It is well known that basic cognitive functions are directly related to school-type learning; research on this abound in scientific literature. However, such research often focuses on populations with specific diagnoses (for example, ADHD e specific learning disorders) or on people who do not present particular difficulties.

Research published in 2021[1] it used an intermediate method instead: it selected a large group of people, aged between 5 and 18, reported by psychologists, doctors, speech therapists, teachers or educators for cognitive and / or educational difficulties. Specifically, the difficulties had to concern one or more of the following areas: caution, the memory, language, mathematics, reading e writing.
Based on these criteria, more than 800 participants with very heterogeneous characteristics were selected, ranging from many possible diagnoses (for example, ADHD and specific learning disorders, but also anxiety and mood disorders) or even no diagnosis. In any case, the most frequent diagnosis in the sample was that of ADHD (32% of cases).

All people were then subjected to extensive evaluation of many cognitive aspects. Through statistical analysis, the various tests used were grouped into 3 main areas: phonological skills, processing speed e executive functions; to these have been added tests for the reading writing and mathematical skills.

Research purposes

The researchers set themselves the following goals:

  • Establish the relationship between the three cognitive areas (phonological skills, processing speed and executive functions) and school learning (reading, writing and mathematics) inwhole sample
  • Observe whether this relationship was the same even in the subgroup of people with probable ADHD and compare it all with people without ADHD.


  • Relating towhole sample, phonological skills were predictive of the ability to read and write; albeit to a lesser extent, processing speed was also predictive of reading ability; executive functions were predictive of mathematical ability
  • In the subgroup with ADHD the relationship between mathematics and executive functions era harder, while that between phonological and reading-writing skills era weaker; furthermore, the relationship between processing and reading speed it proved significant only to people with ADHD.


The data highlight how important it is, within a diagnostic evaluation, not to limit ourselves to establishing the presence or absence of a specific disorder but also to investigate the neuropsychological profile. The results of this research, for example, highlight how much, in the presence of ADHD (specific disorder), any deficits in executive functions (neuropsychological profile) become particularly predictors of probable problems in the mathematical field; moreover, again in relation to ADHD, the finding of a slowdown in the processing of information would represent an additional risk factor for reading difficulties, an aspect that would not be so decisive in the absence of this diagnosis.

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