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Friday, December 13, 2013

ADHD and Dyslexia

A child or adult having difficulty reading or learning to read, following simple verbal instructions, or paying attention, may seem to have ADHD, but in fact dyslexia, a learning disorder involving reading difficulties might be the problem. When these type symptoms arise, a thorough evaluation for dyslexia before considering a label of ADHD might reduce the chances of misdiagnosis. If recognized early, dyslexia can often be overcome with proper therapy and does not require drugs for treatment.
What is Dyslexia
Dyslexia is a language processing and learning disorder. It may be inborn or may be acquired, though the cause is not always clear. The person with dyslexia usually has normal or above-average intelligence. How the brain handles written and spoken language is the main problem. Dyslexia, the most common of children's learning disorders, affects as many as 1 in 10 adults and children in the United States.
In The New Brain: How The Modern Age is Rewiring Your Mind, Richard Restak, MD, notes studies indicating dyslexia, like other reading disorders, may be developmental and can often be overcome with proper treatment.
Restak writes, "In short, remedial programs can successfully reverse dyslexia as long as the programs target the underlying problem-the dyslexic's difficulty in grasping the correspondence between letters and phonemes (individual sounds of speech, such as syllables)."
Signs and Symptoms of Dyslexia
The following are just some of the signs of dyslexia that should not be mistaken for ADD or ADHD:
  • Slow reader
  • Difficulty learning and pronouncing new words or with rhyming sounds
  • Sequencing - may have difficulty with sequencing tasks, such as saying the letters of the alphabet in order
  • Auditory processing -difficulty clearly understanding what is being said and following more than one instruction at a time
  • Language - cannot follow rapid speech.
  • Difficulty with spelling
  • Inattentive - it may seem like someone with dyslexia is not paying attention because her or his speed of processing language is slower, especially with spoken language.
Speed of learning is a major factor in dyslexia.

Differences Between ADHD and Dyslexia
Children with ADHD symptoms have difficulty focusing and paying attention in all situations. Those with dyslexia may do more poorly at school or work, where there is less control over the environment than at home. In a home, the pace of activity can be changed to meet an individual's needs.
Difficulty with auditory processing can lead to sensory overload causing confusion, frustration and some of the behaviors which might be mistaken for ADHD.
Writing in The Misdiagnosis of Dyslexia, Fernette and Brock Eide state, "Children with unrecognized dyslexia are often misdiagnosed with ADD or ADHD because if they are underperforming, but have normal or above-average intelligence, ADD or ADHD may be the only other practical alternative on a teacher's, parent's, or physician's list of possibilities."
The Eides, both physicians practicing in Edmonds, Washington, are the authors of The Mislabeled Child, a book on learning disorders and how to treat them.
As Restak writes in The New Brain, with proper training the way the brain works can indeed be changed. According to the CDC, 5% to 8% of all children in the United States are labeled as having ADHD. The number of children and adults with dyslexia who are labeled as ADHD is not known.
Working Memory in ADHD and Dyslexia
Short term memory is the ability to hold information in memory for short periods of time such as remembering a phone number long enough to dial it. Working memory involves being able to hold information in memory long enough to do something with it, to add a group of numbers, put words together to make a clear sentence. Poor working memory is common in those with ADHD and dyslexia. Treatment designed to improve working memory may help those with either disorder.
Pamela Hook, PhD, president of the Massachusetts Branch of the International Dyslexia Association (MABIDA) and associate professor of the Communication Sciences and Disorders Program at the MGH Institute of Health Professions in Boston, advises people to act quickly when symptoms suggesting dyslexia arise. In a recent article in Medical News Today, Hook says, "Early and appropriate intervention is critical and will greatly increase your child's academic success and self-esteem. However, for older individuals with dyslexia it is never too late to learn to read, process, and express information more efficiently."
When symptoms develop that look like ADHD, think dyslexia too.
Learning Disabilities Association of America
National Center for Learning Disabilities
Shaywitz, Sally, MD; Overcoming Dyslexia:A New and Complete Science-Based Program for Reading Problems at Any Level ; Knopf 2003; 0375400125 / 0-375-40012-5
Eides Fernette, MD and Brock, MD; The Misdiagnosis of Dyslexia; wellsphere.com, id#469241;Nov. 6, 2008
Hook Pamela, PhD; quoted in "Dyslexia Association Identifies Dyslexia Warning Signs, Facts, and Myths As Part of National Dyslexia Awareness Month;" Medical News Today; article #166210.php; Oct. 5, 2009
Miller, Karen J. MD; "Attention and Learning Problems: When You See One, Look for the Other;" National Center for Learning Disorders (NCLD); March 06 2005
Restak Richard, MD; The New Brain: How the Modern Age is Rewiring Your Mind; Rodale Press; 2004
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact a doctor for advice.


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