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Differences Between Dyslexia & ADHD

By Lia Stannard ; Updated August 14, 2017

Dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are psychological disorders that start during childhood and can persist into adulthood. Both affect the child's performance in school, but in different ways. Dyslexia interferes in the child's ability to read through decoding problems; ADHD affects his level of attention and behavior.

Reading Problems

The Mayo Clinic says dyslexia is the most common learning disability, which affects the patient's processing of letters. A child with dyslexia sees certain letters in reverse; for example, she reads “b” when the letter on the page is “d,” and vice versa. The problem with reading letters also affects the child's ability to see differences in words. As a result, the patient has difficulties spelling and reading. A child with dyslexia may also read below grade level. A child with ADHD may also have problems reading, but not due to a mechanical error. A patient with ADHD has problems sustaining her attention when reading, and is also easily distracted.

Difficulty Following Directions

Following directions is also a problem for both disorders, but the difference is due to how the child processes the incoming information. Because dyslexia is a language problem, the patient has difficulties understanding spoken instructions. This problem can be exacerbated if the teacher speaks quickly. The child also has problems following more than one instruction at a time, and has difficulties with remembering items in a sequence. A patient with ADHD also has difficulty following directions, due to problems paying close attention. The patient makes careless mistakes and has problems with organization and finishing tasks. The Mayo Clinic adds that the patient may appear not to be listening.

Behavioral Issues

A child with ADHD generally has more behavioral issues than a child with dyslexia. The ADHD patient tends to blurt out answers, talk excessively and interrupt other people. Waiting for his turn, fidgeting and staying in his seat can also be problematic. A dyslexia patient, on the other hand, tends to be quieter. Because the patient has problems sounding out unfamiliar words, he avoids reading out loud during class. The child may also feel frustrated by his reading difficulties.

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