ADHD, or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is an often misunderstood disorder that affects attention, hyperactivity, impulsivity, academic performance, and emotional regulation in some individuals.
But is ADHD a learning disability?
While the symptoms associated with ADHD, like hyperactivity, impulse control, and inattention can make learning more difficult, ADHD is not a learning disability.[i]
ADHD children are, however, likely to experience learning problems and academic setbacks, especially when they struggle to sustain attention on tasks, follow instructions, and have adequate executive functioning.
Many children with ADHD also do have legitimate comorbid learning disabilities. In fact, it’s been reported that up to 50% of children and adolescents with ADHD also have a secondary learning disorder. Some of the more common comorbid learning disabilities include dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, auditory processing disorder, and visual processing disorder. [ii]
For patients with ADHD and a comorbid learning disorder, treatment is more complex. It’s inefficient to treat a learning disability first, without addressing ADHD symptoms, because ADHD children will have difficulty focusing optimally on the educational therapy.
This is why the Drake Institute always suggests treating ADHD first, as reducing or resolving ADHD symptoms provides the patient with a much stronger neurophysical foundation for building new skills and overcoming the challenges presented by a learning disability. Our brain map-guided neurofeedback treats the attentional deficit first, thus allowing the patient’s brain to be able to sustain attention and efficiently absorb educational therapy.
For decades, the Drake Institute has created personalized treatment protocols for patients with ADHD, autism, and other brain-based disorders. Through advanced treatment technologies, including brain map-guided neurofeedback and neurostimulation, we’ve helped thousands of patients with ADHD reduce their symptoms and lead better lives.
To learn more about how the Drake Institute treats ADHD and other conditions, please fill out the consultation form or call us at 800-700-4233.
ADHD is classified as a neurodevelopmental disorder with the potential to impact all major areas of a person’s life. Patients with ADHD tend to show abnormal brain functioning compared to neurotypical individuals, resulting in challenges paying attention and for some individuals, also controlling their impulses.
And while it may appear that individuals with ADHD, especially children, are simply not exerting enough effort to sit still or concentrate, these individuals lack the stable neurophysiological mechanisms required for self-regulation, which is why they have difficulties focusing, completing tasks on time, and more.
An ADHD diagnosis cannot be made through blood tests or traditional lab assessments. Instead, a comprehensive ADHD evaluation, including qEEG brain mapping should be used to identify the source of the symptoms, combined with early intervention and treatment can help improve brain functioning.
Individuals with ADHD often struggle with maintaining sustained attention and frequently become distracted by their surroundings or their own inner thoughts. They may find it challenging to organize tasks and activities. Emotional regulation and impulsivity can also be challenges faced by ADHD individuals.
Below are the four different types of ADHD and their most common accompanying symptoms:
Learning disabilities affect an individual's ability to acquire, process, or express information effectively.
Learning disabilities manifest in various ways, such as difficulties with spoken or written language comprehension and usage. Individuals with learning disabilities might struggle with reading fluency, decoding words, and comprehending text. They may also struggle with mathematical concepts and performing numerical operations accurately.
Learning disabilities can coexist with ADHD and persist throughout an individual's life, affecting academic, professional, and personal relationships. In some cases, individuals may experience multiple learning disabilities concurrently, adding complexity to their learning challenges. [iii]
Learning disabilities are marked by various general signs and symptoms that impact diverse areas of functioning. Difficulties with math, reading, writing, and understanding language are common indicators. These challenges can hinder learning across various subjects and activities, highlighting the need for tailored support and interventions. Specific learning disability symptoms include: [iv]
Learning disabilities encompass a range of specific challenges, with some individuals experiencing difficulties in distinct areas. Three primary types of learning disabilities include reading disabilities, often referred to as dyslexia; writing disabilities, known as dysgraphia; and mathematics disabilities, termed dyscalculia. [v] [vi]
Dyslexia is characterized by difficulties in reading fluency and decoding words, resulting in challenges in understanding written text. Individuals with dyslexia may struggle with recognizing letters, associating sounds with letters, and reading comprehension. These difficulties can persist despite average or above-average intelligence and adequate instruction.
Dysgraphia involves difficulties in handwriting and the physical act of writing. Individuals with dysgraphia may have illegible handwriting, struggle with letter formation, and struggle to organize thoughts coherently on paper. This learning disability can impact written expression and the ability to convey ideas effectively.
Dyscalculia relates to difficulties grasping mathematical concepts, accurately performing numerical operations, and understanding mathematical symbols and language. Individuals with dyscalculia may find arithmetic, mathematical reasoning, and problem-solving challenging. This learning disability can impede progress in mathematics-related subjects and practical applications involving numbers.
Distinguishing between ADHD and learning disabilities is not only important for individualized treatment plans, but is also essential to provide appropriate support and accommodations for individuals facing challenges in the realm of education. While both ADHD and learning disabilities can indeed make learning challenging, they fall into distinct categories: specific learning disorders and "Other Health Impaired." [vii]
Specific learning disabilities encompass conditions like dyslexia (affecting reading) and dysgraphia (affecting writing). These conditions primarily impact an individual's ability to acquire specific academic skills. They may also impact an individual’s self-esteem.
In contrast, ADHD, classified under "Other Health Impaired," primarily revolves around difficulties with impulse control, hyperactivity, and sustained attention. It affects broader aspects of behavior and attention regulation, extending beyond academics. [viii]
Some individuals with ADHD could qualify for accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 if their ADHD symptoms significantly affect major life activities, including learning.
ADHD and learning disabilities do share some similarities.
School-related challenges are common among individuals with ADHD and learning disorders. Task completion can prove equally troubling for each diagnosis. While neither ADHD nor learning disabilities impact intelligence, they can cause children to lag behind their peers in the classroom and underperform.
Diagnosing ADHD and learning disabilities requires a systematic approach involving various assessments and evaluations. An ADHD diagnosis involves a comprehensive evaluation by a clinician. [ix]
A diagnosis of a specific learning disorder involves psycho-educational or neuro-psychological testing. [x]
To diagnose ADHD, clinicians follow the diagnostic guidelines in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).
According to the DSM-5, the criteria for making an ADHD diagnosis includes persistent patterns of inattention, and/or hyperactivity, and impulsivity that are present in multiple settings, such as the individual’s home and school, and causes academic issues and/or emotional, and behavioral problems. [xi]
The assessment also involves ruling out other possible explanations for the observed symptoms, like anxiety or mood disorders. [xii]
Diagnosing learning disabilities typically involves a series of academic tests and measurements conducted by a school psychologist, an educational psychologist, or a neuropsychologist.
These assessments examine the child's performance in areas such as reading, writing, listening comprehension, and math to identify gaps between their abilities and academic achievements, indicating the presence of a learning disability. [xiii]
While there can be some improvement in symptoms and coping mechanisms over time, ADHD and learning disabilities typically persist into adulthood for a majority of individuals.
For learning disabilities like dyslexia, early intervention and targeted support can significantly improve a child's reading and writing skills. Many individuals with dyslexia can develop effective strategies for managing their condition and improving their reading abilities. With a phonological processing problem, the wiring of the brain for auditory processing can be improved through clinical intervention with resultant significant improvement in reading and listening. [xiv]
There are some adults who may actually outgrow childhood ADHD, but for a majority of patients, it will continue to create difficulty in their adult life. Also, the way ADHD symptoms manifest can change over time. Some children with ADHD may outgrow the hyperactivity as they enter adolescence, but they may still struggle with inattention and sometimes impulsivity. While symptoms may become less disruptive as individuals develop coping mechanisms, the underlying neurophysiologic dysregulation often persists. [xv]
Specific learning disorders can be improved effectively throughout life, with individuals often possessing unique strengths linked to their differences. People with dyslexia may exhibit creativity and innovative thinking. [xvi]
Early intervention is advantageous for skill development and can help minimize or prevent prolonged academic struggles and self-esteem problems. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), students with learning disorders are eligible for special education services, including evaluations and Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). These services aim to improve essential skills such as reading, writing, and math through personalized and intensive remediation. Targeted interventions, strategies, and accommodations, such as extended test-taking time and technology use, can significantly assist students in achieving their academic goals. [xvii]
Over the last 40 years, the Drake Institute has clinically pioneered the use of advanced treatment technologies to treat a variety of brain-based medical disorders such as ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, PTSD, anxiety, panic disorder, depression, insomnia, and more. Using a combination of brain map-guided neurofeedback and sometimes neurostimulation, our Medical Director creates customized treatment protocols to address each patient's needs.
To develop our individualized treatment plans, we first complete a qEEG brain map analysis for each patient. Brain mapping helps us identify which specific regions or networks of the brain are dysregulated linked to symptoms.
To collect this data, 19 sensors are placed around the scalp in areas of the brain responsible for language, focus, memory, executive functioning, social/emotional understanding and behavioral/emotional regulation. The 19 sensors measure and record brainwave activity that is processed through a normative database of neurotypical individuals.
When we compare the patient's results with those of neurotypical individuals, we can identify regions or networks of the brain that are dysregulated and causing symptoms. This information also allows us to determine how these areas are dysregulated so that we can develop specific treatment protocols that help improve brain functioning and reduce symptoms.
During neurofeedback training/treatment, sensors are once again placed on the scalp. The sensors record and display instantaneous brainwave activity visually in real-time on a computer screen with simultaneous auditory feedback as well.
During neurofeedback sessions, the patient is seeing the results of how their brain is working and with this information, they learn to improve their brainwave activity by guiding it toward healthier, more appropriately functional brainwave patterns.
We do not administer any drugs or perform invasive procedures during this process. Instead, the patient is improving their own brain functioning, guided by visual and auditory feedback.
As an adjunct to neurofeedback, we may also use neurostimulation guided by qEEG brain map findings to gently stimulate the brain into healthier functional patterns. In our experience, some patients may benefit even more from neurofeedback if we also use neurostimulation. We have found this particularly helpful for lower-functioning children on the Autism Spectrum.
In the last forty years, Drake has helped thousands of patients with various disorders such as autism, ADHD, PTSD, anxiety, panic disorder, depression, insomnia, migraine headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, and hypertension reduce or resolve their symptoms and thereby achieve a better quality of life. Call us at 1-800-700-4233 or fill out the free consultation form to get started.
If you or a family member need help, please fill out our confidential online form
Interview with Dr. David Velkoff
Interview with Dr. David Velkoff
Spanish News Feature
“David F. Velkoff, M.D., our Medical Director and co-founder, supervises all evaluation procedures and treatment programs. He is recognized as a physician pioneer in using biofeedback, qEEG brain mapping, neurofeedback, and neuromodulation in the treatment of ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and stress related illnesses including anxiety, depression, insomnia, and high blood pressure. Dr. David Velkoff earned his Master’s degree in Psychology from the California State University at Los Angeles in 1975, and his Doctor of Medicine degree from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta in 1976. This was followed by Dr. Velkoff completing his internship in Obstetrics and Gynecology with an elective in Neurology at the University of California Medical Center in Irvine. He then shifted his specialty to Neurophysical Medicine and received his initial training in biofeedback/neurofeedback in Neurophysical Medicine from the leading doctors in the world in biofeedback at the renown Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas. In 1980, he co-founded the Drake Institute of Neurophysical Medicine. Seeking to better understand the link between illness and the mind, Dr. Velkoff served as the clinical director of an international research study on psychoneuroimmunology with the UCLA School of Medicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and the Pasteur Institute in Paris. This was a follow-up study to an earlier clinical collaborative effort with UCLA School of Medicine demonstrating how the Drake Institute's stress treatment resulted in improved immune functioning of natural killer cell activity. Dr. Velkoff served as one of the founding associate editors of the scientific publication, Journal of Neurotherapy. He has been an invited guest lecturer at Los Angeles Children's Hospital, UCLA, Cedars Sinai Medical Center-Thalians Mental Health Center, St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California, and CHADD. He has been a medical consultant in Neurophysical Medicine to CNN, National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, Univision, and PBS.”