Is There Such Thing As Overlapping Developmental Disorders?

Learning disabilities (dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia) and developmental disorders (ADHD, autism) can affect a person’s ability to learn and navigate the world. Like for example, in dyscalculia, a person can have great difficilty in handling finances and measuring food products as well as distances when walking or driving. In dyspraxia, a person cannot do a job very well that can result in substandard output. Life is hard when some jas a single learning disability. But what if a person has two or more learning disabilities and/or developmental disorders? Can these co-exist?

Yes, learning disabilities do co-exist and sometimes, they overlap with other developmental disorders, such as ADHD. The most common combination of these conditions are dyslexia + ADHD. Approximately 60 to 100 percent of children diagnosed with ADHD also have two or more other related conditions and one of the most notable conditions is dyslexia.[1] Other learning disabilities can also co-exist with ADHD like dyspraxia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia (difficulty in handwriting). Autism can also be present along with learning disabilities. Even so, ADHD and autism can overlap as well, and usualy, these combinations present a big challenge for the child/person affected with as eell as his/her surroundings like parents, school/work, and social life and can result in depression if not identified right away.

Here’s an example. Let’s say a combination of ADHD and dyspraxia in a child. The inattentive, daydreaming tendencies, as well as blurting out words inappropriately can be detrimental to a child’s learning at school. While the teacher discusses a lesson, this child frequently fantasizes flying forgeting that she is in a classroom. Then suddenly, she blurts out a curse word and then the teacher sends her out of the classroom. This has already affected the child’s learning by missing a lesson. Let’s say this girl has dyspraxia as well. Combine this with her ADHD and poof! Total disaster. Her missed lesson could make tests difficult for her. Combine this with her difficulty in following test instructions (difficulty in sequencing) and she’s got a very low test score and can result in remedial classes or repeating a school year.

This example is only one combination that can exist in a child. Others usually have more combinations of both learning disabilities and neurodevelopmental conditions like there’s a case of co-existing ADHD, dyspraxia, and specific language impairment. But there is no combination of all the learning disabilities and/or developmental disorders (what the heck, that’s too much…)

This isn’t hyperbole. I just illustrated how co-existing learning disabilities affect a child’s learning and this needs to addressed. Overlapping learning disabilities are critical in the person’s daily living and future. To avoid complications, thorough assessment of each disorder must be done and make sure no learning disorder is missed or go undiagnosed. Then, individualized education plans and various therapies will be implemented to ensure that the person affected could be aware and cope with his/her learning disabilities and then develop strategies to learn and/or discover his/her real strength/talent.

1. https://www.ghotit.com/2013/10/connection-between-dyslexia-and-adhd/#b

Further Reading:
1. Colin Terrell, Terri Passenger. ADHD Autism, Dyslexia and Dyspraxia (Understanding). ISBN: 9781903474273.