Is ADD/ADHD Considered a Learning Disability?

Updated on October 31, 2012
M.G. asks from Flower Mound, TX
11 answers

Does anyone know? I thought it is a learning disability, but I was told it is not (however, I still think it is). Also, if you don't know, do you know what kind of professional I could ask - a social worker, a developmental pediatrician, pediatric psychologist? Thanks.

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answers from Tampa on

ADHD is a recognized disability according to my sons psychiatrist. And is according to the Americans with disabilties act.

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answers from Seattle on

Where the issue comes into play is that ADHD-x (x= I, H, C) is not technically LD, although its generally under the LD umbrella in common use/speak.

Sort of like how an apt is not a house, but IS a home, and gets called a house "Lets go over to your house", or in "house rules".

Or how college kids aren't children, but get called kids, none the less.

So technically; ADHD is a disability, but not a learning disability.

If you want to REALLY bake your noodle: ADHD as far as 2e is concerned (twice exceptional ... Meaning gifted+LD) is the quirkiest line of all... Because ADHD kids are nearly always gifted, and qualify as 2e, even though its not technically LD (so do other disorders like Aspies which are nearly alway gifted as well).

One thing to keep in mind: ADHD kids and adults are OFTEN (and possibly usually) successful to EXTREMELY successful adults. The hardest part for most ADHD people is k12 public school... Because very little else could be WORSE designed to bring out every single negative aspect and block/hide/make useless all the positive ones.

Imagine a school where kids had to attend for 22 hours a day, weren't allowed to eat, had 6 radio stations blasting over the teacher, and bullying was ENCOURAGED.

That's what standard K12 is like for ADHD kids. NOT what it's like for neurotypical kids.

It's a miracle any of us make it through in one piece.

There are some schools (mostly private) which couldn't be better designed for ADHD ... But they're few and far between. UNTIL you hit college.

GammaG was very wrong in one very key point: ADHD kids don't have ANY problems paying attention ... To interesting things. The surgeon analogy? In medical land, you'll find more ADHD types in surgery & trauma than ANYWHERE else, but you'll find us in Peds, Ortho, Labs, etc. as well. Often, ADHD med students are top in their class. Why? Because hyperfocus (the opposite of distractibility, aka HYPOfocus) is PART of the disorder. We lose all track of time (15 hour surgery? No problem!!) because we are INTENT on things that are interesting to us.

Same goes for other fields.

Most ADHD kids graduate k12 by the skin of their teeth... Only to go on to grad in the top 10, 5, 1% of their specialized studies.

Or they skip higher Ed for a few decades and go military, or sports, or arts... And excel THERE.

That's the #1 trick with ADHD: Interest.

And anyone who tells you that you HAVE to do boring stuff in life... Never set their sights on being successful enough to hire a maid and delegate the 'boring' to those who don't find it as attractive as dental work without Novocain.... Or just didn't finish the thought: you have to do boring stuff, but you don't have to make your life boring. Outsources as much of ghe boring as possible, and what you can't, get creative with it.

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answers from St. Louis on

ADHD is not a learning disability but it is common to have learning disabilities along side it.

I have ADHD as does all four of my kids, none of us have learning disabilities.

It is actually common enough knowledge that I would imagine anyone touched by children with ADHD would know the answer.

All of my kids have seen or see pediatric psychiatrist. I say have seen since two of my children are adults.
Mandy is correct that it is a disability, well it is called a disability, you would be hard pressed to prove that with my family, still, it is not a *learning* disability. A learning disabled person is not a protected class where someone with ADHD is a protected class.

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answers from Charlotte on

Well, I think you can take your pick on the professional to ask. I also think that people who say that ADHD is not a learning disability either have never seen a child struggle because of it, OR they are so invested in not labeling their child like this, that they deny it's a learning disability.

That's my opinion.

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answers from Boston on

It's a health impairment. Medical disability but not a learning disability. So as a medical disability, it is covered under section 504 of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), hence the name "504 plan" for ADHD accommodations. ADHD is in the same category of disability as things like a hearing impairment, physical disability, vision impairment, mood disorder such as depression or anxiety, etc. Accommodations must be made so that the child's disability does not interfere with his or her access to "free and appropriate" public education. 504 accommodations for ADHD could include things like being seated at the front and center of the class, being given subtle cues to re-focus attention, being allowed to go to the nurse's office to take medication, etc.

A child with ADHD can and often does also have learning disabilities, but those have to be diagnosed via an educational assessment. If a child is in 25th percentile or below in certain tested areas, he or she is considered learning disabled and would also be eligible for an IEP (an Individual Education Plan). An IEP has more meat to it than a 504 plan does and includes things like being pulled out of a classroom for OT, PT, or small group instruction, extra time on timed tests, being allowed access to a word processor to be able to type open response answers, being graded on a smaller number of spelling words, leeway for late assignments (being allowed partial credit for something late vs. no credit), etc.

Anyone who works with ADHD children (school psychologist, learning specialist, principal, pediatrician, psychologist, psychiatrist etc.) should be able to tell you the same thing.

If you have a child with ADHD who you think needs accommodations, the ADHD diagnosis from a doctor is all you need to get a 504 plan in place. If you think your child also has learning disabilities, you need to request an educational evaluation in writing. The school district has 10 days to respond and will schedule the test. They have a limited time to do the evaluation (30 or 60 days or something) and then a limited time to schedule a meeting to inform you of their findings. There are a lot of procedural rights and safeguards around this process. When you get those results, they will determine whether or not your child qualifies for and would benefit from additional services.

FWIW my oldest son didn't qualify for an IEP his first time (1st grade), was dx'd with ADHD and put on a 504 plan and privately tutored at our expense in 2nd grade, and in 4th grade was re-tested and did qualify for services, which he still receives in 9th grade now. IEP testing needs to be done every 3 years to make sure the child still needs services.

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answers from Anchorage on

From my understanding It is not a learning disability, It affects ability to concentrate, but not actually learn the material.

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answers from Honolulu on

Just a story, but I am not an expert:
So my daughter has a classmate that is ADHD. Formally diagnosed.
Problems concentrating. And he has an in class Aide etc.
But, he is a smart kiddo. No learning "disability." But he never... does his homework nor what he is SUPPOSED to do. It is a DAILY problem.

So one day, the Teacher (not his Aide), calls him to go up to the whiteboard to do a math equation and explain it etc.
This kid keep in mind, has lots of problems listening/doing his work/paying attention etc. and generally just goofs around and irks so many others and just doesn't do what he is supposed to.

Well, so the boy goes up to the whiteboard with whiteboard pen in hand, and he does the math equation in like SECONDS. Seconds.
Everyone was astonished! That this boy, who never seems to follow anything nor pay any attention to anything... KNOWS the lessons that was being talked about. AND he knew, how to do it, concisely.
The Teacher, called him up to the whiteboard, specifically to SHOW him, and prove to him... that he CAN DO THE WORK, but chooses not to.
He knows how, he can do it, and he is not clueless.
And he does know what is going on.
This is a 5th grade kid.

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answers from Kansas City on

I tried to fight that battle 15+ years ago with our son. He's now 22 years old.

The school system was worthless. When I asked about testing, his teacher said he was 'just a boy'. But she was the one having a fit because he wasn't up to reading level, during the February parent teacher conference. Kinda late in the year to be addressing it now, especially since I had asked about it in November! Anywhoo, I asked our pediatrician who sent us to a PhD Child psychologist for testing. When we went back to our pediatrician, he commented that he spends over 1/2 of his practice telling parents there is NOT an issue, but in his opinion, from looking at the notes from the psychologist, he did have ADHD. No parent want's their child labeled, so this is not something we went looking for, or wanted. We did medicated him until he was about a sophomore in HS. By that time, he understood he needed to sit in the front of the class, ask for help, etc.

But back to his early days and his lack of a 'learning disability'. He is very smart, but kept forgetting books, losing homework, etc. Now mind you, he did have a clinical diagnosis of ADHD and on meds. I asked school for an IEP or at least a 504 plan, and was told no because he did not have a learning disability. Whatever! I figured out things on my own. Went in and taped a file folder on the side of his desk so he could slide papers into it instead of them 'getting lost' in his desk or binder. I also ordered a complete second set of text books to keep at home. When I told my doctor these things he blew a gasket! Said I should not have had to do all that.

I think, or at least from what I remember, I could have pushed the issue and won. By having a clinical diagnosis and on meds should have qualified him for at least some special compensation.

Our son, as Riley said, has done very well. We ended up putting both kids in a private school, for a variety of reasons when he was in 6th grade. This was a very advanced college prep school that teaches 1-2 grade levels above the public schools. Because it was a smaller school, with small classes and teachers/faculties that cared (and not stretched beyond their limits), he did very well.

I've gotten rid of some of my favorite books/resources over the years but one book I remember was "Driven to Distraction". I'm sure you could Google resources now.

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answers from Dallas on

It is a developmental disability vs. a learning disability. The reason this can make a difference is that some health insurance covers developmental delays/disabilities but NOT learning disabilities.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

The rules governing what makes a disability an actual defined disability is pretty straight forward. It has to have a negative impact on a specific number of living skills areas. Just not being able to pay attention is not a developmental disability.

It may be severe enough to have an impact on their learning ability and be called a learning disability but as for it being something they'll have for the rest of their lives that may not be the case. Some people outgrow the need for medication and are able to function fine in normal jobs where they don't have to focus a lot. A waitress does not have to focus the same way a neurosurgeon would. A teacher could do just fine with ADHD and it not even have any impact on their skills. Especially if they are teaching elementary school or a sport.
This link gives a list of the living skills a person needs to be able to survive as an adult out in the big bad world. If the person has a deficit in several of the areas then they may receive a diagnosis of a developmental disability but their IQ would also be a huge factor. If they have an IQ of 150 but just can't focus on the reading assignment then they are not disabled, they have a learning issue that can be addressed and concessions to that learning issue would be discussed and then the school would have to provide some services.

When I was in high school I did pretty well. I made decent grades without ever knowing what was going on. I hardly ever had any idea a test was coming and I don't remember ever studying. When I went and took my ACT tests and got my scores I made pretty good for a normal student, 19's and 20's. Except my math. It was a 7. I could test out of fractions and decimals (a lot of the time I would just do it in my head), multiplication and division, I could add and subtract in just about any format you could ask me to.

I didn't have a mental defect or glitch. I had learned math so differently that I was stuck and the chances of me breaking through and suddenly being able to learn higher math was nil. I was diagnosed a learning disability in math due to having my math skills so oddly learned that I qualified based on the discrepancy in the test scores alone. So I was allowed to tape each and every math class. I was allowed un-timed tests, I was allowed to use open books for testing, I was allowed to have an education tutor who would work with me each week on my assignments and make sure I got them done.

My math skills were where I could work in any field, even ones where massive amounts of money were handled because I could do basic math. BUT I didn't have to take college algebra without my tutor. I took beginning algebra 3 times before my testing was done and flunked it each time. I took it once while seeing her and passed it with a B. I didn't get to take intermediate algebra because she left for a higher paying job and the nice man that was really good in math had no earthly idea how to teach a person with a learning issue anything.
This site is a master list of all the skills a person needs to live a normal Wish I had them all mastered.
This site is the DSM 4R. This book is THE tool any psychaitrist or psychologist uses to diagnose any disorder. It is their "bible" it is the only book legally used to diagnose a mental issue. If the symptoms do not fit in somewhere in this book they are not diagnosed with anything.

It is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition, Text Revision. The new one, the DSM 5 is coming out some time soon.

This book is technical and for use by professionals. BUT if you read slowly and can follow it you may be able to find the answers you are looking for. Each "area" is a heading then there are subcategories under that.

The information you would find most interesting would be 1.2 and 1.6 since the pertain to the question you asked about. Underneath 1.6 is where ODD is diagnosed and discussed.

To find out if your child's learning diagnosis is severe enough for a disability you'd need to have his evaluating psychologist do more assessments and write up the diagnosis. She/he would most likely be called in to "testify" that the finds were accurate and that the child was truly in a disability level of functioning. Then there would be a waiting list for those services. He would not be in regular classes but in the special ed room once he got older because they would cease to teach him classwork, he would focus more on a job skill area so he would be employable when he finally graduated. There would be many services and options provided to him later in life too. He would probably loose his medical option on his SSDI if he went to work, if he decided to just stay and work in the workshop facility of a group home or some sort of facilty like that then he would make a couple of dollars per day but would still get full state disability benefits. A lot of the people with disabilities like to stay at the workshop because they like hanging out with their friends all day.

Some even marry and have families. They are great parents and work very hard to learn the right skills to parent a child. I worked with a couple of married people, 2 of them had children and one couple did not. One of the couples had the most adorable little boy, each good feature the parents had was just multiplied on that little boy. He as just so darn cute, and very very very smart, top of his class smart.

There is no reason a person with a disability cannot live a normal fulfilled life with the right support and system in place to supervise them to make sure they are using their finances in the right way and all the bills are being paid, etc...

If you follow through with trying to get an actual disability diagnosis for your child this will most likely be what their adulthood life will be like.

If you try to get a learning disability diagnosis for him it won't have this life long diagnosis looming over hear and influencing every decision he ever gets to make.



answers from Dallas on

I don't know if you are referring to wanting it labeled a disability to get testing for school or what. If it is for school, it falls under the OHI....other health impairment... and qualifies your child to be tested by the school. I know because I had to fight that battle with our son at our school. Once I mentioned him qualifying under OHI, they finally began testing him. And he qualified for special services. Hope this helps.

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