View Full Version : Do you think ADD/ADHD is a learning disability?


buffalopc7
10-18-06, 05:53 PM
In the midst of reading research papers in preparation for an upcoming article i'm writing, I have come now to understand that ADD and ADHD are not officially considered learning disabilities and i'm puzzled. I rechecked my understanding of a learning disability and found it to be defined as:

"a discrepancy between a child’s apparent capacity to learn and his or her level of achievement." (defined by Kirk (1962, cited in Streissguth, Bookstein, Sampson, & Barr, 1993, p.144))."

Further, the definition explains a differentiation between ADHD and a LD:

"(ADHD) is often studied in connection with learning disabilities, but it is not actually included in the standard definitions of learning disabilities. An individual with ADHD may struggle with learning, but he or she can often learn adequately once successfully treated for the ADHD. A person can have ADHD but not learning disabilities or have learning disabilities without having ADHD. The conditions can co-occur. In order to understand the difference, imagine that someone with a learning disability is affected in only one or a few areas. However, people with ADHD are often affected in all areas."

Ok, and while I agree that some individuals with learning disabilities don't necessarily have ADD/ADHD, I believe ADD/ADHD to be a learning disability in and of itself. Both, by definition, are evident by a discrepancy between ability (capacity) to learn and actual achievement. The definition added that a learning disability is presumed to be due to central nervous system dysfunction. My understanding of ADD/ADHD, based on the evidence from brain scans, is that there is a physical difference in certain areas of the brain and/or evidence that the brain is functioning "differently" (depending on the study). Last time I checked, the brain was considered part of the CNS, no?
I can only speak for myself thus far, but I sure have found a new area to delve into in my work. The fact that I have ADHD certainly had been the source of a large discrepancy between my ability and achievement for much of my life in school until I was diagnosed in my senior year in college. I have been tested up and down, left and right for every learning disability in existence and was never found to have one. If you ask me though, I will always state with confidence that I indeed do have a learning disability and it is ADHD. As far as the definitions, I find them conflicting in facts and vague. I could remove everything except the topic defined (ie: learning disability, ADHD) and ascribe the definition to either.
I am wondering if anyone else might comment on this.

scuro
10-18-06, 06:23 PM
Yes it all doesn't make sense and I'm sure it is politically motivated to some extent. If it's labelled a disruptive behaviour disorder one can argue that this isn't a "true" disability for funding in the school and then later in life.

I believe there is also like a two grade discrepancy between achievement and IQ and if I remember correctly, it gets worse over time!

Finally, ADHDers have difficulty with active working memory, and what Dr. Russell Barkley has called time, the ultimate disability for ADHDers. There are other deficits also. For some inattentive ADHDers there are true processing deficits -> See Sluggish Cognitive Tempo subtype.

buffalopc7
10-18-06, 07:31 PM
Yes it all doesn't make sense and I'm sure it is politically motivated to some extent. If it's labelled a disruptive behaviour disorder one can argue that this isn't a "true" disability for funding in the school and then later in life.

I believe there is also like a two grade discrepancy between achievement and IQ and if I remember correctly, it gets worse over time!

Finally, ADHDers have difficulty with active working memory, and what Dr. Russell Barkley has called time, the ultimate disability for ADHDers. There are other deficits also. For some inattentive ADHDers there are true processing deficits -> See Sluggish Cognitive Tempo subtype.
It sure doesn't make sense. In fact, you made a great point about the political aspect. Its an eye opener for sure; and I can only imagine the implications, not only for us as adults with ADD/ADHD, but also for the potential effect on children. I'm not even sure how the disruptive behaviors disqualify ADD and ADHD as a disability.

scuro
10-18-06, 10:46 PM
I'm not even sure how the disruptive behaviors disqualify ADD and ADHD as a disability.
I don't know a lot about this either...perhaps some others can chip in with their thoughts. What comes to mind is that the rational might be that, those are behaviours which may not be viewed as permanent as LD's. ADHD is seen as a developmental disorder. I'm not sure if LD's are. Another line of thinking might be that they are behaviours which can be changed, and LD's can't.

ForTheDuration
10-19-06, 06:07 AM
Thank you buffalopc7 for starting this thread. I have been biding my time, wondering if I would have to break down and start a thread on this question myself. I am a newbie on this forum and a sporadic visitor so I feel a little awkward starting a discussion on such a broad and -- yes -- political -- subject. But for me it is of more than academic interest. For wrapped in this is a question of my life's 'narrative' -- how did I come to be who I am today.

My short answer to your query is: YES. I would argue that functionally AD(H)D is a learning disability. This is more than a statement of classification. I have found it to be a powerful heuristic.
"Of or relating to a usually speculative formulation serving as a guide in the investigation or solution of a problem..." The expedient thing to do may be to re-label AD(H)D as an 'Executive Function Disorder'.

We ADDers have the misfortune of inhabiting a conceptual 'no mans land' that is claimed by multiple disciplines and professions. We are the poor elephant in the 'Blind Men and the Elephant' story. What maddens me is that in part what drives the 'what is ADD' debate is a 'jurisdictional' dispute. Anyone who has spent anytime on a construction site -- for example -- can recognize what is going on. I can see little difference between this dispute between neurologists and psychiatrists (etc.) and say a job site dispute between plumbers and pipefitters. Unfortunately in this instance WE are the 'job site' .

QueensU_girl
10-20-06, 01:11 AM
It's really nitpicking to say that it is not an LD, as professionals do claim.

At the end of the day, the outcome is that ADD/ADHD creates problems that resemble an LD's problems.

Etiological arguments make us miss the whole forest, for the sake of staring at one tree.

You know what? The outcome is all the same -- (a) people are impaired in somewhat similar ways, and (b) all have the same outcome (impaired performance)... and all need some sort of intervention, drug or non-drug.

Emma

NB. I understand that even the term "LD" is contentious. e.g. My testing Psychologist told me that in the UK, the term "LD" is a euphemism (polite expression) that means "mentally retarded". (Which, of course, is not the meaning here in North America. Some LD people are genius, and certainly many are gifted or of higher IQs.)

Matt S.
10-20-06, 11:48 AM
As far as academic learning I was a well hyperactive learner as well straight a's AP level classes as far as impulse control... I have yet to learn that so it may be in one or more areas of life

ForTheDuration
10-20-06, 01:24 PM
I should note my p.o.v. is that of one of those simply-cannot-get-with-the-program 'inattentives'. No hyperactive energy to compensate for the 'haze'. On the other hand no behavioral issues -- at least after age 9 or so. [ I went through a 'phase change' at that age. That's a documentable fact. If it goes against your 'model' of childhood ADHD -- deal with it.]

In school I started hitting the wall at about the 7th grade. I couldn't fake my way through on test scores only. [ I was in school during the highpoint of multiple choice tests.] I had to produce. It doesn't matter if you can read [in my case at an adult level] and write, if you have difficulty getting in your coursework in on time -- or at all -- your going to crash and burn. At age 16 I left school -- shortly afterwards I walked in and took the high school equivalency test. No sweat, just another multiple choice test.

Where am I going with this? Oh yes... So I have persuaded myself that AD(H)D is functionally a learning disorder/disability. I have also have reached the limit of my patience with the 'biochemical' approach i.e. the 'take your meds and get back to me' school. [The best advice I have read on the subject of medication is to expect a 40% reduction in symptoms -- without a choice on which symptoms will in fact improve.] So how do I persuade others to view my issues through the learning disability/neurological impairment lens? It's hard enough to convince people that I am in fact AD(H)D. "So your saying that you're hyper? Riiight". Now I want to persuade them I have been dealing with an undiagnosed learning disability for the majority of my adult life.( I was diagnosed at age 36.)

Any suggestions?

scuro
10-20-06, 07:22 PM
NB. I understand that even the term "LD" is contentious. e.g. My testing Psychologist told me that in the UK, the term "LD" is a euphemism (polite expression) that means "mentally retarded".
The thing is this quip rings true. What is it about the European intelligensia, that at times, it appears so 19th century..so backwards and ignorant? As an outsider of both the US and Euroland, I personally notice that trait more in the old countries.

oreo2
11-04-06, 12:02 AM
I didn't read all the replys on this topic so if I am repeating someone I am sorry.

I took classes to become a teacher which I am not yet. I have come to a stand still but that is not the issue. In the class called exeptional students ADHD is concidered a LD only under behavior problems or behavior diabilities. I personally believe that it is an academic problem all together and they should just have it under learning disablities. That is what I know.

In the world adhd it nothing to a lot of people I have found out and they think it is all just a bunch of prople not wanting to work at life like they do but I think they just say things because they don't understand the problems that come with adhd. I don't think that the work force and the country conciders adhd as a learning disability. that is all I can contribute.

*~ §EEK ~*
11-04-06, 11:37 AM
I have Dyslexia and ADD.

The only plausible reason I can think of for not labeling ADD as a "Disability" is that there are no medications you can give for Dyslexia.

Where as many ADD people function very well once they are treated pharmacologically for their ADD.

That would be my best guess!

Interesting topic. I never really thought about it before. :)

anamari
11-08-06, 09:25 PM
Seek

I thought you would label as disability any condition that is disabling/imparing.

*~ §EEK ~*
11-09-06, 12:11 AM
As I said above, I don't know. I am not a lawyer.

Here is a link that describes what "disability" means by law.

http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode20/usc_sec_20_00001401----000-.html


(30) Specific learning disability

(A) In general The term “specific learning disability” means a disorder in 1 or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which disorder may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations.

(B) Disorders included Such term includes such conditions as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia.

(C) Disorders not included Such term does not include a learning problem that is primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, of mental retardation, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.So, according to the above quote:

(B) Disorders included Such term includes such conditions as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia.

Minimal brain dysfunction is the old name for ADHD correct??




So, I have no idea why anyone would say ADD is not a disability.

~boots~
11-09-06, 02:42 AM
I think ADHD for ME was a huge learning disability...but, that's not to say it is for everyone

Matt S.
11-09-06, 01:03 PM
the executive function aspect of it is my disability because the school system would make itself look good in my case because I would get straight A's whether I was hyper or not so they reinforced the lack of control aspect I had/have versus teaching me patience and planning goals etc.

charonshanti
11-09-06, 01:33 PM
Specific definitions of "learning disability" might vary even between medical specialties. A legal definition, like Scuro's quote, is an entirely different animal. Buffalo's quote appears to be from a medical viewpoint.

This is just a comment re: actually getting assistance for the learning difficulties caused by ADHD for children in US, preschool to 21, whether ADHD is technically termed a "learning difficulty" or not. (I somehow wound up at a very enlightening lecture by a special ed lawyer last week.) In US schools receiving federal funds, ADHD children can be assisted through either section 504 of the rehab act (1973) or the "individuals with disabilities education act" (IDEA,2004). The lawyer said that 50% of the children in these programs have attention deficit or related disorders.

The lawyer made the point that adhd children get far more assistance under IDEA than 504; 504 requires reasonable accomodation; IDEA is more structured and emphasizes reaching education goals. If I understood right, IDEA requires the involvement of a specialist (special ed teacher.) Children who need this assistance have to demonstrate the existence of an impairment or condition and substantiate that it "adversely affects educational performance" by keeping notes, homework, report cards, teacher's comments, disciplinary reports, etc.

So whether ADHD falls under the umbrella of 'learning disability' or not, there should be assistance available for the ADHD student having learning difficulties at public school. (more at www.wrightslaw.com (http://www.wrightslaw.com))

dormammau2008
11-10-06, 10:07 PM
a lerening disablity could be a thow back to a time when writeing was not needed an in them times our skills we have now would have been inlovable unlike to day when they work agasisted us .....but......there still could be more two i than that.... dorm

QueensU_girl
11-10-06, 11:15 PM
I guess that legally, it is sorta muddy water. School systems can seem to discriminate against low IQ or 'mental retardation', or if i child/adult does not seem to respond to basic 'accommodations'.

In my own experience, basic accommodations just mean "more time", "quiet space", and possibly a "tutor" [if you can afford $20-40/hr].

Kids who don't do better with this are out of luck, academically.

buffalopc7
11-10-06, 11:27 PM
I guess that legally, it is sorta muddy water. School systems can seem to discriminate against low IQ or 'mental retardation', or if i child/adult does not seem to respond to basic 'accommodations'.

In my own experience, basic accommodations just mean "more time", "quiet space", and possibly a "tutor" [if you can afford $20-40/hr].

Kids who don't do better with this are out of luck, academically.
That brings up a great point. I've read several books that discuss the structure of traditional school systems, which may not necessarily be the best environment for someone with ADD/ADHD. Despite this, it would be very difficult to make fundamental changes to a system that is widely used and accepted. I had tutors when I was in grammar school, several, for several different subjects, but none of that extra intervention helped me improve my skills. Seems to me too, I recall that there is far less problem with ADD/ADHD in Japan and someone suggested that it was because of the large amount of time they are provided for physical activity. That wouldn't fall under "reasonable accomodation", but I wonder if it might help.

charonshanti
11-10-06, 11:56 PM
In my own experience, basic accommodations just mean "more time", "quiet space", and possibly a "tutor" [if you can afford $20-40/hr].This was the lawyer's point in strongly suggesting going in through IDEA, not the 504. 504 only has to provide accomodation, which is why school systems might steer parents toward 504 instead of IDEA. And in real life, school systems have limited resources (including teachers educated to work with ADHD). I haven't had to fight this fight myself, but a lot of parents seem to get the run-around.

Once out of school--well, I figure any adult with ADHD is going to have some problem learning or retaining anything outside their particular enthusiasms--and sometimes within those enthusiasms. Part of coping with ADD is figuring out how to get the info in--and out!--anyway, or learning how to work around our weaknesses.

anamari
11-11-06, 06:54 PM
Here some school districts offer after school tutors or at least tutoring classes for free...I guess it is part of the "no child left behind act"...
my kid had the luck to be an ELL (english language learner) student as well, and get support for his week point-language- based on that too...alos he had the luck at his previous school district that a special ed teacher found challenging to develop a language comprehension program for him , as being the only AD/Hd child in the school that was not a native english speaking child ...

he does not need adjustments for other areas.... But he will need some support to go from class to class in time ...

bandie08
02-06-07, 09:48 AM
I think ADHD for ME was a huge learning disability...but, that's not to say it is for everyone
yeah same its a severe learning disability for me Im very intellegent and have a normal IQ but ADHD affects the way I learn. It actually said since i have ADHD and a Learning disability I have to be in special ed classes.

netsavy006
02-07-07, 01:52 PM
I've heard of ADD and AD/HD and Asperger's/Autism all refered to as learning disabilities...

netsavy006
02-07-07, 01:55 PM
I consider my asperger's a learning disability for me because I find it hard to pay attention in class at times and I don't do all that I should to for my college classes. I could be a B+/A- student but I don't do what I'm suppose to do for my classes because of pure lazyness. Because of this I am a C+/B- student which to me is great because I was a D/F student in high school and still managed to get into college. I also find it hard to read and understand all my textbook reading to but I get all that answered in class as needed. I do have testing accommidations when I need them in college. (like extended time on tests.)...