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October is also an awareness month for another disorder that touches the lives of many of our students and families at Springer School and Center: Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Learning disabilities and ADHD often co-occur, with nearly one out three students with learning disabilities also diagnosed with ADHD. So this week I want to spend some time discussing what ADHD is and how it can exacerbate the symptoms of learning disabilities.

ADHD, like learning disabilities, is a brain-based neurological disorder. Children, teens, and adults can be diagnosed according to the criteria in the DSM-V (the guide to the criteria) by a doctor, mental health professional, or other qualified clinician. There are three presentations of ADHD: inattentive, hyperactive-impulsive, or combined inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive. 

Some symptoms of the inattentive presentation of ADHD include difficulty sustaining attention, failure to pay close attention to details, and forgetfulness in daily activities. Some symptoms of the hyperactive-impulsive presentation include fidgeting with hands or feet, talking excessively, and interrupting others. 

Not included in the DSM-V definition, however, are additional difficulties that people with ADHD have with executive function (EF). EF includes skills such as analyzing, planning, organizing, and completing tasks. Students with ADHD may have sufficient knowledge to complete a particular task, but may not see it through due to difficulties in these areas.   

Students with learning disabilities may also have a difficult time with EF. Students may have extreme difficulty with organizing incoming information to understand a math concept, getting ideas from their mind down on paper, or summarizing what they have read, despite average to above-average intelligence. While these students may be able to plan ahead enough to turn in their final product, the product may not reflect the grade-level requirements. 

As you can imagine, when a student has both a learning disability and ADHD, learning can be severely compromised. Students diagnosed with both disorders have complex learning profiles that require intensive, individualized intervention. Springer School and Center’s professional development offerings can assist teachers with understanding the interplay between learning disabilities, ADHD, and EF, and can assist teachers in viewing a learner’s profile through an EF lens in order to select the most effective strategies possible. In addition, parent programs are offered to assist parents with understanding EF and strategies to use at home.

Please see www.springer-ld.org to register for the Center's professional development and parent programming options related to Executive Function coming up in November and December, or email the Center at center@springer-ld.org to inquire about a customized professional development or parent program for your school or group.

Blogger Stephanie Dunne, Ed.S., is the Center Director at Springer School and Center. Prior to coming to Springer, Stephanie practiced as a school psychologist in public and private schools for ten years.

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