Making Sense of the Overlap Between ADHD and Dyslexia

The Connection Between Dyslexia and ADHD

While ADHD and dyslexia are different conditions, they frequently occur together and have overlapping symptoms. About 30 percent of people with dyslexia also have ADHD. And if you have ADHD, you’re six times more likely than most people to have a learning disorder such as dyslexia. This can make diagnosis difficult and confusing.

Dyslexia is a learning disorder that can make it hard for you to process written and spoken language. ADHD affects your impulse control and focus and makes you prone to hyperactivity.

Because of their similarities, it is important to get an accurate diagnosis of whether the condition is dyslexia, ADHD or a combination of the two.

How Dyslexia and ADHD are Similar

Some of the similarities shared by dyslexia and ADHD include:

  • Both conditions can be genetic. Between 40 to 60 percent of people inherit dyslexia, and about 77 to 88 percent of people inherit ADHD.
  • Both conditions can make it more difficult to read or organize your thoughts when writing.
  • ADHD and dyslexia can make paying attention hard.
  • ADHD and dyslexia can contribute to difficulties communicating with others.
  • Both ADHD and dyslexia can allow you to be more creative in your thinking and artistic abilities.

How the Two Conditions Differ

The ways in which dyslexia and ADHD differ include:

  • Reading – Dyslexia can make it more difficult to read because it impacts reading comprehension and your ability to use language, while ADHD impacts your ability to focus.
  • Writing – Dyslexia can make it more challenging to write because skills like spelling and grammar are impacted. ADHD impacts your ability to organize your thoughts and pay attention to details.
  • Distraction – An individual with ADHD might be distracted because it is hard for them to stay focused and pay attention. A person with dyslexia might appear distracted because reading is a struggle and they lose energy quickly.
  • Life – Dyslexia may cause people to struggle with reading and understanding tests, filling out forms, and planning. ADHD often has wider impacts on daily life, and may cause you to be late to appointments, miss deadlines, and have difficulty managing money.

Getting a Diagnosis

While there are some similarities in the two conditions, there is a fundamental difference. Unlike dyslexia, which shows up during reading and writing activities, ADHD symptoms occur n many different settings and have a behavioral component. Dyslexia and ADHD are diagnosed differently and often by different professionals. ADHD is typically diagnosed by a psychiatrist, psychologist, neurologist, and some family doctors. The process for diagnosis includes:

Dyslexia is a condition that is often identified by educators, who may then refer the individual to a doctor or psychologist for diagnosis and further assessment. Generally, dyslexia is diagnosed by a clinical psychologist, school psychologist, educational psychologist or a neuropsychologist.

When getting an evaluation it is important to

  • Get an evaluator who is knowledgeable with respect to both ADHD and dyslexia
  • Do phonological testing as well as reading comprehension. Difficulty with phonological processing of words can be clear indication of dyslexia.
  • Get testing that spans several sessions.



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