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ADHD in Children Health Center

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Language Problems Common for Kids With ADHD: Study

Anxiety often goes hand in hand with attention disorder, too


After adjusting for sociodemographic factors and other conditions, such as autism spectrum disorders, the researchers found that the risk of language problems was 2.8 times higher in children with ADHD.

When the researchers looked at how those language problems affected school work, they found lower math, reading and academic scores.

However, the researchers didn't find that language problems had an impact on social functioning.

"We were surprised that language problems were not associated with poorer social functioning for children with ADHD," Sciberras said. "It could be that children with ADHD are already experiencing poorer social functioning due to other factors including their ADHD symptoms or other associated difficulties."

However, Sciberras cautioned that language troubles might become more problematic as these kids get older because social relationships get more complex with age.

One outside expert said the study is a good reminder for parents and physicians.

"If a child has ADHD and they're struggling in school, even though their ADHD symptoms are well-controlled, in addition to getting tested for learning disabilities, they should also be looked at for language difficulties as well. And that's not something we always think of," said Dr. Bradley Berg, medical director of McLane Children's Pediatrics at Baylor Scott & White Healthcare in Round Rock, Texas.

Whether speech-language interventions will help the youngsters with ADHD isn't clear, however.

Berg also pointed out that this issue is a "chicken-and-egg" problem. "Do these kids have a language disorder that's causing them to not understand what's going on at school and that's making them restless and fidgety because they're bored. Or do they have ADHD and that's causing difficulty understanding the language. Or is there something going on in an area of the brain that creates both of these problems?" he said. "We don't know."

It's possible that the findings from this Australian study might not translate to a U.S. population. For one thing, medication trends might differ, Berg said.

For children with ADHD who also suffer anxiety, Sciberras said medications might help, and a type of psychotherapy called cognitive behavioral therapy could also be useful. The researchers are currently conducting a study to treat anxiety in children with ADHD.

"If parents are concerned that their child with ADHD has anxiety, language or any other additional difficulties that are not currently being managed, we encourage them to discuss their concerns with their child's treating clinician," she said.

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