Myths of Learning Disabilities and ADD

Myth #1 

People with LD and ADD are not very smart.


Intelligence has nothing to do with LD and ADD. In fact, people with LD and ADD have average to above-average intelligence. Studies indicate that as many as 33% of students with LD are gifted. 

Myth #2 

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) does not really exist. It is simply the latest excuse for parents who do not discipline their children.


Scientific research tells us ADD is a biologically-based disorder that includes distractibility, impulsiveness, and sometimes hyperactivity. While the causes of ADD are not fully understood, recent research suggests that ADD can be inherited and may be due to an imbalance of neurotransmitters chemicals used to control behavior in the brain.

Myth #3

LD and ADD are just an excuse for irresponsible, unmotivated, or lazy people


LD and ADD are caused by neurological impairments, not character flaws. For some people with LD and ADD, the effort required to get through a day can be exhausting in and of itself. The motivation required to do what others take for granted is enormous.

Myth #4

LD and ADD only affect children. Adults grow out of the disorders.


It is now known that the effects of LD and ADD continue throughout the individual’s lifespan and “may even intensify in adulthood as tasks and environmental demands change” (Michaels, 1994a). Sadly, many adults, especially older adults, have never been formally diagnosed with LD and/or ADD. In fact, the majority of people with learning disabilities are not diagnosed until they reach adulthood.

Myth #5  

Dyslexia and learning disability are the same thing.


Dyslexia is a type of learning disability. It is not another term for learning disability.   It is a specific language-based disorder affecting a person’s ability to read, write and verbally express themselves. Unfortunately, careless use of the term has expanded it so that it has become, for some, an equivalent for “learning disability”.

Myth #6

It is not possible to accurately diagnose ADD or ADHD in children or adults.


Although scientists have not yet developed a single medical test for diagnosing ADHD, clear-cut
clinical diagnostic criteria have been developed, researched, and refined over several decades. The current generally accepted diagnostic criteria for ADHD is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) published by the American Psychiatric Association (1995). Using these criteria and multiple methods to collect comprehensive information from multiple informants, ADHD can be reliably diagnosed in children and adults.

Myth #7

Learning disabilities are only academic in nature. They do not affect other areas of a person’s life.


Some people with learning disabilities have isolated difficulties in reading, writing, or mathematics.  However, most people with learning disabilities have more than one area of difficulty. Dr. Larry Silver asserts that “learning disabilities are life disabilities”.  He writes, “the same disabilities that interfere with reading, writing, and arithmetic also will interfere with sports and other activities, family life, and getting along with friends.” (Silver, 1998)

Many adults with learning disabilities have difficulty in performing basic everyday living tasks such as shopping, budgeting, filling out a job application form, or reading a recipe. They may also have difficulty with making friends and maintaining relationships. Vocational and job demands create additional challenges for young people with learning disabilities.

Myth #8 

All people with ADD are hyperactive 


Not all people with ADD are hyperactive and constantly in motion; many are considered to have undifferentiated ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder without hyperactivity). Because these children do not behave in the same way as hyperactive ADD students, their disorder frequently is not recognized, and they are often falsely accused of being unmotivated or lazy.

Myth #9

People with ADD do not generally have learning disabilities.


10-25% percent of people with ADD also have learning disabilities. They are also more at risk for depression and anxiety. Substance abuse is also common.

Myth #10

Adults with LD and ADD cannot succeed in higher education.


More and more adults with LD and ADD are going to college or university and succeeding. With the proper accommodations and support, adults with learning disabilities can be successful at higher education.