Although it is not a specific learning disability, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and SLD often occur together. An estimated one in 20 New Zealanders have ADHD yet it’s poorly understood and frequently remains undiagnosed, causing distress in family, school, work and social situations.

ADHD Definition

There are three main subgroups of ADHD, so not everyone with ADHD will present with the same behaviours.


  • Easily distracted
  • Short attention span
  • Day dreams
  • Makes silly mistakes
  • Often late
  • Dis-organised


  • Always moving
  • Restless
  • Fidgets
  • Can’t sit still
  • Trouble switching off / sleeping


  • Acts without thinking
  • Interrupts people
  • Accident prone
  • Blurts out answers / secrets
  • Each person will vary in the type, number, frequency and severity of their symptoms and to determine the best treatment, a medical and educational assessment is recommended.
  • ADHD people are usually energetic, enthusiastic, creative, intuitive, sensitive and highly intelligent. Parents, teachers, youth leaders and others interacting or managing those with ADHD who can capture and enhance these attributes will make positive impact.
  • ADHD occurs in all ethnic and socio-economic groups and often runs in families.
  • Girls often present inattentive characteristics and therefore are more likely to be overlooked.

It’s estimated that 30% of those with dyslexia have coexisting ADHD. Coexisting means that ADHD and dyslexia can occur together, but they do not cause each other.

Dyslexic children and children with ADHD have some similar characteristics.
They both may have difficulty paying attention because reading is so demanding that it causes them to fatigue easily, limiting the ability to sustain concentration. They both have difficulty with reading. The dyslexic person’s reading is typically not fluent, with major problems with accuracy, mis-reading both large and small words. The person with ADHD may not be a fluent reader, but his or her reading is not characterized by miss-reading words. The ADHD reader may skip over punctuation, leave off endings, and lose his or her place. Lack of fluency of both the ADHD person and the dyslexic reader may negatively impact comprehension. Both may avoid reading and derive little pleasure from it.

Both the person with dyslexia and the person with ADHD typically have trouble with writing. The typical dyslexic writer has significant problems with spelling, grammar, proofreading, and organization. The ADHD writer often has difficulty with organization and proofreading. Both the dyslexic writer and the ADHD writer may have handwriting difficulties.

Individuals with dyslexia and ADHD may be underachieving in school even though they are often bright and motivated. The goal for them, as it is for all children, is to meet their potential. It is critical that children with these difficulties be carefully evaluated. If dyslexia and ADHD are identified and treated early, children are more likely to learn to overcome their difficulties while maintaining a positive self-image.

Adapted from the ADHD Association of New Zealand
Find out more

For more information on how SPELD NZ can help a person with ADHD and  specific learning disabilities, see our Information Pack below or give us a call on 0800 773 536.

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What Dyslexia Taught Me

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The Paradox of Twice Exceptional

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