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ADHD and Speech Development

Jan 14, 2022 Does your child find it hard to focus, and do they get easily distracted? Do they exhibit unruly behavior and fidget non-stop? If they do, then they might have ADHD.

Don’t panic! ADHD is a fairly common problem, and there is plenty of help for you out there – including Speech Blubs and this article. 

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What is ADHD?

Known as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, ADHD is a common condition that is a disorder of arousal, which means that the areas of your child’s brain that are responsible for attention and executive functioning are disrupted – leading to inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.

Approximately 10% of school-age children worldwide have ADHD, and it affects twice as many boys as girls. The disorder can run in families and is NOT a result of poor parenting. It’s a valid neurobiological condition that often exists in conjunction with other disorders such as:

  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD): Recurring negativistic, defiant, hostile, and disobedient behavior;
  • Conduct Disorder (CD)/Aggression: Repeated violation of basic rights of others or age-appropriate societal norms, repeated aggression, lying, stealing, and truancy;
  • Learning Disabilities (LDs): Impaired sensory-motor coordination, poor handwriting, and short-term memory problems;
  • Depression: Irritability, trouble sleeping, consistent negative mood, and an inability to enjoy previously pleasurable experiences;
  • Tourette’s Syndrome: Frequent multiple tics;
  • Anxiety: Low self-esteem, constant worry, and phobias;
  • Developmental Coordination Disorder: Clumsiness, poor performance in sports, and marked delays in achieving motor milestones;
  • Speech and Language Disorders: Very delayed language milestones, unduly simple expressive language, articulation errors, and delayed reading ability.

Symptoms of ADHD

What are signs of ADHD

ADHD symptoms vary as your child develops, though there are three core symptoms of ADHD:

1. Inattention

  • Makes careless mistakes
  • Doesn’t pay attention to detail
  • Has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities
  • Doesn’t seem to listen when spoken to directly
  • Doesn’t seem to follow instructions
  • Fails to finish schoolwork and chores
  • Has difficulty organizing tasks and activities
  • Avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort
  • Loses things necessary for tasks or activities
  • Is easily distracted
  • Is forgetful in daily activities

2. Hyperactivity

  • Fidgets with hands and feet or squirms in seat
  • Leaves their seat while in the classroom
  • Runs about or climbs in inappropriate situations
  • Has difficulty playing quietly
  • Is often “on the go” or acts as if “driven by a motor”
  • Talks excessively

3. Impulsivity

  • Blurts out answers before questions are completed
  • Has difficulty waiting their turn
  • Interrupts or intrudes on others

ADHD’s Effect on Speech Development

Language development for children with ADHD

Studies show that children with ADHD are at risk for communication problems, and it can be very frustrating for you and your family when there is a continuous communication breakdown.

If your child is constantly distracted, hyperactive, and impulsive, then it makes sense that they are not going to engage with you and the world around them in the ways that they should. This has a detrimental effect on speech and language development which often causes them to experience speech and language delays/difficulties in any (or all) areas of language. Here’s a table to help break it down for you:

Developmental AreaListeningSpeakingReadingWriting
Phonology (speech sounds)Identifies and distinguishes between the different sounds of speech when listening to someone speakAppropriately uses speech sounds and patterns when speakingUnderstands the associations between letters and sounds when readingAccurately uses the associations between letters and sounds to spell words correctly when writing
Morphology (word structure)Understands how words are built and put together when listening to someone speakBuilds words and correctly puts them together when speakingUnderstands grammar and the order of language when readingUses grammar and word 
order correctly when writing
Syntax (sentence structure)Understands how sentences are built and put together when listening to someone speakBuilds sentences and correctly puts them together when speakingUnderstands sentences and how they are structured when readingUses sentences correctly and 
understands how to structure them 
when writing
Semantics (word meaning)Understands vocabulary and the meaning of words when listening to someone speakUses diverse vocabulary and meaning when speakingUnderstands vocabulary and the meaning of words when readingUses diverse vocabulary 
and meaning when writing
Pragmatics (language use)Understands the social aspects of spoken language during conversational exchangesUses spoken language socially by producing cohesive and relevant messages during conversationsUnderstands the character’s point of view and responds accordinglyEffectively conveys a 
point of view and the intended message

As mentioned earlier, children with ADHD have difficulty with executive functioning, which means that they have difficulty sorting and organizing the information they perceive in their everyday lives – such as their thoughts when holding a conversation. Here are some common communication difficulties in children with ADHD experience:

  • Talking too much and not letting others participate in the conversation;
  • Talking too loudly, especially when excited or passionate about the topic of discussion;
  • Being forgetful when speaking which makes them struggle to remember what someone else said and what they were going to say in response;
  • Interrupting others for fear of forgetting what they want to say and being impatient;
  • Going off-topic when forgetfulness and distractedness set in;
  • Getting distracted and zoning out by not listening;
  • Difficulty listening in groups because of all the commotion that comes with being around groups of people;
  • Struggles to hold a long conversation due to processing difficulties and how tired it makes them.

Here’s How You Can Help Your Child with ADHD

How to help your child with ADHD

The best thing you can do to help your child if you suspect they have ADHD is to ensure that they get the correct diagnosis. There’s no single test that can diagnose ADHD, and it can be a tricky process. A diagnosis requires that there should be clear evidence of clinically significant impairment in social, academic, and/or occupational functioning.

If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD, then you need to be on the lookout for potential speech and language issues and address them sooner rather than later. You can also adapt your communication style to help encourage your child to communicate and to make the process easier for them.

To assist both your child with ADHD and your family, your doctor may prescribe your child with medication to help them fulfill a successful and active day. This medication is often prescribed as part of a treatment plan to address your child’s psychological, behavioral, and educational needs, and a team approach is generally required so that your child receives all the support that they need.

Communication Strategies

  • Recognize when your child is hearing you and actively paying attention
  • Give them immediate positive feedback when they are being good and are communicating well
  • Give them short, simple directions
  • Provide communication rules that are clear and brief
  • Create communication strategies that work for both of you
  • Give them choices
  • Use visual aids
  • Talk softly and stay calm
  • Explain your expectations
  • Use short lists of tasks to help them remember things
  • Build on the things your child is good at
  • Make sure your directions are understood

Other Survival Tips for Parents of Kids with ADHD

  • Make a schedule and set up a routine
  • Make simple house rules
  • Reward good behavior
  • Always supervise your child, especially around friends
  • Set a homework routine
  • Focus on effort, not grades
  • Talk with your child’s teachers
  • Keep yourself positive and healthy
  • Keep things in perspective
  • Be willing to make some compromises
  • Believe in your child
  • Give your child realistic chores
  • Make sure your child knows that you love and support them unconditionally
  • Take care of yourself and seek support if necessary.

In addition to these tips, you can download our Speech Blubs app and work on some of our fantastic communication-centered activities.

Have a question for our Speech Therapists?

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The author’s views are entirely his or her own and may not necessarily reflect the views of Blub Blub Inc. All content provided on this website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgement, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

Comments (6)
  • My nephew just turned 2 on the 26th of September and he hasn’t had his first word yet. He’s been evaluated and my sister claims he’s too young to be diagnosed with ASD and there may be a mild chance he does or doesn’t have it. He’s been in therapy for about a year now but I have not seen improvement. I have sat in on a few of his therapy sessions and it seems like a waste to me! I think my sister is in denial over him being delayed and I want to intervene, but I don’t want to stop on anyone’s toes. I just want what’s best for my nephew. He does sign language but I’m nervous he’ll never talk because we communicate with him through ASL. He’s a genius, just doesn’t speak 😩 i see him about 3x a week and I’m wondering if this program is for him? Or is this for kids who are hitting their milestones and need additional resources?

    • First of all, it’s a very tricky situation when you are noticing a child’s delay in the family. There is definitely a range of emotions that parents go through when there is something wrong with their child and denial is most certainly one of them. I wanted to touch on a few of the items in your question and hopefully provide some clarity and advice.

      1. ASL won’t lead him to never communicate. In fact, children when pairing ASL and verbal communication, have better association skills.
      2. I’m assuming his therapy is through early intervention? Please know that you can always ask for a new therapist. Some therapists just don’t work for certain clients and that’s okay! He may need someone more firm or that follows another approach from his current therapist. This may be a good talking place for you and your sister to start from.
      3. Speech Blubs can certainly help him with learning the basic sounds and taking those sounds into words. The great thing about this program is that it works for all skill levels and that it gets harder as the child develops and grows. In addition, it’s fun. He won’t feel like he is doing work!
      4. ASD typically doesn’t get diagnosed formally until age 3, however, you can start seeing signs at about 18 months. If everyone feels like he may have the diagnosis, you may want to recommend a private occupational therapist. They can start working on sensory tasks and attention!

      Stacie Bennett, M.S. CCC-SLP

  • My daughter has mild ASD with ADHD. She is also nonverbal. She 4 yrs and 4 months old. She babbles a lot, day and night. She also makes a lot of grunts and different sounds. Does this mean she’s trying to talk to us, or just trying to talk in general? She’s in the Special Educ program in school. She gets aba therapy and speech therapy once a week. Will it help her if we get her speech therapy after school as well and aba therapy too more often. Thank you for your time

    • The fact that she is babbling and trying to use different sounds is absolutely her trying to communicate with you. When she babbles and grunts, does she also point or try and get you to attend to what she needs? If she is, then you can model whatever action or object that she wants using simple language. For example, if she babbles and takes you to a cup of milk, you can say, “Milk” or “cup.” The best way to facilitate language is through play. That will also make her want to communicate with you because you are having fun! As far as increasing therapy, I would recommend getting ABA and speech outside of school, as well. Typically, I recommend ABA at least three times per week and speech twice per week. This is especially important if she’s trying to communicate. As she ages and progresses, there may not be a need for therapy multiple times per week, but right now, I’d definitely increase her services.

      Stacie Bennett, M.S. CCC-SLP

  • Thank you very much for your information and your advice, i have learn a lot. is it possible for a child with ADHD talk later, can he live like other children. thanks

    • Hi. ADHD does not affect when or how a child speaks. If your child is displaying delayed speech, I would get him/her evaluated by a speech-language pathologist as soon as you can. There may be more going on than just ADHD.
      Stacie Bennett, M.S. CCC-SLP

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