1. Being a mom
  2. Raising a baby
  3. Growth & development

Flo Fact-Checking Standards

Every piece of content at Flo Health adheres to the highest editorial standards for language, style, and medical accuracy. To learn what we do to deliver the best health and lifestyle insights to you, check out our content review principles.

Is ADHD a Disability? The Correlation Between ADHD and Learning Disabilities

ADHD is common among children, affecting between 5 and 12 percent of school-age children. If you want to learn more about ADHD, then read on. We’ve outlined exactly what ADHD is, its symptoms, and if it’s considered a disability.  

ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and it’s diagnosed in children and adults who struggle with paying attention and/or have hyperactive tendencies. 

ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders in children today. It is usually diagnosed when a child is around 7 years old. Up to 60 percent of children diagnosed with ADHD will have symptoms into adulthood. 

Children with ADHD may have trouble paying attention in class, at home, or even while doing something they love. They may also struggle with impulsive behaviors and hyperactivity. 

There are three main types of ADHD:

  • Predominantly inattentive — A person with this form of ADHD may forget routines and struggle to finish projects. They may also find it difficult to follow instructions and conversations. 
  • Predominantly hyperactive/impulsive — A person with this form of ADHD may struggle to sit still long enough for a meal or a conversation. They may fidget frequently and talk a lot. A younger child may climb, run, and jump a lot, even while trying to do other activities. They may feel restless and impulsive and struggle with taking turns and listening to instructions. Children with this form of ADHD often experience more accidents and injuries than other children. 
  • Combination — People with this form of ADHD have a combination of both of the above-mentioned types. They have a mixture of inattentive behaviors and impulsive/hyperactive behaviors. 

Some potential causes of ADHD include the following:

  • Environmental factors such as malnutrition, abuse, and emotional deprivation
  • Neurochemical factors such as dysregulation of noradrenergic systems (problems with the systems that control stress and excitability)
  • Neurophysiological factors 
  • Toxin exposure
  • Head trauma
  • Prenatal and perinatal factors such as lead poisoning, smoking, or stress while pregnant

All children tend to be hyper, active, and talkative. It can be difficult to distinguish when a child may have ADHD. 

There are some common symptoms that your doctor or pediatrician will look for when considering a diagnosis of ADHD.

Some of them are:

  • Daydreaming
  • Forgetting things
  • Losing things
  • Squirming or fidgeting
  • Excessive talking
  • Consistent careless mistakes
  • Taking unnecessary risks
  • Inability to resist temptation
  • Difficulty taking turns 
  • Difficulty getting along with others

If your child has only one or two of these symptoms, that doesn’t necessarily mean they do or don’t have ADHD. Doctors have a list of criteria they look for when diagnosing a child with ADHD. They will perform a physical exam and do vision and hearing tests to rule out other causes for their symptoms. 

Sometimes, other disorders such as anxiety and depression can express themselves in ways that can look like ADHD in children. Doctors will consider the child’s family history and interview parents and teachers to look for any other issues that could be causing ADHD-like symptoms. 

There are several ways to treat ADHD. Your doctor will likely suggest a healthy diet with plenty of exercise. Behavioral therapy is another method to help your child grasp concepts and learn to cope with their symptoms. Sometimes medication is recommended, but usually only if behavioral therapy is not effective. 

For children with ADHD, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important for their wellbeing. Some things to consider are:

  • Diet — A balanced diet ensures your child is receiving proper nutrients to help them grow and develop.
  • Exercise — Being physically active and part of a team helps children use their growing bodies and develop social skills, which your child may need help with.
  • Sleep — Children need a specific amount of sleep based on their age for healthy growth and development.
  • Activities — Physical activities can engage your child’s senses and learning abilities. 

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, ADHD is classified as a disability and is often diagnosed along with other disorders such as:

  • Oppositional defiant disorder — This is when a child acts out publicly and privately and is unable to control their tempers or moods. They may become defiant against parents, teachers, caregivers, and/or peers. They may be argumentative, want to hurt others, and be easily annoyed by things.
  • Conduct disorder (CD) — This is when a child shows a behavioral pattern of aggression against others. They tend to break social norms and rules. Children with CD have difficulty making friends and getting along with others. They may be cruel to animals or frequently lie and steal.
  • Anxiety/depression — Children with ADHD tend to be diagnosed with anxiety or depression more often than their peers. Social stigma and the way they are treated by their peers and caregivers can enhance their feelings of anxiety and depression.

Commonly, children with ADHD struggle to listen and pay attention to their parents and teachers as they are growing up. They may miss some important building blocks and may also have a learning disorder.

According to the Learning Disabilities Association of America, ADHD is not a learning disability, but children with ADHD are more likely than their peers to also be diagnosed with learning disabilities, which may impact their adult lives. Around 20 to 30 percent of children with ADHD also have a specific learning disability.

The three learning disabilities that children with ADHD are also often diagnosed with are:

  • Dyslexia — This disability makes it difficult for children and adults to read. Their brains flip letters and numbers on the page and make it exhausting and frustrating to attempt schoolwork. This disability can follow children into adulthood.
  • Dyscalculia — This disorder makes it difficult for students to grasp the concepts of math, and traditional teachings and instructions are difficult to follow, even if they apply themselves.
  • Dysgraphia — This disorder indicates a difficulty with writing. A child with this disability may write without using any spaces between letters and words or may write backward. They may flip or rotate many of their letters incorrectly.
  • Combination — Some children with ADHD develop more than one of these learning disabilities.

When children develop these learning disabilities on top of their ADHD symptoms, it can make their social and home lives even harder to cope with. 

ADHD is classified as a disability. It is often diagnosed along with learning disabilities and behavioral problems.

A child who is diagnosed with ADHD may have some difficulties ahead of them. They may have trouble keeping up with their peers and could fall behind in their learning. They may also have behavioral disorders and learning disabilities. 

You can help a child who is diagnosed with ADHD by encouraging them to develop the tools they may have missed. Behavioral therapy and exercise can help them learn coping mechanisms and social skills. Listening and talking with your child can help you and your doctor understand what they’re feeling and what they may be having trouble with in school. In the end, letting your child know that they are loved and have your support can go a long way toward helping them overcome their struggles.

Ahuja, Alka et al. “Intellectual disability in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.” The Journal of pediatrics vol. 163,3 (2013): 890-5.e1. doi:10.1016/j.jpeds.2013.02.043

“What Is Adhd?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 26 Jan. 2021, www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/facts.html.

“Other Concerns and Conditions with Adhd.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4 Sept. 2020, www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/conditions.html.

“Symptoms and Diagnosis of Adhd.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 21 Sept. 2020, www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/diagnosis.html.

“NIMH " Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Sept. 2019, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/index.shtml.

“Adhd.” Learning Disabilities Association of America, accessed 7 Sept. 2021, ldaamerica.org/disabilities/adhd/.

Read this next