ADHD and Reading

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The whole process of reading has been on my mind lately; probably because I’ve had a number of people asking questions about reading difficulty. I thought that I would put together some suggestions about improving reading ability, as well as mentioning some possible causes.

When children learn to read, they go through a process that generally takes a couple of years. At the beginning, they are learning to read by listening to you read to them. This begins the process of understanding that letters make words, words make sentences, and that a story can be told in this manner.

They learn to recognize letters and what sounds those letters make. Later they begin to learn how to rhyme words. That’s what nursery rhymes are for, and books like Dr. Suess. Sight reading comes next; that’s learning to recognize, for instance, the McDonalds sign. Hopefully somewhere in the midst of this they learn phonics so that they can sound out words they don’t know. The next step, of course, is actual reading.

As I said, this whole process usually takes a few years, although some kids go through it much faster. Kids with Attention Deficit Disorder usually have higher than average intelligence as well as little patience and a tendency to get distracted. Can you see how this combination of traits might mean that they miss some key parts of learning to read?

If you’ve got a child who seems to have trouble reading, and they are old enough that they should be, you might want to give this further thought. A reading specialist may be in order.

If, however, you have a child who just needs extra help with reading, maybe some of these suggestions will help:

  • Try the method outlined in the audio clip on this site. It works really well at improving comprehension, and it helps when lack of patience is a problem.
  • If there seem to be too many words on the page (ask your child), and the problem is either focusing on the right ones, or being overwhelmed by too many, try using something to cover up the lines beneath the one being read. Some people find a colored piece of paper works well, and others prefer something colored yet transparent, like a see-through plastic ruler. Whatever you use, make sure it’s long enough to go across the entire page.
  • If you have a very young child, make sure they are actually reading and not reciting from memory.
  • Use flash cards to learn key words, and play games like hangman to help with reading ability. There are also board games that do this.
  • Use audio as an aid to reading. For instance, tape yourself reading a book and then let your child use the tape to read along. Check out books on tape at the library; there is a big selection out there for both kids and adults.
  • Use software to help read words on a computer. Windows comes installed with one; I’m sure Mac does too. There are also ones available online.
  • Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic offers a huge selection of digitally recorded textbooks. Kids with ADHD often meet their requirements for use, too. There is a one-time membership fee ($65), and an annual fee ($35), plus you have to purchase special equipment to listen to the recordings, as well as the recordings themselves. The equipment purchase is a one-time cost, and the recordings are fairly inexpensive, depending on what you need. Check with your school, school district, and library to see if any of them have a membership or the equipment. You might be able to offset some of your costs that way.
  • Find things that are enjoyable for them to read. Comic books, sports magazines, whatever.
  • Read to them, if they’ll let you, no matter how old they are. When my kids were in 5th and 6th grade, we read Treasure Island together, each of taking turns reading aloud.

Hopefully, you will find some of these suggestions useful and be able to put them to work. Remember, kids with AD/HD need lots of repetition and reinforcement in order to really internalize new ideas. Do a little at a time, keep it interesting, and don’t give up.

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Lacy Estelle

Lacy Estelle is the writer of and the Podcast host for An ADD Woman.

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