Dyslexia and ADHD: Causes, Diagnosis, And The Outlook for Kids with this Mental Disorder

difference between dyslexia and adhd

Dyslexia refers to a learning disability, while Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a neurobehavioral disorder.

Dyslexia is a term used to describe a learning disorder characterized by difficulties in processing graphic symbols, such as letters and numbers.

The Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by an ongoing pattern of inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity.

While Dyslexia usually affects young children, ADHD is a condition that can occur to both kids and adults.

Although Dyslexia and ADHD are distinct conditions, they often overlap, and that causes some confusion about the nature of these two disorders.

Dyslexia usually features difficulties with accurate and fluent word recognition, spelling, and reading decoding. Some studies stated that 30% of the cases of Dyslexia have a coexisting ADHD.

ADHD is likely one of the most frequent developmental issues among the school population, affecting 3-5% of the children.

Even though ADHD and Dyslexia can occur together, medical experts confirmed that they don’t cause each other.



Researchers are not entirely sure of what causes Dyslexia due to the complexity of the human brain.

So far, medical experts think that a genetic factor may play a significant role in the development of this condition.

They had determined that some specific flaws in the inherited genetic material increase the risk of having Dyslexia.

The affected gene could be the dCTP deaminase (dcd2), one of several genes commonly associated with brain development. Specifically, the cerebral centers involved in reading.

However, there are other potential causes of Dyslexias. They’re listed here below:

  • Neurological issues: a brain malfunction impairs the activity in some areas of the organ. That could force the other sections of the brain to compensate by performing the function the other can’t adequately do.
  • Emotional issues: Pressure and constant stress can negatively impact the learning process of a child. This situation is not a disorder, but it can evolve into one if left unchecked.
  • Audiovisual issues: Some brain connections that help children to associate letters and words with sounds are not working as they should or present low activity.


Children tend to display behavior issues due to poor upbringing or disobedience. But when it comes to ADHD, the cause is far more complicated.

Medical experts had been researching some factors that can potentially cause this disorder.

Studies indicate that the frontal lobe, basal ganglia, caudate nucleus, cerebellum, and other areas of the brain are likely involved in the development of ADHD.

As such sections of the brain are related to the complex processes that regulate behavior. Doctors sometimes refer to them as “Executive Functions.”

They include several processes such as inhibition, working memory, planning, self-monitoring, verbal regulation, motor control, emotional regulation, among other functions.

Several experts state that the primary cause of ADHD may be a genetic or inherited factor. Research had indicated that two dopamine genes, DAT1 and DRD4 may be related to ADHD.

Some kids are born with this condition due to their mothers having smoked tobacco or consumed alcohol during their pregnancies.

The exposure substances such as lead, nicotine, and sometimes alcohol are potentially toxic to the developing brain tissue (especially in children), and that could lead people to develop ADHD.

Some atypical causes of this disorder could be:

  • Head trauma
  • Brain tumor
  • Strokes

Diagnosis of Dyslexia and ADHD

Doctors diagnose Dyslexia and ADHD differently.

A qualified psychologist will carry out the diagnosis of Dyslexia through psycho-educational evaluation.

Some of them may use a Dyslexia Assessment Fact Sheet made for The International Dyslexia Association (IDA).

This sheet provides with essential information on Dyslexia as well as the defining features of this condition.

When it comes to diagnosing ADHD, physicians or psychologists will carry out an evaluation that includes the following:

  • Complete medical and family history
  • Interviews with the parents and their child
  • Behavior rating scales usually completed by the parents and the teachers
  • Observation of the child
  • Psychological tests meant to measure intellectual potential, social and emotional adjustment, as well as to confirm the presence of learning disabilities

Given ADHD has several sub-types, Medical experts will likely need to pinpoint the exact type of ADHD that affects the patient.

The sub-types of ADHD are listed here below:

  • ADHD predominantly inattentive type, which features distractibility and difficulty sustaining mental effort and attention.
  • ADHD predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type, which features fidgeting with hands and feet, squirming in their seats, acting as if they’re driven by a motor, interrupting and intruding upon others.
  • ADHD combined type meets both sets of inattention and hyperactive/impulsive criteria.

Can someone inherit both Dyslexia and ADHD?

More often than not, both of these disorders seemingly run in families.

A genetic factor may play a role in about half of the cases of children with ADHD, but when it comes to the other half, researchers are still scratching their heads because they haven’t identified a cause.

In the case of dyslexia, studies indicate that about one-third of the children born to a dyslexic parent are likely to develop dyslexia as well.

So there is a probability of a child inheriting both of the genetic flaws that cause Dyslexia and ADHD.

Most dyslexic children and kids with ADHD display some similar characteristics.

For example, dyslexic kids, like children with ADHD, will likely have difficulty paying attention because of the several functions required to read may tire them easily.

In both cases, that remarkably limits the children’s ability to sustain concentration.

Patients with Dyslexia as well as those with ADHD have difficulty with reading, both being dysfluent readers.

However, one fundamental difference would be that dyslexic persons usually have some noticeable trouble with accuracy, which leads them to misread both large and small words.

While patients with ADHD, despite being dysfluent readers, their reading does not feature misreading words. They may skip over punctuation, leave off endings, and lose their place.

Patients with Dyslexia and those with ADHD usually have trouble with writing.

But in this area, they’re also different. A dyslexic writer typically has trouble with spelling, grammar, proofreading, and organization.

Meanwhile, the ADHD writer has problems with organization and proofreading.

When this constellation of issues is present in one individual, that person possibly has both conditions.

Patients with Dyslexia and ADHD will likely be underachieving in school, even in the cases of such children being bright and motivated.

It is essential to take these kids to a medical expert who can carefully evaluate them because the treatment for one disorder is different from the other.

Experts can determine the best way to treat the kids so they can overcome these conditions and reach their potential.

The Outlook for kids with Dyslexia and ADHD

When medical experts identify these disorders and treat them early, kids with Dyslexia and ADHD have better chances to learn to overcome their difficulties while keeping a positive self-image.

Science and medicine haven’t found a way to help these children to outgrow their learning disabilities. But patients can learn to adapt and improve their current skills.

With proper medication and accommodations, kids with these conditions can become successful students in colleges and universities.

It is essential for parents to remember that their children will need all the support they can get to keep moving forward.

Some people with Dyslexia and ADHD are gifted students, which is possible because individuals with these disorders can learn to develop their current strengths and become successful students, and more importantly happy persons.