Confusion Over ADD/ADHD and Learning Disabilities
People are often confused about attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADD and AD/HD) and learning disabilities (LD), and not without cause.
Both LD and AD/HD are real, but there is no foolproof way to test for either of them. Both LD and AD/HD are the result of neurobiological disorders.
However LD and AD/HD are different, and at the same time, they often share many characteristics.
Using chemical and electrical systems, the brain receives, processes and responds to information in many complex ways; problems with learning, attention and behavior result when these systems are not working efficiently.
In AD/HD, the levels of chemical messengers called neurotransmitters (like dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin) are not in balance, and medication is recommended to adjust these levels. Disorders of anxiety and depression also stem from chemical imbalances, which is why getting a careful and comprehensive medical assessment, as well as making careful note of patterns of behavior over time, is so important.
In LD, the specific systems in the brain that are deficient are much less understood. LD is a broad category that includes many different types of problems in areas such as listening, reading, writing, spelling and math. Processing information in each of these areas depends upon a brain that is wired for speed and efficiency. When the flow of information is misrouted or delayed, or when one area in the brain is not working at full capacity, the result is a breakdown in learning.
LD and AD/HD are distinctive neurologically-based disorders that are diagnosed and treated differently.
That said, about one-third of individuals with LD will also have AD/HD, with weaknesses in organizational skills, low frustration tolerance, and trouble with social interactions. Medical treatment for AD/HD will not help LD, and educational and behavioral treatments for LD will not alone help AD/HD.
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Reprinted with the permission of the National Center for Learning Disabilities. © 1999-2009 National Center for Learning Disabilities, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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