or fifth grade but had already stated that it was clear from kindergarten that his son was struggling. Dyslexia and learning disabilities associated with reading are usually very apparent early on however our school systems have been convinced that early identification and intervention is not possible, this is simply not true.” The writer is saying that most kids don’t get diagnosed until fourth or fifth grade because schools aren’t convinced that identification is possible but that it was clear that his kid was struggling in kindergarten. I fully agree with this. Dyslexia is hardly talked about is lower level schooling and so much misinformation goes around about dyslexia. I had very classic signs of dyslexia when I was younger (couldn’t spell, wrote letters backward, mixed up letters, mixed up directions, mispronounced things to the point I couldn’t say my siblings names, struggled to read out loud, mixed up the name of thigs) but because I was able to read at a high level and enjoyed it I was overlooked and I was only diagnosed my senior year of highschool. I really like your comment and mostly agree, I am just writing this reply because I think that schools definitely need to be better equipped to catch the signs of dyslexia. My teachers just always told my mom ‘work on her spelling she really can’t spell’ so my mom never knew any better.