Is it really ADHD?

When my child was struggling in school, teachers and doctors only suggested that I have my son checked for ADHD. For me, this was a tough pill to swallow, because I only saw the attention problems occurring in school and nowhere else. I also saw my son struggle with reading and spelling, and I knew some of my siblings had struggled with this as well. To me, I saw a reading problem, but it seemed like there was no information about it in 2004 when my son was 6 and 7.

Eventually, I did figure out that my son had dyslexia, and we chose the Wilson Reading Program to help him.  This journey led to an exhaustive research into dyslexia and ADHD, and me wondering how many kids were being misdiagnosed with ADHD when it really was dyslexia. It also started my career as a dyslexia tutor and advocate.

ADHD and dyslexia both cause reading and attention problems. The two disorders happen together about 30-40% of the time depending on the statistics and sources you find, and they share 16 symptoms in common.  In fact, ADHD co-occurs with learning disorders 66% of the time. Any child showing attention issues should truly be given a full educational-evaluation to not only evaluate the attention issues, but other learning issues that could co-occur.

The International Dyslexia Assocation has a great information sheet that explains how ADHD and Dyslexia cause problems with reading for enjoyment and reading comprehension IDA Fact Sheet: Dyslexia and ADHD. This article explains the different reading mistakes children will make and which condition may be responsible for the errors being seen. I highly recommend you read it if you are searching for answers to your child’s school struggles.

As a dyslexia tutor, I have tutored over 100 children with reading problems. What I have noticed, is that all of my students show great attention problems when they first attend tutoring. Reading is very tiring and difficult for them, but as they learn to decode and build reading stamina, their attention to the task drastically improves, and their inattention symptoms greatly decrease.

Dyslexia and ADHD do co-occur. Dyslexia can cause focus and attention problems, and ADHD can cause reading problems. What is really difficult is most ADHD symptom checklists contain all the symptoms dyslexic children experience because they are having a hard time learning to read and spell in school ADHD Symptom Checklist.  My personal suggestion as a parent is to complete both a dyslexia checklist and an ADHD checklist if you are unsure. If more than 10 symptoms are checked on the dyslexia checklist, investigate dyslexia as a possible cause of the inattention.

To learn which issues are facing your child, carefully qualify your diagnositician, contact knowledgable support groups like your state’s Decoding Dyslexia, speak with friends, and do lots of research. For a list of dyslexia symptoms, click here and scroll down for Common Dyslexia Symptoms.


Written by: Heidi Kroner

Wilson Dyslexia Instructor

Co-founder of Decoding Dyslexia Iowa, True Potential Learning Center and Aspire Academy

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Successfully improving student reading, writing and spelling for 5 years.