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Old 08-31-2009, 09:07 PM   #1
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possible learning disability or just ADHD?

okay, so this may be kinda long but i really need advice. I have always struggled academically. I started reading late and was never reading at grade level. I also have terrible spelling. When I was 11(I'm 19 now) I was diagnosed with ADHD innatentive type and started doing better. I also get really into the Harry Potter books and this helped my reading because I finally found something I enjoyed reading. I don't doubt or think I was misdiagnosed but I am still having a lot of academic problems and when I told my mom she said it didn't sound like ADHD(these are in addition to ADHD problems). I continue to spend about 40-50 hours a week at the library studying and it takes me twice as long as everyone else to take tests(I recently spent 4 hours on an exam). Here are some of my problems:

~I have terrible reading comprehension
~I could read you a passage and you would probably think I was a normal or good reader and it would be fluent but I would have no idea what I read
~I need to read things multiple times, stop to think about it and read slow to understand it but some harder level reading I just give up on like my psychology text book
~I often lose my place or skip to the wrong line while reading
~I often read words wrong the first time(a funny example would be that once I saw a sign and thought it said disco pants until my friend pointed out it said discount paints, though I usually wouldn't say that out loud but would just take another look)
~The words I read wrong usually begin with the same letter and have some of the same letters in it as the word I confuse it with. This usually happens when I am rushing or don't look at a word as long as I should.
~I can finish tests like vocab and multiple choice much earlier(I get extra time as an accomadation for ADHD) than say a math test but still I am always the last one done. However, it takes me almost always twice as long as the given time to take a math test because it is something that you have to comprehend as opposed to a vocab test where I can recognize certain words and terms because I have a good memory. Despite the long time it takes for me to take math tests I almost always get A's I just need the extra time otherwise I would only have half done
~many people call my spelling "inventive or creative", I can't really explain how I spell because it is like I said kind of inventive but sometimes I spell how it sounds and sometimes it is just completely off and with long words I have a lot of trouble sounding and spelling them out. I usually start out okay but then half way through it doesn't even make sense. I also get the different rules mixed up like I just spelled despite, dispight until spell ckeck caught it.
~I tend to gets words like where, were and wear mixed up or now, know and no.
~I do like to read but the books I choose are not hard for instance the percy jackson books or harry potter books are not particularly hard to read but when I tried to read "The God delusion" it was too hard and I didn't understand it even though I have a lot of interest in the subject.
~When I am reading I never read a chapter at a constant speed without stopping but instead always re-read, stop, go back and lose my place.
~Despite being a perfectionist when it comes to school I never read my texts because it just takes to long and I never understand them which just causes frusteration. It is uncharacteristic of me to slack on something like that. I am worried that this will hurt my grades the further I get into college.
~I honestly didn't know right from left until way older than I'd like to say and then used the make an "L" with your hands trick and even now I sometimes get them mixed up like if I am driving and someone tells me to turn right I might accidently go the wrong way.
~and don't get me started on standardized tests. I always do bad because I don't have enough time and the time limit makes me really nervous and makes it harder. I know I could score well if I just had the time I needed.
~I honestly know nothing about grammar, even the basic elementary stuff I am bad at, especially punctuation.
~I also tend to avoid reading at all costs, like I never read long posts or news stories that people send me with a few exceptions like if I am incredibally interested in it to begin with.

I know this is a lot, sorry it's so long. These are the academic problems I have that I don't think are ADHD related. I am just not sure what these are whether they are ADHD or are nothing or possibly a learning disability. So to sum it up my main problems are poor reading comprehension despite being able to read aloud fluently, terrible spelling, sometimes reading words wrong at first or confusing it with a similar word, slow reader and often skip to the wrong line or lose my place. Thanks in advance.

 
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Old 09-01-2009, 07:43 PM   #2
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Re: possible learning disability or just ADHD?

I'm curious, you say you were diagnosed with ADHD inattentive type when you were 11, what happened with your diagnosis? Did you receive treatment for ADHD when you were 11? Are you currently being treated for ADHD? What treatements have you tried? Why do you think your academic problems aren't ADHD related, and what issues do you attribute to ADHD?

I ask because most of what you posted is classic inattentive type ADHD, and I suspect that you would see real improvement in most if not all of these areas with treatment. Reading problems particularly can be laid at the feet of ADHD.

Last edited by Thunor; 09-01-2009 at 07:44 PM. Reason: Why, oh why do I use quick reply? Edited for spelling.

 
Old 09-01-2009, 10:45 PM   #3
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Re: possible learning disability or just ADHD?

I got some extra help at my elementary school when I was diagnosed from the resource center. I had a 504 plan in place from then until I graduated high school and got extra time on tests and homework. I have taken stimulant medication from then until now on school days only. I am currently taking vyvanse 60mg. I have switched medications countless times due to side effects. Though the medication helps some it usually doesn't help my reading much at all. Like for instance, when I take a test I have medication in my system and am in a quite distraction free environment. I am able to focus fairly well under those conditions(I tend to get distracting all the time while studying, take breaks,take forever to get started and daydream though under the those conditions and knowing I am taking a test and stuff I am able to focus pretty well). the main thing that causes me to take almost twice as long as the allotted time on tests is that I have difficulty processing and comprehending the questions. I have to read them several times and think about them. If I read the question once I don't usually understand it unless it is a recognition thing like matching vocab(terms that I have been studying a lot and know when I see them and can associate to the answer). I need to read it several times and if it is more complicated like a work problem it is even harder. the same goes for harder reading material such as more difficult books and text books. most text books take so long for me to understand that it is impossible for me to have time to read the assigned reading. While I think a lot of my academic problems are ADHD related I just feel like there has to be something else because it takes me so long to do anything academic. I have never meet anyone who takes as long as me to do there homework(40-50 hours a week in college and 5-9 hours a night in high school) and have never once had someone finish a test after me. It takes me literally twice as long as everyone else to do homework and take tests. This makes college incredibally challenging especially if you want to do well and get into a good graduate school. though my adhd does cause problems some of my academic problems are attention related and some are reading related such as difficulty comprehending and processing written work, mis-reading words and have many spelling issues.

 
Old 09-02-2009, 01:23 AM   #4
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Re: possible learning disability or just ADHD?

Processing speed is definately one of the challenges that falls within the description of ADHD. I've seen on this board several times (though I will admit I haven't found independent verification of this, maybe Bob or Jane can shed more light on this one) that a large difference between your verbal and performance(processing speed) IQ scores is one of the key indicators of ADHD. You will very often hear when listening to people describe living with ADHD that it takes them twice as long and twice as much effort than non-ADHD peers to achieve the same result.

It is this slow processing that causes your brain to look for shortcuts, jumping to conclusions before all the facts are present (resulting in reading 'disco pants' rather than 'discount paints'). Combine this shortcut seeking with a brain that loves to wander, and you have the recipe for some real reading issues. My issues with reading are very similar to your own, though I'll admit, I don't struggle with exams as much as you do; I do have the question comprehension problems at times, but not with every question.

All that said, it's not impossible that there might be additional learning disabilities present. ADHD seldom presents alone, and comorbid disorders are very common. Have you discussed your learning problems with your doctor and/or shrink? I would be interested to hear their take.

A few ideas that you may or may not have tried:
  • Study skills courses at your college. I can't speak for your college, but the university I attend runs study skills, paper writing and exam strategy courses at the beginning of every semester. You may find some value there.

  • Talk to your doctor about tweaking your meds again. I don't know what you've tried, but you may want to consider trying smaller doses throughout the day (into mid-afternoon), or perhaps an 'always on' sort of med like Wellbutrin. I personally have found my reading issues improve dramatically when I'm on my meds.

  • Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy. This is an option I'm looking at now myself. Basically in CBT, you're taught skills and strategies that you're missing, and will help you with some of your issues related to distraction and procrastination in reading and studying.

  • Do you suffer from a high level of anxiety during exams? It seems like you may have anxiety that complicates your ADHD during exams. I find that when I'm trying to rush (and thus have an increased level of anxiety) is when I have the most problems with reading comprehension. If this is the case, it's another thing to discuss with your psych.

  • See what tools your college has available to you as a student diagnosed with ADHD, my own handles ADHD as a learning disability and programs are available.

These are off the top of my head and I may come up with more as I think about it. Ultimately, you can't disconnect processing speed from ADHD, and I think that ADHD is your primary issue. Don't let that stop you from exploring the possibility of other learning issues, though, take the time to find out so you have the best opportunity to do well in school.

Best of luck.

 
Old 09-02-2009, 06:59 AM   #5
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Re: possible learning disability or just ADHD?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thunor View Post

1. a large difference between your verbal and performance(processing speed) IQ scores is one of the key indicators of ADHD.
2. All that said, it's not impossible that there might be additional learning disabilities present. ADHD seldom presents alone, and comorbid disorders are very common. Have you discussed your learning problems with your doctor and/or shrink? I would be interested to hear their take.

A few ideas that you may or may not have tried:
3. Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy. This is an option I'm looking at now myself. Basically in CBT, you're taught skills and strategies that you're missing, and will help you with some of your issues related to distraction and procrastination in reading and studying.

Best of luck.
RE Thunor's points 1-3

1. 40 point diff between verbal and processing speed my case. Why? Time it takes us to get focused/refocused is being measured. Once focused, my bet is the variance shrinks to near zero.

2. Could be other disorders but I doubt it. I don't see anything that can't be attributed to ADHD alone.

3. CBT or other therapies that target ADHD remediation teach us how to work around the deficit. A few examples that can help with reading: Use a straight edge to guide and pace eye movement. Using different color highlighters to differentiate thoughts is another. Both utilize interaction and the second utilizes color. Our brains crave interaction and respond well to color. Color coding is good for organizing things too.

CBT teaches us how we can do what others do. We can't do what others do in the same way others do it. Huh? You get it.

Bob

 
Old 09-21-2009, 12:28 PM   #6
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Re: possible learning disability or just ADHD?

this may shock you, but maybe the only thing wrong with you is that you have a bad reading strategy.

here's the thing: kids learn to read by memorizing words. but sometime around grade 1, they learn that it's more efficient to sound out words instead ('decoding'). but some kids never learn this skill properly.

lots of reasons. maybe they had chronic ear infections (ask your mom). maybe they have CAPD, a 'hearing' problem related to how the brain processes sound, which can make it harder to learn to decode.

(strictly speaking, decoding is a fluent ability to convert letters to sounds, and there are other things involved, but i'm trying to keep it simple.)

but assuming you are a SMART kid, and it sounds like you are, you work your butt off memorizing words, and learning new words. you get REALLY REALLY GOOD at reading using memorized words. and you mostly get away with it, except that you never get past grade 4-5 reading.

it's a terrible trap. it's like becoming a terrific 2-finger typist. and the better you get, the less likely you will ever learn to touch-type. but 2 fingers can only go so fast.

worse, when you read with memorized words, you are using the cognitive parts of your brain that you need for comprehension. the other kids are on cruise control, using the appropriate auditory parts of their brains to decode words. result: you don't have enough cognitive horsepower left to form memories.

i'd bet that if we took a brain scan (fMRI) of you while you were reading, the auditory parts of your brain would not light up.

so here's the next shock - some of the symptoms of using the wrong part of your brain are the same as ADHD - inattention, trouble with verbal instructions, etc. that doesn't mean that you don't have ADD. i'm assuming your doctor diagnosed you correctly, and didn't just rely on your behaviors. not all ADHD kids have trouble reading. anyhow, thats your business.

good news, learning to decode with the auditory part of your brain ('firing it up') is quick and easy. the brain is amazing, it can be retrained. hmmm, actually not so quick - it is painfully boring and really hard work. you need a buddy or a tutor to work with you for about 15 minutes a day, every day for about 5-6 months.

http://www.neurology.org/cgi/content/abstract/58/8/1203
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Old 09-22-2009, 12:22 AM   #7
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Re: possible learning disability or just ADHD?

Good stuff RadioGuy.

I've used a few different techniques to improve my reading. Reading faster without stopping has helped. I found that difficult / advanced subjects take several paragraphs if not an entire chapter to convey. Many times it pops towards the end of the chapter. Looking up unfamiliar words helps too.

I rarely get computer technology until I use it. The easiest way for me to learn a new language is to write a program with it. By the time I'm done I almost know what I'm doing.

When I'm reading with a specific question in mind, I can tear through material. Surprisingly to me, I found that some of the torn though material sticks. The answer blows off the pages right into my mental HD as if I'm connected with fiber optics which, of course, I am.

I've tried using the principle when reading other material by asking myself questions as I go and then quickly moving the pointer forward seeking the answers. It works.

Getting hung up on words is a comprehension killer. The paragraph is the basic thought unit in my opinion and sometimes the basic unit is a string of paragraphs.

When I get it, I see it literally. I think in images best. Words suck.

The more I study ADHD the more I believe it is mostly a learning disorder. When attention is everywhere except on the matter at hand, it is not easy to learn. However, once we get it, I believe we're on par with the normal brainers and in certain areas take the lead. Creative problem solving is an example. The ubiquitous "they" say: "Think out of the box." The box is rules. You must do it this way or that way. I can't remember rules. I'm always outside of the box. It is an advantage, one the ADHD few.

You are correct: A tutor or coach or a good psychologist is the best and possibly only way. The best choice is dependent on where we are in life. In school, a tutor IS the ticket. I flunked French. Parents sent me to a tutor. Tutor tells parents I learn French fast. Tutor failed to mention I forget French fast too. I don't remember a word. If you don't use it, you lose it.

My straight edge and highlighter tricks helped me get away from slow reading. They help with concentration. I no longer use a straight edge. I'll sparingly highlight stuff I print because it helps with review. I don't highlight my many books because I'm too OCD about their appearance. It bothers me.

Many CBT strategies can be disposed of once the new skill has become habitual. Replacing bad habits with good habits is what CBT is all about. "It is painfully boring and really hard work." Triple Amens.

Bob

 
Old 09-22-2009, 04:41 AM   #8
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Re: possible learning disability or just ADHD?

i love that you have figured out your 'learning style', and approach learning with discipline and intention.

collegeguy3 can find a tutor, unlearn a bad reading strategy, and learn to decode properly. may not do it (it's boring as heck), but just being aware of the possibility is helpful.




here's a tragic story that probably repeats in every single school - a smart kid somehow doesn't learn to read. it's humiliating, but not his fault - he had a different learning style, and maybe needs a quieter space or extra help with learning to decode.

or, bad luck, he had chronic ear infections when he was younger. or a minor chemical imbalance that made him jumpy (easily fixed). or parents who didn't have the awareness, skills or resources to help him.

the teacher is getting the class to read aloud. kid is about to be embarrassed, hates it. better to be known as a troublemaker than stupid. so he acts up, and gets sent to the principal's office.

soon, this becomes a habit - something 'learned'. and it quickly gets worse. 80% of prison inmates are reported to be illiterate (look for a research paper called 'Prevalence of Dyslexia among Texas prison inmates').

by then, it's too late to say 'Bob's problem is that he never properly learned to sound out short vowels...'.

 
Old 09-24-2009, 10:27 AM   #9
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Re: possible learning disability or just ADHD?

Hi. I'm 39 and was just diagnosed with inattentive type ADHD about six months ago...and now in the process of getting my son tested for a second time (first time was thorough his school) He shares many of the same 'problems' as you have described. Reading is also usually a difficult thing for me. One thing that helps me is when I read I take a blank piece of paper and 'hide' the words I'm not reading yet so I only see one line at a time. This helps me to actually be able to read it however, I must admit it doesn't always help with comprehension. I am on meds now and I've noticed this getting alot better. Good luck to you.

 
Old 10-29-2009, 09:58 PM   #10
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Re: possible learning disability or just ADHD?

radioguy, I don't think that's correct but I could be wrong. It says in my linguistics text book that adults read by memorizing words and recognizing words and kids sounds words out when they are first learning to read. It also mentions that some dylexic people decode words phonetically(or something like that) so that every time they see a words it's like they are seeing it for the first time but it said that that is rare. I'd quote the book but it's not with my right now. But basically it said that every word we see we are just recognizing because it is memorized with the exception of words that we don't know of very very rarely read in which case we sound them out in our heads. Thanks for all the responses though. I've been really busy and kinda putting off talking to my disability services advisor but I'm making an appointment for next week because I am having a lot of trouble finishing tests with just 50 percent more time and my textbook reading is taking forever. I have reading for 3 of my 4 classes(I'm on the quarter system so we only take 4 classes each quarter). I only do the reading for one though because we have online quizzes on it and I don't have the time to do the reading for the other two so I just don't.

Last edited by collegekid3; 10-29-2009 at 10:03 PM.

 
Old 10-30-2009, 04:05 AM   #11
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Re: possible learning disability or just ADHD?

there are lots of different issues in dyslexia, and they get jumbled around. it's like the early days of chemistry when every experiment gave unexpected results. we need some genius to sort these elements into a 'periodic table' so we can see the patterns clearly.

your textbook may be right for some people, but let's challenge it with a simple thought experiment.

most readers (including grade-school children) have no trouble reading a list of nonsense words. 'splomp', 'blift', and 'fuldt' cause no hesitation. they don't slow down when reading names they had not seen before - Fenton and Varley are instant friends.

but some small fraction of readers - maybe you? - hit these words and freeze.

that kinda suggests that most readers sound out words. and that is backed up by brain-scans that show normal readers are activating auditory processing areas in their brain when they read, and many dyslexic readers do not activate these regions.

YOU are trying to read using memorized words (and 'guessing'). you dropped whole syllables when you mis-read 'disco pants', because your brain got the first letters and tried to pattern match, instead of sounding those words out. i'll bet you often confuse whole words - like reading 'the' instead of 'a', and also add whole syllables ('brake' instead of 'bake').

if that's the case, these errors are obviously making it harder for you to read. errors creep in, and you spend way too much brain horsepower on simply following the text, leaving little for comprehension. no wonder you avoid reading.

it's not the solution for every dyslexic reader, but if YOUR problem is a 'decoding deficit', then it can be easily fixed. it's just a matter of retraining your brain. it's boring as heck, and takes months of daily exercises. but the rewards last for a lifetime.

<edited>

Last edited by mod-anon; 10-30-2009 at 05:36 AM. Reason: do not discuss how to find websites.

 
Old 10-30-2009, 06:40 AM   #12
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Re: possible learning disability or just ADHD?

i probably shouldn't have said the thing about dylexia because that wasn't very relevant to my point. I just remember reading in my linguistics textbook after you posted this that we read by memorizing words and then recognizing them. It was in a chapter on linguistics and the brain. It said that memorizing words is more effective than sounding each one out and almost every adult reads this way. It just mentioned that the exception was some people with dylexia who don't read by memorization. It was a brief section and I know that knowing the correct phonetic sounds is very important to learning to read. I'm an education major so I've learned about that some and used it when teaching kids to read in observation sites and while volunteering. I think it's probably a mixture of both. I mean we see a lot of the same words over and over everyday our whole life so it's kinda hard to not have them memorized and know just by how they look, what they are. However, when I am reading I am basically reading it outloud but in my head so sound is definitely part of it. I don't think I slowed down on those words but maybe a little. I know memorization is used when I read because I sometimes misread a word as a word that looks similar(starts with the same letters, similar length and some common letters). I also tend to pronouce or mess up words that I don't know but if it keeps coming up, I'll take the time to stop and actually look at it and sound it out and then I'll know it from then on.

I am just not sure if my reading problems are related to ADHD or not. These problems are not as bad with things I am interested in or if I get to a text chapter I find interesting. A lot of it is that I can't focus or think about just one thing for very long at all. My brain is always jumping or switching between several things. I am often reading and then start thinking about something else but I keep reading and it takes me a little while to realize that I'm distracted. then I have to go back and read it again. I saw a good simulation on ADHD and reading that reminded me a lot of my reading problems(http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/misunderstoodminds/attention.html). But part of it is just that when I read a sentence a lot of times I don't understand or have not absorbed it at all. It just takes me longer to get things.

Last edited by collegekid3; 10-30-2009 at 06:48 AM.

 
Old 12-12-2009, 07:19 PM   #13
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Re: possible learning disability or just ADHD?

Greetings from paschar: key words: Dysgraphia, Dyscalcula, Strephosymbolia,Dyslexia. I read in the true mirror image so i know about LD as I have made a study of it for the last 20 years and i know where you are coming from.
give this a try: look at a book in a mirror and see if you can read the text any better.
it sounds as if you may be dyslexic.

Last edited by mod-anon; 12-12-2009 at 07:49 PM. Reason: Please use the Quick Reply button instead of Quote Reply.

 
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