ADD and ADHD Advice
ADD/ADHD, Difficult Topics

I’m not Learning Disorder, I’m Complex

As the daughter of a dad with dyslexia, the sister of a dyslexic, and a former student (now adult) with ADHD who struggled with executive functions (being organized and planning effectively), I always hated the term “learning disability” that has now morphed into “learning differences”. While “learning differences” is certainly more accurate, it is simply too similar to and too closely linked to “learning disabilities” to be an effective new term. The acronym is still “LD” and so the old connotation of a disability is still associated with it. And while dyslexia certainly did not make school easy, my sister and father will attest to the many beneficial qualities dyslexia gave them. And I will tell you any day that I am proud of my ADHD and believe that it has shaped me in several positive ways (I could do without bumping into things – a symptom of my carelessness associated with ADHD).

But until yesterday,  I had not heard of a good alternative.

Mary Strachan, a learning advocate and coach, has developed a free series called “Kids who Colour Outside the Lines” where she speaks with experts on a variety of school-related issues kids face, the reasons for kids’ sometimes confounding behavior, and strategies to deal with those issues and behaviors. In yesterday’s episode (day 2), Mary spoke with Elaine Taylor-Klaus, co-founder of ImpactADHD, who used a term I had not heard of before: complex.

Her kids are complex and she works with parents of complex kids.

I love this term. I was a complex learner. My sister was a complex learner. So was my dad. Learning was not straightforward for any of us (unlike for my mom and my younger brother – geesh). But while “complex” takes into account the difficulties we struggled with, the word also incorporates the positive side. Being complex is a good thing. You’re not boring, straight-forward, plain vanilla. You have more depth. Yes, you face challenges, but you are resourceful and overcome those challenges.

Complex accurately describes who I am, where LD does not.

Thank you, Elaine, for finding this word for me. I hope you all will join me in using it from now on!


A focus on adults: Living with chronic ADHD. (2013). NPR: Mental Health.