Both ADHD and dyslexia are neurodevelopmental disorders that can affect academic performance and social interactions. A person can have one or both of these disorders.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and dyslexia share some symptoms, including difficulty concentrating, poor time management, and poor memory.

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), dyslexia and other learning disorders have a high comorbidity with other neurodevelopmental disorders, such as ADHD.

This article discusses the link between these two disorders, including their main similarities and differences, diagnosis, treatment, and outlook.

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According to a 2019 article, there is a 25–40% bidirectional comorbidity rate between dyslexia and ADHD. Bidirectional comorbidity means that dyslexia and ADHD may affect each other.

A 2022 article suggests the conditions may share common underlying neurological mechanisms. However, researchers are still investigating the exact nature of the relationship between ADHD and dyslexia.

While ADHD and dyslexia are separate conditions, they can share symptoms, such as difficulties with attention, organization, and memory. Therefore, it is often important for healthcare professionals to consider both conditions when evaluating individuals who exhibit symptoms of either disorder.

ADHD and dyslexia can cause some common symptoms, including:

  • difficulties with concentration
  • short attention span
  • poor memory
  • poor organization and time management
  • mental health conditions, including low self-esteem

ADHD primarily affects attention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Dyslexia, on the other hand, primarily affects reading and language processing.

While both conditions can impact academic and social functioning, the specific challenges and strengths of individuals with ADHD and dyslexia can widely vary.

For example, a 2020 article highlights that individuals with ADHD may be more creative than their peers, and a 2018 research article suggests that people with dyslexia may have high-level reasoning and visual-spatial skills.

Although some sources, such as this 2019 article, suggest a high comorbidity rate between ADHD and dyslexia, more research is necessary to prove a causal link between the two disorders.


Experts believe that dyslexia is a hereditary disorder and suggest that certain genes can affect a person’s reading development. Similarly, a 2019 article suggests that difficulties with early language development can be a precursor of dyslexia.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) list several causes of learning disorders, such as dyslexia, including:

  • parental health during pregnancy
  • genetics
  • complications during birth
  • infections during early life

However, they note that most learning disorders may stem from a mix of factors.


Similarly to dyslexia, potential causes and risk factors for ADHD can vary, which may include:

  • Genetics: A 2019 review article suggests that ADHD has a high heritability of 74%.
  • Environmental factors: A 2023 systematic review links the development of ADHD to environmental variables, including prenatal and early exposure to air pollution.
  • Premature birth: A 2017 article suggests a strong link between preterm birth and the development of ADHD.
  • Brain structure and function: A 2017 study associates ADHD with reduced activity in the prefrontal cortex and other areas of the brain involved in executive functioning and attention.
  • Trauma: Early traumatic events may also lead to changes in cognitive processing and ADHD symptoms, according to a 2018 article.

Doctors will usually take a thorough medical history to identify any medical conditions or medications contributing to the symptoms of ADHD and dyslexia. They will also look at any family history for either of these conditions.

If a doctor suspects a person has ADHD, they may also undertake a physical examination and behavioral assessments.

Alternatively, if they suspect a person may have dyslexia, they may propose cognitive assessments or other educational tests.

There are some ways to treat and manage these conditions to make life easier for people experiencing them.


People with ADHD may benefit from the following interventions:

  • Behavioral therapy: Behavioral therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy or social skills training, may help improve behavior, organization, and social interactions.
  • Educational support: Individualized education plans (IEPs) can help children with ADHD achieve academic success by providing accommodations and support in the classroom.
  • Parent or guardian training: Training in behavioral management techniques can equip parents or guardians to help a child manage ADHD symptoms at home and in other settings.
  • Medications: Stimulant medication may treat the symptoms of ADHD. Doctors may use other medications, such as non-stimulants and antidepressants. These may be a last resort if other treatments do not work.


People with dyslexia may benefit from the following options:

  • Educational interventions: Specialized reading instruction, phonological awareness training, and assistive technology can help individuals with dyslexia improve their reading and language skills.
  • Accommodations: Extra time for tests or the use of audiobooks can help individuals with dyslexia succeed in academic settings.
  • Multisensory instruction: A 2022 pilot study suggests multisensory learning can improve reading comprehension in children with dyslexia. Multisensory learning involves using more than one sense in education, such as visual and auditory.
  • Parental support: Parents and guardians can provide support by helping a child practice reading, providing a positive and encouraging environment, and advocating for a child’s educational needs.

If someone is experiencing symptoms consistent with ADHD or dyslexia, they may wish to speak with a qualified healthcare professional or specialist.


Some signs and symptoms of ADHD include:

  • inattention, hyperactivity, or impulsivity that affects academic or social functioning
  • difficulty following directions or completing tasks
  • restlessness, fidgeting, or difficulty sitting still
  • difficulty with keeping organized or with time management
  • forgetfulness, distractibility, or difficulty paying attention


Some signs and symptoms of dyslexia include:

  • difficulty with reading, spelling, or phonological processing
  • difficulty with comprehension, writing, or verbal expression
  • trouble recognizing or recalling words
  • trouble with rhyming or segmenting words
  • difficulty with letter or number recognition

Learn more about the symptoms of dyslexia by age.

ADHD medications, such as stimulants including methylphenidate or amphetamines, typically treat the symptoms of ADHD, including hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention.

While ADHD medication is not a treatment for dyslexia, a 2018 systematic review suggests that certain ADHD medications may also positively impact some of the cognitive processes affected by dyslexia.

However, the evidence on this topic is limited and conflicting. More research is necessary to determine the effectiveness of ADHD medication in treating dyslexia.

Medication may be helpful for some individuals with both ADHD and dyslexia but not as a stand-alone treatment. Doctors may recommend a person combines medication with other educational and behavioral interventions to maximize its benefits.

The outlook for people with ADHD and dyslexia can vary depending on the severity of the conditions and the individual’s specific needs.

However, with appropriate treatment and support, many people with ADHD and dyslexia can achieve academic success and lead fulfilling lives.

Outlook for children with ADHD and dyslexia

The CDC suggests that early intervention, appropriate treatment, and support can improve the outlook for children with developmental disorders, such as ADHD and dyslexia.

A team approach involving healthcare professionals, educators, and parents can help develop a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses a child’s needs.

ADHD and dyslexia are neurodevelopmental disorders that can significantly impact academic performance and social interactions.

The causes and risk factors for these conditions are complex and not fully understood, but genetics, brain structure and function, and environmental factors may play a role.

Early intervention and a team approach involving healthcare professionals, educators, and parents can help to improve outcomes and quality of life for individuals with ADHD or dyslexia.