Learning Disorders in ADHD

Learning Disorders in ADHD

While ADHD is a clinical diagnosis made by a psychiatric practitioner, it is often accompanied by learning disorders which can only be evaluated for with specialized psychoeducational and neuropsychological testing. Evaluating for learning disorders yields valuable information on how these students learn, which dictates specific in-classroom and at-home approaches to teaching (via a 504 or IEP plans). Additionally, there are sometimes various medications or supplements that may help some of these learning disorders. 

The majority (60-70%) of patients with ADHD will have a learning disorder of some kind. The most common learning disorders in patients with ADHD include: 

  1. Dyslexia
  2. Slow processing speed
  3. Decreased working memory 

Other brain differences that are fairly common in ADHD and can be evaluated for by neuropsychological testing are:

  1. Written expression deficits 
  2. Dyscalculia: math related difficulties
  3. Dysgraphia: trouble writing out words as well as difficulty with sentence structure
  4. Auditory and visual processing disorders

Dyslexia is a tendency to mix up or transpose the order of letters and/or numbers; this can be on paper but it can also occur via listening (called verbal dyslexia), which makes it hard to follow when a teacher is talking. It’s important for teachers to know whether a student learns better by reading, writing, or hearing information. 
There are also some supplements that can help those with dyslexia, including pramiracetam 600mg 2x per day (morning and afternoon). Pure Nootropics is a source for this product, but they are sometimes out unfortunately. 

Slow processing speed is apparent in over 60% of patients with ADHD. Stimulant medications may help to improve this in many patients by leading to “faster recognition a problem” and subsequent action to address the problem/question at hand. 

Decreased working memory implies that it’s harder to retain temporarily stored fact when trying to reason or problem solve. Imagine giving a multi-step request to a patient with ADHD and they skip over or completely forget the 2nd step. If teachers are aware of this deficiency, they can write down more complex requests of the student, or focus on giving fewer sequential instructions so as to not overwhelm the student. 

There is evidence to support alpha agonists such as guanfacine (brand name Intuniv) and clonidine in helping poor working memory. Click here for a page all about guanfacine/Intuniv.

A supplement that improves working memory and cognition is American Ginseng at 500mg to 1000mg 2x per day. It can also help treat ADHD. A good brand to consider is Hsu’s American Gin-Max. Ginseng can have side effects including insomnia, anxiety, headaches, and bleeding (never use with when on blood thinners or if you have a bleeding disorder).

Click here for more on neuropsychological testing and a list of area psychologists who perform the tests.

Click here for the role of Saffron in treating ADHD.

Sources for above information: 

Learn more about how Philadelphia Integrative Psychiatry approaches ADHD

How We Treat ADHD

David Danish MD

Related treatments