Dyslexia vs. ADHD

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Though they often present similar symptoms, dyslexia and ADHD are different conditions. Learn more about the differences.

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Both dyslexia and ADHD are learning disabilities that affect the brain’s executive function. What’s more, these learning disorders often have similar symptoms.

As a result, some people believe that dyslexia and ADHD are the same things.

This article demonstrates that this isn’t the case. It examines both conditions, looks at their differences, and discusses some similarities between them.

What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is often classified as a reading disability because it affects a person’s reading ability. However, the condition can also cause problems with writing and spelling, abilities children use in the learning process.

However, dyslexia isn’t actually a learning disability. It does not affect a person’s intelligence.

Estimates state that as many as 10% of people have some degree of developmental dyslexia. Other estimates say that up to 20% of people have reading difficulties.

If you’re unsure if you or a loved one have the condition, look for these signs of dyslexia:

  • Reading or writing slowly
  • Confusion between letters that look similar, such as “b” and “d”
  • Inconsistent or poor spelling
  • Confusing the order of the letters in words
  • Difficulty with planning, organization, and carrying out written directions

Dyslexia is detectable in very young children, including preschoolers. However, its symptoms tend to come to the fore as children age. Dyslexia children will start demonstrating their difficulties with written words at points where you’d expect them to have basic reading comprehension skills.

What is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)?

ADHD is a behavioral condition that can create issues like inattention, impulsivity, and fidgeting. People who have ADHD struggle to concentrate and may seem like they’re constantly restless.

Similar to dyslexia, cases of ADHD are most commonly diagnosed in children aged three to seven. However, it’s possible to receive a diagnosis later in life. Adult ADHD is also expected as the condition doesn’t tend to disappear over time.

The symptoms of ADHD include:

  • Difficulties concentrating on a single task
  • Angry outbursts
  • Attention problems in classrooms or when speaking to people
  • Little patience for “boring” tasks, such as proofreading

Furthermore, the symptoms of ADHD have links to mental health side effects. Many people with the condition experience low self-esteem and may struggle with sleeping.

The key differences between dyslexia and ADHD

As you can see, dyslexia and ADHD are separate conditions. Each is a specific learning disability that affects different aspects of behavior and learning.

Dyslexic children have different challenges to face than children with ADHD. In many cases, psychiatry or visits with an educational psychologist can help patients to manage their conditions. Even so, there are plenty of differences to understand before providing treatment.

Reading comprehension

Issues with reading are common for both conditions. Dyslexia and ADHD can lead to slow reading. But the reasons why differ.

In dyslexic people, reading slows down because the person has difficulty decoding words. For those with ADHD, problems with maintaining concentration often cause slow reading.

As such, you’ll usually find that somebody with ADHD reads accurately, even if they read slowly. A dyslexic person is more likely to get words and sentences jumbled up.


Again, both conditions can cause issues with writing. But again, the source of those issues differs.

Somebody who has dyslexia often finds writing challenging because they struggle to decode words. They may not see the patterns that form words leading to issues with spelling and grammar.

For those with ADHD, poor writing often stems from difficulty organizing thoughts. Ideas may not stay in working memory long enough for the person to get them down on paper. Couple that with a lack of attention to detail, and writing may be inaccurate.

General concentration

ADHD affects concentration levels on a massive scale. People with this condition find it exceptionally hard to focus. This can reach the point where a clinical psychologist chooses to prescribe meds designed to stimulate the areas of the brain that control attention and behavior.

Dyslexic people may also have issues with concentration. However, they’re usually less pronounced. Plus, these issues aren’t present in every dyslexic person.


Both conditions can cause mental health issues, such as low self-esteem. But ADHD tends to have a more pronounced effect on life.

People with ADHD often miss deadlines and appointments. Issues with money management are also common. Dyslexic people’s issues tend to stem from planning, completing forms, and similar mundane tasks.

Dealing with distraction

Again, people with both conditions can often appear distracted, with the reasons behind the distraction being the critical difference.

ADHD causes issues with concentration and inattention, which have obvious effects on distraction. Dyslexic people may often appear distracted because they have to expend large amounts of energy on reading or writing.

The types of specialists who can help

Generally speaking, dyslexic people receive the most help from specially trained teachers and educational psychologists.

Those with ADHD may also work with educational professionals. But they may also enter behavior therapy, work closely with doctors, and speak to psychiatrists.

The similarities between dyslexia and ADHD

As you’ve likely gathered, there are several similarities between the two conditions.

Furthermore, both are genetic, at least to an extent. About 40% to 60% of people inherit dyslexia. The percentage is much higher for ADHD, with 77% to 88% inheriting it.

Finally, both conditions tend to require individualized education plans (IEPs).


With reading, writing, and concentration tending to present challenges for both conditions, people need better ways to read.

Speechify is a text to speech app. The software turns any text placed into it into speech, with the user having a choice of voices and language.

This feature benefits anybody with a condition that makes reading hard, such as dyslexia, ADHD, or autism. Try it for free today to see if it works for you.


How can you tell the difference between ADHD and dyslexia?

Differences between the conditions are often subtle. But those with ADHD tend to have more problems with concentration, while dyslexia causes more issues with reading.

Is dyslexia a part of ADHD?

Dyslexia isn’t a part of ADHD. However, there appears to be some comorbidity between the conditions.

How is dyslexia diagnosed?

With a dyslexia assessment in the child’s learning environment.

Can you have dyslexia and ADHD?

Yes, you can have both conditions at the same time.

How many children are diagnosed with dyslexia?

Approximately 10% of children have some form of dyslexia.

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