Cognition and maths in children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity disorder with and without co-occurring movement difficulties

Margarita Kanevski, Josephine N. Booth, Tracy M. Stewart, Sinead M. Rhodes*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Background: Movement difficulties are common in ADHD, however, the implications of their co-occurrences on cognitive and maths performance is unknown. Aims: This study set out to examine whether cognitive and maths performance of children with high ADHD symptoms differs depending on the co-occurrence of movement difficulties given evidence that weaker visuospatial processing, known to be important for maths performance, differentiates ADHD and DCD. We also aimed to examine whether relationships between cognition and maths in ADHD differs depending on co-occurring movement difficulties. Methods: Participants were 43 drug naïve children between 6 and 12 years old (M = 101.53 months SD = 19.58). The ADHD-only group (n = 18) included children with high ADHD scores, and those in the ADHD+DCD group (n = 25) concurrently had high movement difficulty scores. All completed executive function and memory, including 2 visuo-spatial memory tasks from the CANTAB battery and Mathematics Problem Solving, Numeracy, and Maths Fluency tasks from the WIAT-III and specific factual, conceptual, and procedural maths component tasks. Results: Children in the ADHD+DCD group scored significantly lower on visuospatial working memory (WM) capacity, than those in the ADHD-only group. Both groups were comparable on all other cognitive assessments of executive functions, memory, and processing speed. The groups did not differ in their maths attainment scores, nor on more specific maths skills. Comparison of the correlations between cognitive processes and maths revealed that the association between visuospatial WM updating and procedural skill efficiency was stronger for the ADHD-only group. Moreover, associations between visuospatial WM and maths problem solving attainment were stronger in the ADHD+DCD group. Conclusions: Despite similarities in maths performance, children with ADHD+DCD could be distinguished by lower visuospatial WM. Differential associations with some of the maths domain implicate recruitment of different cognitive processes for some aspects of maths. This distinction can be particularly useful for conceptualising cognitive characteristics of different clinical groups and understanding cognitive pathways of maths difficulties. Implications for interventions are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104471
JournalResearch in Developmental Disabilities
Early online date14 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - May 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • ADHD
  • co-occurrences
  • DCD
  • dyspraxia
  • executive function
  • visuo-spatial processing
  • maths


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