ADHD, Executive Functions, and Language


Although ADHD is not a language disorder, it can hamper a child or teen’s spoken language skills.  Rosemary Tannock, Ph.D. and the team of educators and researchers at the Brain and Behavior Center in Toronto have identified a number of language challenges often associated with ADHD.

Weaknesses in Pragmatic(Social) Language

  • Blurting out answers in class

  • Interrupting others

  • Talking excessively when it is inappropriate

  • Often highly verbose: they speak for much longer at a stretch, and with many brief pauses.

  • Within-turn pauses are too short to permit thought, organization of information, or planning.

  • Within-turn pauses are too short to permit others interceding or being able to take a turn.

Problems with Voice Modulation

  • Often speaks much louder than social norms and fail to modulate their voice volume.

  • It may appear that these children are being rude or “in your face.”

  • These problems likely reflect an immature motor system, which is involved in the fine muscle adjustments involved in voice modulation.

Weaknesses in Higher-level Language

  • Problems comprehending inferences

  • Trouble identifying errors in instructions

  • Difficulty monitoring comprehension of orally presented information

  • Challenges comprehending information in science textbooks

  • Problems comprehending cause-effect relationships

  • Trouble elaborating verbally on their ideas

  • Problems making clear explanations on request

  • Difficulty answering questions concisely using specific vocabulary

For more information regarding the language and learning difficulties of children with ADHD, you are encouraged to consider the following research-based articles from the Brain and Behavior Center in Toronto:

Rethinking ADHD from a Cognitive Perspective

Rethinking ADHD in the Classroom

Need Help Figuring out the Difference between ADHD and Language Disorders?

Speech Language Pathologist Gail Lindley, M.S., CCC/SLP and Dr. Davenport often collaborate to help children, teens, and families experience success.  Contact one of them today to find out how they can help.

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(c) 2010-2014, Monte W. Davenport, Ph.D.