Beyond Language Delays: Helping ADHD Kids Communicate

by VocoVision on December 8, 2017

ADHD communicationManaging ADHD is not only about treating impulsivity or attention. ADHD can affect anything that pertains to impulses and planning functions. A child that seems “hyperactive,” inattentive, or unfocused daily may be struggling with directing their brains to focus and sort through the information coming at them.

Communication Skills

Communication is divided into three skills:

  • Speech
  • Language
  • Pragmatic Language

Children may struggle with articulation and producing letter sounds making speech a struggle. Children with ADHD may still face difficulties communicating despite not having issues with delays such as articulating and letter sound formation. Their battle with communication may lie in fluency, vocal quality, and organizing their thoughts into words which results in speech pauses comparable to a stutter or stammer.

ADHD and Communication

ADHD related symptoms affect how ADHD children process language. Some children may struggle to shape their thoughts and find the right words to create or organize a conversation. They may go off topic or forget what they were saying altogether. These same ADHD planning and organizing symptoms may cause difficulties when it comes to written communication and grammar.

Noisy environments create difficulty in comprehension when being spoken to. ADHD children may miss details in a conversation or directions. It can also affect their ability to maintain focus when listening to multiple speakers thus resulting in the appearance that the child is being defiant and ignoring what is being said.

Social Language and ADHD

Even without noticeable language impairments, pragmatic, or social language, can be affected. Children with ADHD may speak out of turn, call out answers, or talk excessively. Children may understand social cues and even adhere to them most of the time but due to impulsiveness and other ADHD related symptoms, they are unable to maintain control or even be able to recall social cues in the moment which can affect their social abilities and relationships with others.

Adapting Communication for ADHD

Working with a speech-language pathologist can provide the necessary skills and tools children with ADHD need to overcome language impairments. Additionally, there are things that loved ones, caregivers, and parents can do to provide outside support for ADHD children with language impairments.

Gain their full attention – Without a child’s full attention, important details in the conversation or directions may get missed. It often helps to touch them lightly when speaking to them or hold their hands in yours to gain their full attention.

Offer more time – Because ADHD children often have more trouble organizing their thoughts, be sure to allow them extra time to settle in and arrange their thoughts when responding to questions.

Break conversations into shorter pieces – Just as it’s difficult to focus on lengthy pieces of text, so is it difficult for children with ADHD to focus on lengthy discussions. Be sure to break or pause when reading aloud or discussing topics with many details.

Working hard to strengthen language development in children with ADHD lessons the risk that they will miss out on vital learning opportunities in school.


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