Comorbidity between reading disability and math disability: concurrent psychopathology, functional impairment, and neuropsychological functioning

J Learn Disabil. Nov-Dec 2013;46(6):500-16. doi: 10.1177/0022219413477476. Epub 2013 Feb 28.


Reading disability (RD) and math disability (MD) frequently co-occur, but the etiology of this comorbidity is not well understood. Groups with RD only (N = 241), MD only (N = 183), and RD + MD (N = 188) and a control group with neither disorder (N = 411) completed a battery of measures of internalizing and externalizing psychopathology, social and academic functioning, and 10 neuropsychological processes. Groups with RD only, MD only, and RD + MD were significantly impaired versus the control group on nearly all measures, and the group with RD + MD was more impaired than the groups with MD and RD alone on measures of internalizing psychopathology, academic functioning, and 7 of 10 neuropsychological constructs. Multiple regression analyses of the neuropsychological measures indicated that deficits in reading and math were associated with shared weaknesses in working memory, processing speed, and verbal comprehension. In contrast, reading difficulties were uniquely associated with weaknesses in phoneme awareness and naming speed, and math deficits were uniquely associated with weaknesses in set shifting. These results support multiple-deficit neuropsychological models of RD and MD and suggest that RD and MD are distinct but related disorders that co-occur because of shared neuropsychological weaknesses in working memory, processing speed, and verbal comprehension.

Keywords: BD; behavior disorders; mathematics; reading.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Twin Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology
  • Cognition Disorders / physiopathology
  • Comorbidity
  • Diseases in Twins / epidemiology
  • Diseases in Twins / physiopathology
  • Dyscalculia / epidemiology
  • Dyscalculia / physiopathology*
  • Dyslexia / epidemiology
  • Dyslexia / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests / statistics & numerical data*