This is Mental Health Awareness month and my sister was generous with letting me share her struggles with having a double diagnosis of ADHD and Dyslexia.

My younger sister Madison was born on February 24th, 1999 when I was only 22 months old, or to sum it up, two years old. Immediately she was met with medical issues, having to be sent to a children’s hospital in my state of Ohio for gastro problems. Once she was sent home, I immediately tried to give her away to my great-grandmother, or as we like to call her, Memaw .. and I’m sure a few others too. Despite this, eventually, I got used to having a younger sister following me around and mimicking my every move. 

Once school started for her, Madison was a hyper kid. Always distracted by things around the room in Kindergarten, she would often wander off in the middle of a lesson, much to her teacher’s dismay. This occurred multiple times, leading her teacher to recommend my parents to see a child psychiatrist in an effort to figure out what exactly was going on with this hyperactive kid. They determined she had ADHD and recommended putting her on medication, to which my parents chose not to, due to the high risk of side effects for a small child her age. 

My sister began to struggle with learning vocabulary and reading. Letters were mixing up for her and on top of her ADHD, she couldn’t focus enough to sort each word out. It became a downfall for her grades as they began to drop. 

I couldn’t keep up with any of the class material, specifically reading,” Madison recalls. “I remember looking at a book and the teacher said I couldn’t read out loud. I sat there almost in tears because my head was too ‘noisy’. I couldn’t read in my head. I would focus on the middle sentences, instead of the beginning [of a paragraph].” 

She began to go to after-school tutoring programs, but nothing much helped. With her ADHD, she began to find ways to get out of even having to sit through class by roaming the halls, playing in the bathroom, or hiding. When she moved schools in the third grade, she was immediately started on an Individualized Education Plan, better known as an IEP, and began to see improvement. 

I had read-out-loud and regular testing, help on homework assignments, and they communicated with mom and dad regularly about where I was at,” she shared. 

She had her IEP through the eighth grade, eventually getting to the level where she would no longer need it when she began high school.

It wasn’t easy for her to get there, though. It took a lot of hard work and effort to push herself to the point where she could be caught up. And she was lucky to have been diagnosed with the two at such a young age. 

According to WebMD, it is often found that ADHD in females gets overlooked until they hit their college years with men three times more likely to be diagnosed with the disorder than women. Women are as likely as men to have ADHD, and the latest research suggests that ADHD in women causes even greater emotional turmoil,” states an article on ADDitude.

Despite widespread improvements in the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD, some professionals still may harbor the belief that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is something that primarily affects boys and men — not girls and women. Consequently, women with ADHD are more likely than men to go undiagnosed (or misdiagnosed), and less likely to receive appropriate treatment.”

Even further, in the case of dyslexia, males are also diagnosed more frequently than women with a learning disability, according to a study conducted in 2017.

Processing speed and inhibitory control partially mediated the sex difference. Verbal reasoning emerged as a strength in males,” states the study

It is suggested this is because men are more likely to externalize any issues they may be having than women, possibly due to societal expectations, but if you’re an adult having any symptoms of the two disorders, or you are seeing your child, friend, or a close family member struggling, don’t be afraid to speak up. There are so many options and help available to you, once you’re able to get on the right track and listen to your gut. 

Symptoms of ADHD

Symptoms include the inability to focus, having trouble staying on topic in any verbal or written situation, daydreaming, forgetfulness, frequent fidgeting or squirming, inability to stay seated in one place, having trouble being quiet, and impatience. Women with ADHD are more prone to eating disorders, obesity, low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety, according to WebMD.

Symptoms of Dyslexia

Symptoms include accidentally reversing numbers or letters, difficulty learning words and how they sound, trouble memorizing number facts such as multiplication tables and phone numbers, reading slowly, especially when out loud, difficulty finishing tests and assignments within time limits, trouble spelling or writing, and more, according to Center for Young Women’s Health.

If you’re having any of these symptoms, please don’t hesitate to get the help you need to make your day-to-day life easier.