Dyslexia, ADHD, and Autism 101

Published October 1, 2022

Dyslexia. ADHD. Autism. What do they have in common? They’re all forms of neurodiversity, which according to Harvard Medical School, means that “people experience the world in different ways. And there’s not just one right way to think, learn, and behave.” Neurodiversity is a lot more common than you might think, and as you’re raising your child, it’s important to know the signs.

October is the national awareness month for dyslexia, ADHD, and autism, so we’re dedicating this month’s article to recognizing and managing these conditions.


What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia, as The Mayo Clinic describes, is a learning disorder that makes it difficult to read. A person with dyslexia, for example, might mix up the order of letters, have trouble with reading comprehension, and struggle with writing and spelling. It’s very important to note, however, that dyslexia has nothing to do with a person’s intelligence. If your child is suffering from dyslexia, they could still be very smart—it’s just that their brain might see the word “saw,” and translate it to “was” instead.

What are the Signs of Dyslexia?

There are several things to keep an eye out for when it comes to dyslexia. Is your child a slow reader, and do they take a long time to complete their assignments? Do they have trouble spelling words or coming up with the right words in conversation? Perhaps they even have a bad sense of direction when they’re traveling from Point A to Point B. You also might notice a very specific type of letter confusion. For example, a dyslexic person might confuse two letters that are mirrors of each other, like a lowercase “b” and “d.” And they might see words that are so garbled that they end up looking like total nonsense. If your child displays some of these symptoms, it may be a good idea to get them tested for dyslexia.


What is ADHD?

ADHD, as it’s commonly known, stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. And as the National Institute of Mental Health explains, people with ADHD often have trouble “staying on task, sustaining focus, and staying organized.” So, a person with ADHD might have trouble holding a train of thought and suffer from chaotic, frenetic thinking. People with ADHD also might have trouble controlling impulses because they’re not always able to think things completely through.

What are the Signs of ADHD?

As with dyslexia, there are several signs your kid might be struggling with ADHD. A child with ADHD might have a lot of problems with interrupting and overtalking. They also might turn in sloppy assignments, make simple mistakes, and have trouble following directions. You’ll definitely want to keep an eye out for physical symptoms, too: Does your child have trouble staying seated, no matter how many times they’re told? Are they always fidgeting? Do they quickly abandon tasks? These are just a few of the signs that might be pointing to ADHD.


What is Autism?

Autism is short for Autism Spectrum Disorder, which is a developmental condition that makes it difficult to interact and communicate with others. A person with autism may also find it difficult to interpret the emotions of others. The word “spectrum,” however, is an important part of understanding autism, because this condition can take on a lot of different forms. Some people with autism might have a little trouble expressing themselves, while others might be completely nonverbal. Then you have people who need a caregiver, while others are fairly independent.

What are the Signs of Autism?

People with autism might not always be able to tell you what they’re going through, so it’s especially important to spot the signs. Does your child seem to experience any hypersensitivity to light, smell, or taste? Do they appear to avoid eye contact? Do they have a small number of very focused interests? Do they react really strongly to changes in routine? Do you ever find your child rocking back and forth? These are all things to keep an eye out for.

What To Do If You See the Signs

If you see any of the signs mentioned above, the first step is to talk to your family doctor. They can either make a diagnosis or refer you to a specialist. Once you have a diagnosis, you can start treatments and make the recommended adjustments. Then, it’s important to talk to your child’s school. The school may have specialists or resources that can help. And it’s crucial that your child’s teachers understand what they’re going through so they know how best to support your child.

Above All, Stay Positive!

As you’ve learned, neurodiversity just means that everyone processes the world in their own way. So, it comes as no surprise that people with dyslexia, ADHD, and autism are not unintelligent. In fact, sometimes they’re just the opposite. According to the National Library of Medicine, kids with autism were more likely to have a superior skill than kids without. They just have their own way of seeing and doing things. And once you understand that, you can help draw out some of their underlying brilliance.

It’s also encouraging to know how manageable neurodiversity is. For example, kids with dyslexia can turn into much stronger readers by listening to the audio version of their lessons while they read the written materials. Kids with ADHD might see a ton of improvements by taking certain medications. And kids with autism might be able to turn to activities like horseback riding as a form of therapy. Obviously, the specifics of their diagnosis will inform their treatment options. But plenty of highly effective help is available.

Everyone’s brain processes information a little bit differently. That’s not necessarily good or bad. It’s just different. So, try to understand the signs of dyslexia, ADHD, and autism. And if you see those signs, bring them to the attention of your doctor. Because if your child is neurodiverse, they still have a really bright future ahead of them. They just might see it a little differently.