Information about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

What is ADHD?

What is Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and what does it have to do with learning disabilities (LD)? ADHD and LD are not the same thing, but ADHD certainly can interfere with learning and behavior. About one-third of people with LD have ADHD. Clear up your confusion about the two often co-occurring disorders by accessing the information below.

Definition of ADHD (taken from SickKids):

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common neurobiological disorder that can have serious consequences, including school failure, poor relationships, driving-related accidents, and other negative life outcomes.  Hence, early identification and treatment is critical.

  • ADHD affects 5-12% of the population or approximately 1 or 2 students in every classroom
  • ADHD interferes with an individual’s capacity to:
    • Self-regulate activity level (hyperactivity)
    • Inhibit behaviour
    • Attend to the task at hand (inattention) in developmentally appropriate ways


Hyperactivity: constant movement in chair, getting up and running around when other are seated; also may manifest as talking so much that other cannot get a turn

Impulsivity: acting quickly without thinking first

Inattention: frequent daydreaming, lost in another world when should be focused and concentrating, sidetracked by what is going on around them

How is ADHD Diagnosed?

Clinical diagnosis of ADHD is made by a health professional (i.e. clinical psychologist, psychiatrist, pediatrician, or general practitioner) based on criteria for the disorder listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual – 4th Edition – Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR).

To assist in the diagnosis, information about the child is gathered from many sources (i.e. developmental history, interviews with parents and teachers, behaviour rating scales, review of performance, academic achievement, and language skills.

After a diagnosis, you should meet with your child’s teacher to:

  • Discuss the treatment plan (what the doctor has suggested for your child).
  • Explain the interventions (what professional services, i.e. psychologist; etc.) your child may be receiving.
  • If intervention involves medication, explain the medication your child is taking and advise the teacher what to monitor at school (i.e. behaviour, academic performance, mood).
  • Discuss changes in the classroom, including changes in teaching approaches and seat placement.
  • Discuss what you can do at home to help your child.

Building Effective Communication Between Home and School

The symptoms, challenges, and successes associated with ADHD may change as your child gets older. Each year your child is likely to have one or more new teachers.

This means that it is important to re-build communication between home and school at the start of every school year. But, remember, once a year is NOT enough.

Effective home-school communication is:

  • Regular – occurs more than once or twice per year
  • Varied – takes many forms, both informal and formal, such as written notes, telephone calls, parent-teacher conference, casual corridor chats, daily log books
  • Balanced – is about successes as well as challenges
  • Takes action & useful – sets out goals and the steps to get there

The Difference Between LD and ADHD

Adapted from the National Centre for Learning Disabilities, http://ncld.org/

Although LD and ADHD are different, they do share some similarities. Both are neurological disorders that affect how the brain receives, processes and responds to information. But their origins are different and people receive different types of treatment for them.

Researchers are still studying the cause of ADHD. Evidence points to levels of brain chemicals (neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin) being out of balance. This can lead to problems with organization, easy frustration and social interactions. In turn, this can affect schoolwork and learning.

With LD, the specific systems in the brain that are deficient are even less well understood. LD is a broad category that includes many different types of problems in areas such as listening, reading, writing, spelling and math. Processing information in each of these areas depends upon a brain that is wired for speed and efficiency. When the flow of information is misrouted or delayed, or when one area in the brain is not working at full capacity, the result is a breakdown in learning.

ADHD is often treated with medication and therapy, and LD with educational and behavioral approaches.

ADHD Resources

Adults with ADHD

Let go of fear and take control of your life… We’ve got tons of great advice from top ADD/ADHD experts, lively and informative blogs, forums and videos, a pile of downloadable tools, and a shop full of great resources.

Find them here.


The Centre for ADHD Awareness Canada, is a national, non profit, umbrella organization providing leadership in education and advocacy for ADHD organizations and individuals across Canada. CADDAC is committed to increasing the understanding of ADHD, therefore decreasing the stigma of ADHD by providing up-to-date scientific information on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. As a national ADHD organization, CADDAC takes a leadership role in the advocacy of ADHD in all areas that affect people with ADHD, including education, health, support, employment, regulatory bodies and resources. CADDAC strives to network with government, professional organizations, health care providers, educators and all other stakeholders to improve the lives of people with ADHD.

Find them here.