Is ADHD a learning disability?

This is a question asked by many parents and teachers the world over. It is a confusing and contentious issue. According to the Learning Disabilities Association of America, Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is not classified as a learning disorder but rather a psychiatric disorder. Under the Special Education Law, ADHD is considered “Other Health Impaired” as opposed to a learning disability, which still entitles the subject to an “Individualised Education Program. [3]

But therein lies the rub. Certain criteria need to be met in the diagnosis of this ailment and severity of condition needs to be established. Taking into consideration, the subjective nature of this condition and the variety of mitigating factors, this is not an easy task.

What is ADHD and what can we do about it?

ADHD is fast becoming one of the most prevalent and pervasive childhood brain disorders. According to the National Institute of Health, the incidence of ADHD is four times greater in boys than girls and the average age of onset is 7 years old. Although not classified as a learning disability, it does in fact have a disabling effect on learning. Learning disabilities predominantly involve difficulties with acquiring certain skills, for example reading, whereas the ADHD patient presents with problematic grasping of basic executive skills such as controlling impulses or sustaining attention.


  • Inability to focus
  • Distractible
  • Trouble with following instructions
  • Difficulty in task completion
  • Daydreaming and selective hearing
  • Fidgeting and inability to sit still
  • Incessant talking
  • Constant need for motion
  • Frustration induced verbal outbursts
  • Constantly losing personal items
  • Difficulty processing information
  • Impatience, especially when waiting their turn
  • Interrupts conversations
  • Inappropriate emotional responses
  • No regard for consequences of actions
  • Carelessness [1]

The ADHD brain has difficult prioritising despite of higher than average IQ, usually only beginning a task at the last minute under severe pressure stimulus. The ultimate procrastinators in action.

With the increasing incidence of ADHD, an estimated eleven percent of US children according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there has been a concomitant increase in research of treatment options. With the popularity of Ritalin, Adderoll and other psychotropic drugs waning due to alarming side effects, there has been an upsurge in natural remedies to control the disorder. [3]


Much research is being conducted into the cause of ADHD and its exponential escalation. The exact cause has not yet been clarified but some studies have posed significant findings that various social, environmental and dietary factors play a large role in the prevalence of the disorder.

We all have reservations about drugging our children, but by addressing some of these factors; many children (and parents) are finding some relief from this debilitating problem.


  • Abstain from the use of food colorings and preservatives (such as Sodium benzoate, FD&C Yellow No. 6, D&C Yellow no.10, FD&C yellow no. 5, FD&C red no.)
  • Avoid potential allergens (such as additive like butylated hydroxytoluene and butylated hydroxianisole, milk, eggs, chocolate and salicylate containing foods)
  • Electroencephalographic (EEG) biofeedback is an innovative neurotherapy to teach focussing techniques
  • Yoga, meditation or tai chi
  • Outdoor activities. There is strong evidence that as little as 20 minutes per day outside can be beneficial
  • Behavioral or parental therapy whereby specific problematic behaviours are addressed
  • Supplements such as zinc, L-carnitine, vitamin B6 and magnesium have been shown to have positive effects [2]

This epidemic is harming our children and we have to tread carefully to avoid a generation of over-medicated zombies. Albeit not strictly a learning disability, it needs to be treated as such and these primary interventions need to be explored as an alternative to pharmaceuticals.