We investigated the auditory and visual working memory functioning in college students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, learning disabilities, and clinical controls. We examined the role attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder subtype status played in working memory functioning. The unique influence that both domains of working memory have on reading and math abilities was investigated.
A sample of 268 individuals seeking postsecondary education comprise four groups of the present study: 110 had an attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder diagnosis only, 72 had a learning disability diagnosis only, 35 had comorbid attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and learning disability diagnoses, and 60 individuals without either of these disorders comprise a clinical control group. Participants underwent a comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation, and licensed psychologists employed a multi-informant, multi-method approach in obtaining diagnoses.
In the attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder only group, there was no difference between auditory and visual working memory functioning, t(100) = −1.57, p = .12. In the learning disability group, however, auditory working memory functioning was significantly weaker compared with visual working memory, t(71) = −6.19, p < .001, d = −0.85. Within the attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder only group, there were no auditory or visual working memory functioning differences between participants with either a predominantly inattentive type or a combined type diagnosis. Visual working memory did not incrementally contribute to the prediction of academic achievement skills.
Individuals with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder did not demonstrate significant working memory differences compared with clinical controls. Individuals with a learning disability demonstrated weaker auditory working memory than individuals in either the attention-deficit/hyperactivity or clinical control groups.