Talking to Your Kids About Their ADHD or Learning Disability

Finding out there is a reason for difficulties in school comes as a relief for some children. While they may know they are having trouble learning, they may not know why they struggle or that other children may have difficulties as well. Some children are relieved to know that there is a word for what they are experiencing, such as “dyslexia” or “ADHD”. Others may have heard these labels couched in negative terms. In either case, make sure your child comes to realize that learning differently is not a negative personality trait, but a unique and remarkable way of being in the world that others may need help understanding.

Talking with your child about their learning challenges can help build their confidence and teach them how to advocate for themselves in school and in life.  At Turning Point we’ve seen many children and young adults who have embraced their unique qualities and are not ashamed to discuss their learning differences, including whatever label they’ve been assigned. We build on that by letting them know that the label is only a word used to help others understand better what they need. It does not define who they are. In fact, we have found that the individual’s we see with learning differences are often the hardest working, most determined people around, and this ethic often develops after they’ve become acquainted with both their challenges and strengths. When the child is left to wonder “what’s wrong with me?” this can lead to underachievement, anxiety, and low self-esteem. We also help our clients understand that everyone thinks in unique ways, and everyone has struggles of one kind or another. They are not alone.

To help your child develop a healthy understanding of their way of learning, begin gradually, talking about different ways people learn and then talk about their specific challenges as well as challenges you experience as a parent when it comes to learning.  Informal settings at unplanned times like a ride in the car or sharing a snack can be great times to casually check in and keep the conversation comfortable.  Emphasize that because your child learns differently, teachers and parents may not understand how to teach them. Let your child know you are open to their ideas about how they learn best. Always remind them of things they do well and that “learning differently” is only one part of who they are.  Your child should know both their strengths and needs. Gently point out when they do something well by using the simple statement, “I noticed…” or “did you see what just happened there?” and describe the behavior you observe.  Also notice when they struggle by simply stating, “I can see this is very hard for you.” I know you can get through this and I’m here to help.”

Learning how to talk about a learning disability or ADHD is the first step to being able to advocate for themselves now and in the future. You can help your child learn how to ask for help by reminding yourself to listen. Let them think of what might work and when appropriate, let them make decisions. If they struggle coming up with ideas, offer a couple suggestions and ask them to choose which sounds like it would work best for them.

Parent Network has many resources to help you support your child with a learning disability. Follow this link for information:

Hot Topic Tips:

Behavior– Whenever you can, tell your child what you want your child to do not what they should stop doing. For example; instead of stop screaming, use- shhh whisper. Instead of don’t run, try- use your walking feet. Instead of stop picking at your food, try- put a bite in your mouth. Help your child avoid becoming overwhelmed. When learning how to do new things independently, break tasks into small steps, working on them one at a time.

Special Education- Talk to your child’s teacher to discuss ways to make sure your child’s learning challenges do not get in the way of showing what they know. Adjustments to how information is presented or shared are called accommodations and can be written into Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan. They could be a simple change in location or time given for a test. There are also things you can do at home to make learning easier. Parent Network is a great resource.

Source info:

Parent Network (2016) Helping Your Child. Retrieved from:

Books for children with ADHD and LD:

The Survival Guide for Kids with LD (Learning Differences)

“Kids need to know they’re smart and can learn, they just learn differently.”

But It’s Not My Fault

“Join Noodle on his journey as he learns not to blame others or try to find fault; but instead practices accepting responsibility and turns his very rough day into a very good NEW day!”

Hank Zipzer series

“Hank is a young boy growing up with ADHD and dyslexia who constantly finds himself in outrageous situations- like the time his report card ended up in a salami! The books are full of humor and any kid who learning differently will really identify with Hank.”

Taking Dyslexia to School

“This book explains what’s going on inside a child with dyslexia. Throughout the story the main character, Matt, explains his difficulties with reading and math, and describes the steps he took to learn about the nature of his learning challenges and to get help at school.”

Ellie Bean the Drama Queen

“A children’s book about sensory processing disorder (SPD), a condition that affects at least 40% of kids with ADHD and/or autism. Ellie Bean seems to get scared over nothing and can’t handle simple tasks because of her SPD. Her mother takes her to an occupational therapist, who helps her put her feelings into words and feel better.”

Free Association: Where My Mind Goes During Science Class

“Emily is smart but can’t focus in class. Her teacher tries to keep Emily’s thoughts on track, but soon changes her tune when she learned Emily is most creative when distracted. Free Association targets “Twice-Exceptional” kids; children with gifted levels of intelligence along with ADHD and/or learning disabilities. It celebrates their unique gifts while acknowledging the difficulties they face.

Cory Stories: A Kid’s Book About Living with ADHD

“Cory has ADHD. In short stories and poems, he described how it affects his day-to-day life, his relationships, and his school work. Cory Stories offers age-appropriate introductions to ADHD treatments like medication, counseling, and behavior modifications. If your child has difficulty coming to terms with his ADHD or his treatment plan, this is a great book to help him understand he isn’t alone.”

Pay Attention, Emily Brown!

“The narrator’s over-the-top efforts to get her daughter’s attention will have any family smiling and laughing. Pay Attention, Emily Brown sets the perfect tone for a non-threatening discussing about paying attention.”

Aloha Island: The Story of the Stones

“Main character Eddie Akamai struggles with a learning disability that makes it difficult for him to read. But with the help of his friends, family, and some fun alphabet-bearing plants, he overcomes his fears and saves the magical Aloha Island. Children struggling with learning disabilities will recognize themselves in Eddie and grow in confidence as he does in Aloha Island.”

Get Ready for Jetty! My Journal About ADHD and Me

“This is an engaging, visually appealing approach to ADHD, told through the eyes of a 9-year old girl- perfect for girls from 9-13 and a true-to-life introduction to living, learning, and succeeding with ADHD.”


Books for tweens and teens with ADHD and LD:

Trout and Me

“A fictional story about 11-year old Ben, who gets into trouble because he has ADHD. But Ben, who also has dyslexia is not a bad kid. Then a new boy named Trout shows up in class. Trout also has ADHD but is a much bigger troublemaker than Ben. Can Ben convince the adults that it’s the ADHD, not Trout, creating problems? This story for kids 9-12 takes a frank look at ADHD and gives kids a lot to ponder.”


“Bluefish, by Pat Schmatz, is a fiction book about eighth grader Travis, who can’t read. In this witty novel for ages 12 and up, Travis finds an unusual friend and a determined teacher who both help him succeed at his new school. The book is about the power of literature—and the power of friendship.”

Backwards Forward: My Journey Through Dyslexia

“The nonfiction book Backwards Forward: My Journey Through Dyslexia, by Catherine Hirschman, is a firsthand account of living with dyslexia. The book was cowritten by Hirschman, a 32-year-old woman with learning issues, and her mother. The authors offer a personal window into their lives, beginning in early childhood and continuing through adulthood. Of special interest are Hirschman’s descriptions of how her struggles with dyslexia affected her relationship with friends and family. The book is good for older kids (middle and high school) as well as parents.”

ADHD in HD: Brains Gone Wild

“ADHD in HD: Brains Gone Wild, by Jonathan Chesner, is a fun and practical nonfiction book about living with ADHD. The book features bright colors and designs. More than 60 short chapters address distinct topics, such as dating, homework and family life. It explores how kids with ADHD can adjust to or accomplish things that don’t come easily. This book is for kids 13 and up.”

Caged in Chaos: A Dyspraxic Guide to Breaking Free

“This nonfiction book was written by a Victoria Biggs, a teenage girl with dyspraxia, which affects motor skill development and often exists with learning issues. Caged in Chaos: A Dyspraxic Guide to Breaking Free is a positive, practical guide for teens struggling with the physical, social, emotional and learning issues caused by dyspraxia. In a conversational style, Biggs describes the primary effects of her learning difference; disorganization, clumsiness and poor short-term memory. And she also talks about the bullying, low self-esteem and loneliness she endures. This book is for kids 13 and up.”

Learning Disabilities: The Ultimate Teen Guide

“Learning Disabilities: The Ultimate Teen Guide, by Penny Hutchins Paquette and Cheryl Gerson Tuttle, is a highly readable nonfiction book. It offers teens a solid base of information about learning disabilities. The book includes definitions, coping strategies, tips on interpreting test results, legal considerations and postsecondary school options. Each chapter includes a description of how it feels to have a particular disability. It describes symptoms and offers practical suggestions and resources. Profiles, success stories and quotes are sprinkled throughout.”

“College Success for Students with Learning Disabilities”

“As high school students with LD start to think about college, how do they plan for their college years? There are no IEPs in college, so a student’s skills in self-advocacy become even more important. College Success for Students with Learning Disabilities, by Cynthia Simpson and Vicky Spencer, provides guidance and practical strategies specifically for students with learning disabilities so that they can make the most of their college experience.

The books in this slideshow provide kids with great ideas for addressing the challenges of their learning and attention issues. There are other ways to help, too. Consider finding your child a mentor. And look for ways to boost your child’s self-esteem.”


Happy Reading,

Turning Point Team


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