Inattention is often the first and most obvious symptom seen by teachers when children struggle in school.

This drives parents to their healthcare providers with the question, “Does my child have ADHD?”

The challenge behind this question is that inattention, squirming in the chair, staring into space, slow to get started on tasks, poor listening, and taking forever to complete homework can be the result of ADD/ADHD, but can even more often be symptoms of dyslexia or other learning problems.

Dyslexic students are often misunderstood at school.  Some are so verbal and charming, that only their parents know how much they are struggling and how much effort and time it takes for them to read and write.  At school, they may be perceived as bright verbal students who don’t always put in their best effort on schoolwork.

Sometimes, a student’s skills are just strong enough that no one realizes that there’s a reading problem. The letters and words may be hard to look at and the sounds don’t really make sense, but he uses his powers of deduction from pictures, his own knowledge, and what he’s memorized from group reading to basically figure out what the page might say and answer the questions.  But often, his mind drifts away from this taxing process and so he’s been pegged as ADD.  And, after all, what he can create in his mind is far more entertaining than a jumble of words and letters that don’t really make sense.

Weak underlying learning/processing skills can cause smart students to struggle in school.  In the case of dyslexia, the underlying skills specifically relate to being able to process the sounds in words and neuro-timing differences, which can trigger visual confusion and disorientation on the page.

It is hard to pay attention when confused or when information doesn’t make sense, as is so often the case for dyslexic students. However, the attention challenges experienced by dyslexic learners, which are so evident in relation to schoolwork and homework, are not generally pervasive, as in the case with true ADD/ADHD.

While every dyslexic student is different, common characteristics include:

  • Good intelligence
  • Good comprehension
  • Strong ability to visualize pictures / real things (versus letters and words)
  • Creative thinker
  • Weak ability to retain an accurate image of words (sight words for reading and spelling)
  • Weak phonemic awareness (ability to think about the sounds in words)
  • Extremely poor decoding skills (sounding out words)
  • Get stuck on sound by sound decoding of every word versus automatic decoding or recognition
  • Visual disorientation when looking at the page (i.e. letters look 3D, wiggle, pulsate, or move around on the page)
  • Family history of dyslexia
  • Strong talents in other areas such as math, arts, mechanical, or athletic abilities

It is commonly believed that dyslexia cannot be corrected – that you just have to cope with it.  This is simply not true.  ADD meds will not solve dyslexic challenges, but retraining the auditory and visual systems to process the sounds and letters on the page accurately get the brain ready to learn, retain, and comfortably use reading and spelling skills.  Dyslexia and learning challenges can be changed – permanently!

Do you have a child, teen, or adult in your life who is struggling with learning or attention?  Are you ready for a change?  Here’s your next step:

CLICK HERE to watch our Parent Information Video:

“Helping smart but struggling students dramatically improve or completely correct their learning and attention challenges by developing the underlying learning skills that are not supporting the learner well enough.”
We serve children and adults with diagnosed or undiagnosed learning and attention challenges including learning disabilities, dyslexia, ADHD, auditory processing disorders, and autism spectrum disorders.
Jill Stowell, M.S.
Author:  At Wit’s End A Parent’s Guide to Ending the Struggle Teas, and Turmoil of Learning Disabilities
Founder and Executive Director – Stowell Learning Centers


Recent Posts



Ready to take the next step?

Speak to a Learning Specialist to learn more about the results from students and parents at Stowell Learning Centers.