Many adults and children diagnosed with ADHD have other learning disabilities. Our son Riley, was diagnosed with ADHD and Dyslexia. Dyslexia is a specific learning disability (LD) that is neurologically based. It is language-based and makes learning to read, spell, decode, and recognize words challenging. As a result, reading comprehension, vocabulary, and general knowledge is reduced compared to other children the same age who do not have dyslexia. Dyslexia is not a reflection of intelligence. Most people with dyslexia have normal or above average intelligence.
ADHD and dyslexia are separate conditions; however, if a person has both, it means they have the broad executive function impairments (problems focusing, using working memory, etc.), as well as an impairment of the particular skills needed for reading, for example, processing symbols swiftly.
One of the biggest challenges for children with ADHD and dyslexia is being able to feel good about themselves. Often, their confidence and self-esteem are low as they struggle with tasks that their friends and siblings find easy. Here are three things you can do to help:
Identify: When children know they have a condition with a name, like ADHD and dyslexia, it helps them. They understand why they are the way they are, and it stops them looking for explanations for themselves, which are often terms like ‘I am stupid’ and ‘I am dumb.”
Effort, Not Results: Give your child positive feedback on the effort they put into a task rather than their results or grades. A child with dyslexia and ADHD has to work harder than other students, yet that effort is not always reflected in their grades. Knowing that their effort is recognized by you makes a big difference to a child’s self-esteem.
Activity Outside of School: When your child shows an interest in an activity outside of school, encourage it. Being good at something — whether it is a martial art, a sport, arts or crafts — builds confidence. It has a positive ripple effect on other areas of life, including school-related activities. Neither ADHD nor dyslexia can be cured. However, they can both be managed so your child can live a successful life. Children often get a great deal of hope and validation when they hear of famous people who face the same challenges as they do. For example, Steven Spielberg has dyslexia, Justin Timberlake has ADHD, and Richard Branson has both ADHD and dyslexia.
If your child has ADHD and dyslexia, the ADHD symptoms can mask the dyslexia tell-tale signs. Also, an intelligent child finds ways to compensate and mask their difficulties, which makes detection harder for you.