Understanding Speech Problems in ADHD

adhd and speech problems

Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are at risk for speech and language disorders, including difficulties with pragmatics, fluency, auditory processing, and other skills. 

Understanding the complex relationship between ADHD and speech can help parents and professionals effectively support a child’s development. Specialized services and techniques can improve speech and language skills in children with ADHD.      

How Does ADHD Affect Speech?

ADHD can affect speech in several areas, and has been linked to problems such as articulation disorders, trouble with attention and memory, and more. Here are some of the specific areas of speech and language that can be affected in a child with a diagnosis of ADHD. 

  • Problems with articulation. Research has shown links between children with ADHD and Speech Sound Disorders (SSD). These children may have unintelligible speech due to their difficulties pronouncing certain speech sounds. 
  • Fast-talking. Because individuals with ADHD show hyperactivity, they may speak at a more rapid rate than normal. This can make it difficult for them to effectively communicate with others.  
  • Loud talking. A need for external stimulation can contribute to a child with ADHD speaking louder than average. 
  • Receptive Language Delays. A core component of ADHD and speech problems are difficulties sustaining attention, which can make it challenging for individuals with ADHD to comprehend information. Therefore, they can show delays in their receptive language skills. 
  • Expressive Language Delays. Challenges with focusing can result in difficulties effectively conveying a complete thought or sequencing words to formulate sentences appropriately.  
  • Issues with memory and focusing. Studies show that ADHD is associated with executive functioning deficits, including difficulties with working memory skills. This can result in the individual having trouble receiving and storing important information during daily tasks, like remembering a phone number. 
  • Stuttering/Fluency Disorders. Many individuals who stutter also show symptoms of ADHD. Stuttering can make it difficult for an individual to effectively communicate with others and participate in social interactions. 
  • Social Skill Deficits. A lack of attention and focus can cause a child with ADHD to have trouble appropriately participating in social interactions. For example, he or she may have a hard time maintaining a topic during a conversation.   

Strategies to Help with ADHD Speech Problems

Specialized services and strategies that can be incorporated into an individual’s daily life can effectively improve the speech and language development of individuals with ADHD. Here are some common approaches: 

Speech Therapy

Speech Therapy is one of the most important services that a child with ADHD and speech issues can receive. Speech Therapy goals can directly address the individual’s difficulties in areas such as articulation, stuttering/fluency, social/pragmatic skills, auditory memory, and expressive and receptive language. 

The Speech-Language Pathologist will take the unique needs and characteristics of the individual with ADHD into account to develop a customized treatment plan. Through direct instruction, video modeling, role playing, and age-appropriate activities (including games, puzzles, crafts, and others), Speech Therapy can improve the individual’s communication skills.  

Psychological Services

Receiving therapy with a Psychologist can address the cognitive and emotional aspects of communication, which can enhance speech and language skills. Psychological services can help individuals with ADHD improve focus and manage impulsivity. This can create a more conducive environment for the individual to improve their language skills in speech therapy sessions. 

Educational Modifications

Children with ADHD can benefit from specialized modifications to their academic environment. Having a one-on-one aid, participating in small group instruction, and the use of visual supports (such as a graphic organizer or visual schedule) can help improve a child’s ability to follow directions. 

Teaching Compensatory Strategies

Teaching an individual with ADHD some strategies to compensate for their challenges can help improve their speech and language skills. The individual can improve their insight into deficits to identify moments when they are having difficulty paying attention. He or she can also learn to request repetition of information as needed, take notes to improve memory skills, and repeat words slowly if someone has difficulty understanding them.  

Reduce Distractions

Individuals with ADHD can benefit from practicing their communication skills in an environment free from too many distractions because this can improve their ability to stay on topic and formulate complete thoughts. 

A tailored learning space can be created for an individual with ADHD to help him or her focus on communication. This can be customized according to the individual’s needs, but may include a quiet space that contains minimal background noise or visual distractions.  


In some cases, a doctor may prescribe medicine for a child with ADHD, with the goal of helping him or her focus. If the medication effectively improves a child’s attention, this can have a positive impact on the child’s speech and language skills. For example, when coupled with speech therapy services, the individual’s fluency, articulation, language, and social skills may improve.   

Assessment of ADHD and Speech Problems  

Speech-Language Pathologists assess speech and language difficulties in individuals with ADHD. In a Speech Therapy Evaluation, the therapist typically completes standardized assessments that examine an individual’s skills in specific areas of communication. 

The individual’s test results can be compared to other individuals their age to identify specific deficit areas. Through this comprehensive evaluation, the Speech-Language Pathologist provides their expertise in the areas of communication and cognition to develop an individualized treatment plan that can improve the child’s skills.    

Using Forbrain to Help with ADHD Speech Problems

Forbrain, an auditory stimulation headset, is a tool that may provide help for individuals with ADHD speech problems. Forbrain employs bone conduction technology with the goals of enhancing attention, concentration, and memory during speech and language tasks. 

The real-time auditory feedback that the device provides individuals, such as those with ADHD, aims to promote clearer articulation of speech and enhanced fluency. 

Final Words

ADHD and speech problems often go hand in hand, and individuals can face challenges in the areas of articulation, social skills, expressive and receptive language skills, and speech fluency. Difficulties with focus and attention can also lead to deficits in auditory processing and working memory. 

A comprehensive set of tools, strategies, and specialized services can effectively help improve speech and language skills in individuals with ADHD. Speech Therapy, the use of compensatory strategies, and environmental modifications are pivotal to the individual’s success. Innovative tools like Forbrain may also offer promise for individuals with ADHD who can benefit from improving their speech and language skills. 

Individuals with ADHD and their families can employ these strategies, seek the appropriate services, and talk to a professional for help. Embracing this holistic, individualized approach can empower those with ADHD and speech problems to develop effective communication skills. 


Giddan, JJ. Communication Issues in Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (1991). DOI: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00706058

Kofler, M. J., et al. Working memory and short-term memory deficits in ADHD: A bifactor modeling approach. (2020) DOI: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7483636/

Lewis, B. A., et al. Speech-Sound Disorders and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Symptoms. (2012). DOI.

Tichenor SE, et al. A Preliminary Investigation of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Characteristics in Adults Who Stutter (2021). DOI.

Amy Yacoub

Amy Yacoub, MS, CCC-SLP is a Speech-Language Pathologist. She has over 12 years of experience working with children who have a variety of diagnoses and disorders, including speech and language delays, Childhood Apraxia of Speech, and Autism. She is also an experienced consultant within the field.