ADHD in Education

Although ADHD is not classified as a learning disability, nor assessed and diagnosed in the same way as a learning disability, ADHD can greatly impact learning even if a specific learning disorder (LD) is not present. Students with ADHD are at a higher risk for lower levels of academic achievement; have a two-fold risk for grade retention and lower grades of Cs and Ds; have 8 to 10% lower math and reading scores; have a greater likelihood of entering and staying in special education programs; have a threefold risk of high school dropout; are less likely to attend post-secondary education and when they do complete two less years. This is why specialized teaching and learning strategies, as well as classroom accommodations, are considered an integral part of a comprehensive ADHD treatment plan.

It is however very important to note that ADHD does not impact IQ. In other words students with ADHD are just as smart as other students, but struggle to meet the potential we expect to see as indicated by their intelligence level. Students with ADHD also frequently have coexisting learning disabilities along with their ADHD. This is why it is extremely important to have a full understanding of a child’s learning profile before teaching, learning and classroom strategies and accommodations are implemented.

Executive functioning (EF) impairments also often occur along with ADHD and must be considered when developing an educational plan for these students. EF impairments can be considered an LD but unlike other LDs are not as easy to recognize since they impact a student’s functioning across most subjects and areas of functioning. Sadly, EF impairments are frequently ignored and the student mislabelled as being lazy, unmotivated, undisciplined or defiant. For more information on EF impairment please access Executive Functioning under the Understanding ADHD, In General section.

Other common impairments that may impact children with ADHD are, difficulty with cognitive shifting, tiring quickly cognitively, slower processing speed, missed signals and slower reaction time, impairment in language expression, delayed internal speech, difficulty becoming motivated and sustaining motivation.

Although past studies cite statistics (like those mentioned above) that can be disheartening, it is very important to acknowledge that children with ADHD can learn. They can achieve academic success now that we are more aware of the learning impairments that ADHD can cause and offer them assistance. More and more are reaching and completing post-secondary education and entering the careers of their choice.

For more detailed information on this area it is recommended that you access CADDAC’s webinars on ADHD and Learning, Executive Functioning, the CADDAC ADHD Parent Readiness Education Program (PREP), and the TEACH ADHD web site.