Your child is struggling in school. His teachers share their suspicions of ADHD, so you get him evaluated. Sure enough, the doctor agrees, and formalizes your child’s diagnosis.
Fast forward a few months. You’ve started medication, tweaked things several times, and finally settled on a dose that seems right for your child. You’ve also been working hard to teach him the skills he needs to manage his student responsibilities.
But your child is still struggling in school.
He’s able to sit still through a lesson. He’s able to listen to what his teachers have to say. He’s even started bringing the right notebooks home. But he isn’t comprehending the information any better. His grades aren’t improving. He’s not succeeding.
What isn’t working? What is everyone missing?
ADHD and Accompanying Disorders
ADHD is a very “friendly” condition. It’s often found in the company of other brain-centered disorders – or, in ADHD professional parlance, comorbidities. These disorders can be behavioral, like ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder). They can be mental health issues, like depression or anxiety. They might even be motor or sensory issues.
As an ADHD coach, the ADHD comorbidities I deal with most often are learning disabilities (LDs). Learning disabilities can be hard to untangle from ADHD because often, both lead to the same outcome – a frustrated, difficult, poorly-performing student.
It’s not always easy to tell – is your son acting out in class because of clinical ADHD, or because of boredom and frustration as he struggles to understand the material being taught? Is your daughter doing poorly on tests because of actual academic difficulty, or because she can’t stay focused long enough to study properly?
This confusion sometimes leads to misdiagnosis. Or, more commonly, only one piece of the puzzle is discovered. A child whose ADHD comes along with a comorbid learning disability gets treated for his attention deficit, but continues to do poorly in school.
That’s because ADHD medication doesn’t enhance learning ability. It tones down distractions so a child can focus in class. It calms a hyperactive child so they can sit and listen effectively. It helps a child keep track of their papers and assignments. But it doesn’t change the way the child’s brain actually comprehends the material being taught.
That’s why it’s critically important to have your child carefully assessed for comorbidities. When speaking to an ADHD professional about your child’s struggles, try to give as thorough a picture as possible so your diagnostician can differentiate between ADHD and comorbidities that produce similar effects. It’s crucial for your child’s healing and success that each disorder is isolated and treated separately.
Finding a Proper ADHD Treatment Plan and ADHD Coaching
When it comes to learning disorders, what does effective treatment look like? An important first step includes having a specialist determine exactly what type of LD your child is struggling with. Is it dyslexia – difficulty reading? Dysgraphia – difficulty writing? Dyscalculia – difficulty with math? A different comprehension or information-processing disorder?
Once your child receives the right diagnosis, a learning specialist can help craft a plan to get them the assistance they need. Perhaps that means hiring a tutor that specializes in your child’s specific disability. It also means working with your school to accommodate your child’s learning differences. If, for example, your child grasps information well but fails exams because dyslexia makes it hard for them to read the questions, your school might allow them to take tests orally. And that’s just one example of many possible accommodations.
Neither ADHD nor learning disabilities need hold your child back from succeeding in school and fulfilling their potential. ADHD parental help is available. With precise diagnosis and the right types of treatment, a productive, healthy school experience is within your child’s reach.