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Understanding the Comorbidity Between Dyslexia and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Boada, Richard; Willcutt, Erik G.; Pennington, Bruce F.

doi: 10.1097/TLD.0b013e31826203ac
Exploring the Comorbidity of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Language, Speech, and Reading Disorders

Dyslexia and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are 2 of the most prevalent complex neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood, each affecting approximately 5% of the population in the United States. These disorders are also each comorbid with speech sound disorder and language impairment. Understanding the nature of the comorbidity among these disorders could lead to advances in developmental theory, a deeper understanding of the genetic and brain mechanisms that cause disability, a more refined diagnostic classification scheme, and new treatments and interventions for children with these disorders. As part of this special issue of Topics in Language Disorders, this review focuses on the comorbidity between dyslexia and ADHD. It provides a review of the known etiological mechanisms that underlie each disorder. It describes the reconceptualization of these disorders using a multiple deficit model and provides a synopsis of recent studies that illustrate a cohesive approach to investigating the causes of comorbidity. Future directions are discussed in the context of expanding these approaches to the comorbidity among all 4 disorders.

Division of Neurology, Department of Pediatrics, University of Colorado School of Medicine (Dr Boada); Department of Psychology University of Colorado, Boulder (Dr Willcutt); and Department of Psychology, University of Denver, Colorado (Dr Pennington).

Corresponding Author: Richard Boada, PhD, Division of Neurology, B-155, Children's Hospital Colorado, 13123 East 16th Avenue, Aurora, CO 80045 (

This work was supported by a grant to Dr. Pennington and Dr. Boada from the Manton Foundation.

The authors have no relevant financial or nonfinancial relationships to disclose.

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins