THE OVERLAP BETWEEN DYSLEXIA AND ADD (adhd) + interview with writer Jan van Nuland

Before there was there was the website Addleaks in 2012. This interview with dyslexian and writer Jan van Nuland is still current. Or even more current. All the predictions mr.Van Nuland came true 3years later as the adhd patient organisation has fused with the dyslexians organisation (Impuls en Woortblind). And more and more scientists see what he already wrote in his book of 2010 out of his own experience and analysis, backed up by findings of an international congres of dyslexians. 
So I must publish this interview of 2012 again, on addhoc: for the record. (+ intro text)

ADD and words

20% (or even 40%?) of ADd and ADHD people have dyslexia. The other 80% is the opposite: so very good at language. Why? I don’t know! It is very strange and there must be an underlaying reason.

There is something about ADD and words. I was a guiney pig at Radboud university in Nijmegen, at the IMPAKT study. They were looking for measurable ADD. One outcome of the research is: if you take an ADD person and let him name as many words as possible in one minute time: they come up with much more that the average of 15 words of a non-ADD person. There is a significant difference in association-levels: ADD and ADHD are twice as good at it!  And 80 % of us also can do this with words. ……. soo many words!

ADD people can let their brain run free

Primary dyslexia means: problems with connecting the vision of the letters with the sound and with the meaning. According to MRI scans they also use the right brainhemisphere. Where non-dyslexians have a shortcut in the left brain part. According to the British Dyslexia Association (BDA),  besides beeing dyslectic in reading, writing and spelling, dyslexians also have secondary dyslexia features:

Secondairy characteristics of dyslexia:

  • seeing how things are related, connecting the dots.
  • bad short term memory
  • ordering information. Holistic way of digesting information
  • audio and visual observation
  • spoken language, mixing up
  • bad locomotion, (choreography, hand eye coordination, it takes longer to make something automatic to move from shorterm memory to long term memory.
    [After 20 cardriving lessons still wondering: which pedal was the brake again?]
To read and write with your left brain (and only with your leftbrain), is much faster. But if you are doing something else -audio or visual or creative- : the rightbrain route is faster! And the poor leftbrainer has to take a detour! His comfortzone is leftbrain but having to do something rightbrainy, he wil find this difficult. He is like a dyslectian: What do you mean play without notes? What do you mean detach form and content? What are visual quotes in video’s? In a world where nothing is lineair -but circulair/conceptual-… he is lost. He cannot grasp it! Welcome to our world hahaha.

Secondaire characteristics of dyslectia are also present in ADD !

So: also the ADD people who are not dyslectic at all (but the opposite: very wordy) do also have a short short-term memory, a visual way of thinking (talk with hands), mix up phrases, etc. I only think that ”ordering information” for ADD people is terrible. And the dyslexians are good at that apparently.
……… so maybe you are better off to have dyslectia if you are ADD?

My theory: both dyslexians and ad/hd people are rightbrain thinkers. Hence the many simularities and the feeling of coming home when you talk to a dyslexian even if you are totally not one of them since you were writing in kindergarden. Lets check my theory:

TELEPHONE INTERVIEW I call Jan van Nuland, writer of the book ”slimmer dan je baas” on dyslexia in the workingplace.

“You discribe in your book the secondary dyslectic characteristics, refering to the brittish dyslectic association. But ad/hd people, even if they are not dyslectic at all, still have all the secondary dyslectic qualities, (exept beeing organised). Why do you think that adhd people are so much like dyslections?”

Jan van Nuland answers:

Well, apparently we both have a dominant righterbrain. Also people who are not adhd nor dyslectic could still have a predominant righterbrain. But most people have a dominant leftbrain, and this society is focussed on the leftbrain.







out of the box


a lot of idea’s


Well, there are a lot of misconceptions about dyslectia. In England, the language is less fonetic than dutch ( a lot of letters make a different sound in diffent contexts). Therefore they have more dyslectians and a more developped dyslectian movement. It is more important to automise reading: to combine the picture the letters of a word make, to connect it with fonetics and meaning. In Holland however, sometimes a problem is that the first stage in learning how to read and write is skipped. You first need to learn to combine image with sound, and often due to unknowing teachers or too little money and more children in one class, this first most important stage is not thaught well or skipped entirely. But this one step they skipped in the beginning is later never caught up, they just call the child dyslectic. Theachers have not enough knowledge on what dislexia really is, there is more to it then just mixing up the b and d.

Because there is more attention and knowhow and also a longer history of studiying dyslectia in England, they are more advanced in knowledge. They now have a new concept called: Divers Learners.

In this concept of Divers Learners both dyslexians and ad/hd people are included, so also they see the simularities. But also autism (Asperger) and other different paths a brain can take, are included.

It is said that 20% of people are Diverent Learners.

This is not just about reading and writing, the different learning styles manifest at all learning domeins:. How can someone play many different musical instruments directly from hearing to playing, without reading notes? Why do so many musicians that write music, do not read notes at all…… And have to ”translate” what they composed to other musians with the help of transcribers?

The education system is now entirely focused on the leftbrain thinkers: it is giving them all the attention.

The rightbrain thinkers are not thaught how to controle and improve their way of thinking. All the teachingmethods, taxmoney and pedogogical programs are used for the mainstream group, leaving the Divers Learners left out at school. But their talents are equalily importaint.

They could do with some guidance on how to keep the thoughts in one line, without wondering off. All the shapes, images, sounds and associations the Diverent Learners experience while growing up:

They just have to figure it out on their own. Programs are not really ment for them.

Some get stranded, and some become very autonome and strongwilled. Maybe loners.

But we need each other.

We need the leftbrain thinkers, to order our chaos, and they need us. To think outside the box and to realize things with a practical shortcut.

There is the ”Declaration of Madrid“: 10 years ago in Madrid was a conference of selfhelp groups of different learners. Main conclusion: we should move away from the medical world. Don’t let them make us sick or call us handicapped or disturbed. That is a road to nowhere. To move forward we should detach ourselves from the medical world.

What about all the tricks and tips you give to dyslectians in your book? On how to improve your life, living in a nondislectians world, a leftbrain word. Could ADD people use some of those tools?

Yes, you must be possitive. Self confident. ADD and ADHD people can use the same tools like:

  • time
  • balance
  • structure: if you know what is the main frame of a book or  meeting-agenda: you can keep on focus and extend your concentration. That is a similarity between dyslectians and add/adhd: we both need structure to learn.

So if you take a book and you look first at the chapter-titels: Then you will get an idea of where it’s leading to. If you then start reading you know where you are going. Your thoughts will distract less because the ADD associative thoughts will then also lead to that goal.

If an article is too abstract and halfway my mind wanders off, I read the concluding last chapter, then wonder how the writer comes to that conclusion, and with those questions in mind,  I do find new eagerness to read the middle of the article. It is like a puzzle looking for the answer, it stretches my concentration a little bit longer.
Jan van Nuland sais:
Now you sound just like an dyslectian: reading things from back to forth.

To avoid chaos, you should take a lot of effort to get organized
If I give a powerpoint presentation, I constantly try to improve myself, says Nuland.

Praatdenken (“talkthinking”) : talking while you are thinking, without knowing yourself where you are heading: this is something that ad/hd and dyslectians both do.

And you should not do that, sais Jan van Nuland. You’ll loose grip on what you were about to say. While talking, you get lost in your own story. You should just ask yourself time and time again:

  • What do I want to say?
  • Why am I talking about this side-subject?
  • What was it supposed to be illustrating?

Don’t use other people like a wall, to talk to. You can do that at home alone, but not in the presence of other people, because you need them for your project. And you will loose them, and they will not want to work for your project if you sound to chaotic.

That is the trick:
Left and rightbrainthinkers, in and out of the box-thinkers: we need each other. We as dyslexians and/or ad/hd people need to make sure we are understood. Make an extra efford so they can follow you. Because whatever you do: you will need their leftbrain thinking, you cannot function without.

Ok, Jan van Nuland thank you for picking your brain!