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Kids with ADHD often have language problems, study finds

Children who have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder are nearly three times more likely to have language problems than kids who don't, according to new research.

And those language difficulties can have far-reaching academic consequences, the study, published online Monday in Pediatrics, found. Researchers looked at 6- to 8-year-olds in Australia.

"We found that 40 percent of children in the ADHD group had language problems, compared to 17 percent in the 'control' group," said Emma Sciberras, a clinical psychologist and postdoctoral research fellow at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute in Victoria, Australia. "Rates of language problems were similar in boys and girls with ADHD," she said.

Children with ADHD commonly have trouble with school performance and social functioning. The impact that language problems might have on these factors hasn't been well-studied, the researchers noted.

"The differences in academic functioning between children with ADHD and language problems, compared to those with ADHD alone, were quite large and clinically meaningful," said Sciberras.

Language problems refer to spoken language, both receptive and expressive language. Receptive language is the ability to understand what's being said; expressive is the ability to speak and be understood.

The language study included 179 children diagnosed with ADHD and 212 without the attention disorder. Fewer than half of the children with ADHD were taking medications to help control their symptoms.