ADHD is not considered a learning disability, but it can affect the way students of all ages learn and process new information.

In the United States, roughly 9.8% of children and adolescents and 4.4% of adults live with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It’s a chronic condition that can cause symptoms related to inattentiveness, hyperactivity/impulsivity, or a combination of the two.

ADHD falls under the umbrella of mental health conditions, which means it’s not technically classified as a learning disability. But ADHD symptoms can affect the way someone learns, and some people with ADHD also have learning disabilities.

Ahead, we’ll cover exactly what kind of disability ADHD is, the differences between ADHD and specific learning disorders, and resources you can check out to learn more about this condition.

ADHD is not a learning disability — but the symptoms of the condition can affect someone’s ability to learn in traditional settings. For example, here’s how the different types of ADHD can affect someone’s school experiences:

  • Inattentive ADHD: People with this type of ADHD may become easily distracted in class or at work, have trouble focusing on tasks or following directions, or process new information differently than their classmates do.
  • Hyperactive-impulsive ADHD: People who have this type of ADHD may find themselves frequently fidgeting, squirming, or moving; interrupting others during tasks; and engaging in other behaviors that can make long school days difficult.
  • Combination ADHD: People with combination ADHD have symptoms of both types of ADHD and generally experience inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, all of which can affect learning.

Even though ADHD isn’t classified as a learning disability, it’s still considered a disability under the law. This means that students with ADHD may be eligible for classroom accommodations and adults with ADHD may be entitled to workplace accommodations.

Learning disabilities, or specific learning disorders, are neurodevelopmental conditions that affect someone’s ability to read, write, or do math.

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), learning disabilities affect 5–15% of children and adolescents. Under the umbrella of specific learning disorders, there are three primary types of learning disabilities:

  • Dyslexia causes difficulties processing language. It affects functions such as reading proficiency, spelling, and writing. Learn more.
  • Dysgraphia involves difficulties with writing. It affects aspects such as grammar, punctuation, and even handwriting. Learn more.
  • Dyscalculia causes difficulties related to numbers or calculations. It affects tasks such as math calculations, reasoning, and problem solving. Learn more.

ADHD is different from a specific learning disorder because it doesn’t necessarily affect specific academic skills such as reading, writing, and doing math. Instead, ADHD affects broader functions and behaviors such as executive functioning and emotional regulation.

Still, despite the differences between ADHD and learning disabilities, there may be some overlap between ADHD and certain learning disorders. In fact, some research suggests that 20–60% of children with ADHD also have specific learning disorders.

All people learn and process new information differently. For example, some people are auditory learners who learn through discussions and explanations, while others are visual learners who learn through images, videos, and other visual aids.

Some aspects of ADHD, such as the tendency to hyper-focus, can actually make learning easier. If a teacher can find ways to engage the special interests of a student with ADHD, the student may find it much easier to absorb the lesson being taught.

For example, students who love music may find math much easier to approach when it’s examined through the lens of a musical scale.

ADHD accommodations

While people with ADHD have their own individual learning styles, the condition can still affect many aspects of traditional schooling. Aside from treatment, one of the best ways to address these learning differences is through accommodations.

Classroom accommodations that can make learning easier for students with ADHD include classroom modifications, mentors and tutors, and alternative assignment formats. Similarly, workplace accommodations such as memory aids, schedule changes, and task adjustments can help make learning and working easier for adults with ADHD.

Continue your education

ADHD is one of the most common childhood disabilities, but there are still misconceptions and stigma surrounding the condition.

If you’re interested in learning more about ADHD, here are a few resources to consider checking out:

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ADHD is a mental health condition that causes symptoms related to inattentiveness, hyperactivity-impulsivity, or a combination of the two. ADHD is not a learning disability, but some people with ADHD have specific learning disorders, and ADHD can affect someone’s ability to learn in traditional school settings.

If you’ve noticed that you’re having trouble at school or work because of ADHD symptoms, getting the right treatment and asking for accommodations can help. Consider reaching out to your doctor to discuss the options available to you.