ADHD isn’t just about differences in attention and impulse control. It can also affect speech.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common condition that can impact the way people think, feel, and react.
If you live with ADHD, you might have trouble focusing, or find it hard to sit still. You might find yourself drawn from one task to the next and forgetting to finish what you start. You may even experience speech differences.
Speech issues aren’t the first thing that comes to mind when people think of ADHD.
However, ADHD can impact speech in a few different ways. It can spur:
- vocal stimming
- erratic speech due to disorganized thoughts
- grammatical errors
- topic changes
- frequent urges to interrupt others
- trouble taking turns
How it might sound
ADHD speech differences can sound like:
- rapid pace
- repeating words
- increased volume
- higher pitch variability
- more frequent pausing
Brooklyn, New York, speech language pathologist Craig Selinger says that “ADHD can negatively impact communication.”
He continues, “research shows that there’s a high percentage of [co-occurrence] of ADHD and language challenges, so many individuals with ADHD are actually [grappling] with ADHD plus another diagnosis, like a language disorder.”
This is because of ADHD’s impact on two key language areas:
- Expressive language: Speech and written communication and the use of grammar and vocabulary
- Receptive language: Comprehension of spoken and written language
“In terms of expressive language, individuals with ADHD have executive function challenges, so they have difficulties organizing their thoughts and oral narratives,” Salinger says.
He goes on to explain how the effect of ADHD on sustained attention can affect receptive language.
“Since inattention is a core characteristic of ADHD, many individuals with ADHD [miss] out on important auditory information. Also, these individuals sometimes want the speaker to get directly to the point,” since those who have ADHD may find giving undivided attention difficult.
ADHD speech issues might come across as rude behaviors.
Michigan teacher and limited licensed master social worker Franki Bagdade describes how this might look.
“You may notice a teen or adult with ADHD will be in the middle of a conversation with you and will all of a sudden stop talking, maybe even mid-sentence to respond to a notification on their phone or start messing with something cooking on the stove,” Bagdade explains.
“You may find it challenging to get their attention back and they may seem unaware that they left the conversation.”
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder. Although people of any age can have ADHD, it’s diagnosed most often in childhood.
ADHD symptoms affect how you think and behave. There are three main types:
- Inattentive, which features inattention and inability to focus
- Hyperactive-impulsive, with low impulse control and disruptive hyperactive behavior
- Combined type, which includes both inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive symptoms:
- inability to focus
Combined type is the most common form of ADHD. However,
Diagnosis and treatment
Licensed mental health professionals diagnose ADHD. They compare your symptoms to criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, text revision (DSM-5-TR).
The person who diagnoses your ADHD may not be the same one who provides treatment.
For example, psychologists can diagnose ADHD, but they can’t prescribe medication. Instead, they can recommend a range of treatment options, including medication for your doctor to prescribe.
Some doctors, like psychiatrists, can diagnose mental health conditions and prescribe medication.
While there are medication options available to try, many doctors suggest a holistic approach to treat ADHD. This means making other changes along with adhering to medication.
- changing your diet
- prioritizing sleep
- getting more exercise
- trying therapy and coaching
- reducing stress
Improving your lifestyle and mindset may ease ADHD symptoms, which can increase the helpful impact of your ADHD medication.
There are ways to reduce ADHD’s impact on your speech.
- repeating or rephrasing what you’ve heard, to help with receptive language
- practicing slowing speech and reviewing written messages before sending, to help with expressive language
A speech therapist can help you manage ADHD speech differences, such as:
- staying on topic
- saying things you shouldn’t (disinhibition reduction)
- self-care, including nutrition, sleep, and exercise
- mindfulness training
- stress reduction
- self-advocacy, like disclosing ADHD and how it affects your speech
- vocabulary building
Taking notes is also helpful.
“When you really want to answer a question and have to wait, write down your answer. This way, you won’t be concerned about forgetting it,” Bagdade suggests.
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that can impact speech.
People living with ADHD may have trouble organizing their thoughts well enough to express what they want to say. They can also miss important information when they listen to other people.
A speech therapist can work with you to reduce the impacts of ADHD. Self-care strategies like stress reduction, and exercises like practicing active listening, can also help.