ADHD Reading: Effective Support Strategies

adhd reading

ADHD is a condition that can impact many skills, including the ability to read. For children with ADHD, reading can be difficult and complicated. But why is this so? 

Because ADHD affects how the brain is structured and functions, it can cause issues with language and reading skills. 

Reading with ADHD can be complicated by issues with working memory and attention skills. Concentration difficulties can make learning to read a difficult and lengthy process. Issues with attention and focus can also impact a child’s ability to understand what they’ve read. 

A high percentage of children with ADHD have reading difficulties and disabilities. 

If your child has ADHD, it’s important to understand how this condition can affect their reading skills. This way, you can learn strategies to support them in acquiring reading skills and reaching their fullest potential. You can also learn what supports are available to them to aid in this goal. 

This article will explore why reading is often hard for those with ADHD. It will also offer you tips and strategies to enhance your child with ADHD’s reading experience. 

ADHD and Reading Difficulties

Readers with ADHD may face several issues that impact their ability to gain understanding and meaning from written text. 

These difficulties include challenges with:

  • Focusing — sustaining attention is a core difficulty for children with ADHD. Learning the skills necessary for literacy involves the ability to focus. So does reading comprehension. Without focus, children with ADHD often struggle to master emergent literacy skills on the same timeline as their peers. They also face difficulties with understanding what they’ve read, due to issues with concentration while reading. 
  • Processing information — kids with ADHD often struggle with processing the information they receive. This may mean difficulty following directions in class or trouble getting meaning from what they read. Kids with ADHD often process information more slowly than their same-aged peers. This can impact their ability to read fluently and to comprehend what they’ve read. 
  • Working Memory Skills — working memory is our ability to hold information and ideas in our mind while we’re performing a task. Being able to recall and follow directions to complete a multi-step activity is an example of how we use working memory skills. It’s also key to staying on track when completing lengthy or multi-step tasks. It also covers our ability to ignore distractions and focus on what’s important. 
    Working memory skills are impacted by ADHD. This can affect a child’s ability to master literacy skills and to understand and recall what they’ve read. Readers with ADHD often struggle to retell what they’ve read and to remember written information. 
  • Hyperactivity — children with ADHD often have a lot of trouble sitting still. Hyperactivity can cause constant fidgeting and the need to move around. This need for continuous movement and stimulation can negatively impact a child’s ability to focus on reading. It can also affect a child’s ability to process and understand what they’ve read.  
  • Decoding skills — decoding is the ability to map sounds onto letters. It’s a foundational literacy skill. ADHD readers often struggle to recognize words in text. This difficulty can impact their reading comprehension. Being able to recognize words is essential for reading comprehension.  Issues with this core literacy skill can also affect high-level skills, like gaining meaning from text. 
  • Distractibilitythe ability to sustain attention is crucial for reading. Gaining literacy skills requires practice and focus. Understanding what we’ve read involves the ability to concentrate on reading and processing what we’ve read. 

Children with ADHD are often easily distracted. They can lose focus because of things happening in their environment, such as noises, movement, or lights. They can also become internally distracted by their own thoughts. Readers with ADHD may have more difficulty controlling their tendency to be distracted than other children. This can affect their ability to recognize and refocus their attention. 

ADHD Reading Difficulties for Adults

Children with ADHD aren’t the only ones who may have difficulties with reading skills. Adults with ADHD face similar challenges when it comes to reading. 

Young adults with ADHD often continue to struggle with reading speed and answering questions about what they’ve read. Sustaining focus while reading is a challenge faced by both children and adults with ADHD. 

Many adults with ADHD wrestle with poor self-concepts, due to the impact of ADHD on their academic and vocational success. An adult with ADHD may avoid reading, due to bad experiences learning to read and with reading in school. Avoiding reading means fewer opportunities to grow and practice reading skills. 

Adults with ADHD may continue to be slower readers. They may become easily distracted while reading, and find they reread the same passage repeatedly. They may face continued challenges with reading comprehension, and struggle to recall and get meaning from what they read. 

Adults with ADHD often face ongoing issues with impulsivity. They may be easily derailed by daydreams or internal thoughts while reading. This can cause them to lose their place, miss main concepts, or forget what they’ve read. 

Strategies and awareness can help adults with ADHD improve their reading abilities. They may find reading while standing or walking around works best. They may benefit from reading books aloud or listening to audiobooks. 

Taking notes or using highlighter pens can help them key into important concepts and enhance their recall skills. Reading when they’re most focused and breaking reading into smaller chunks of time can also support attention skills in adults with ADHD. Rereading is another strategy adults with ADHD can use to support reading comprehension. 

We will review several additional tips and strategies for ADHD readers in this article. Continue reading to learn more strategies to support reading skills for readers with ADHD. 

ADHD Reading Difficulties for Children

Children with ADHD often face difficulties with learning to read and reading comprehension. 

Issues with working memory skills can negatively impact their reading speed and accuracy. These issues can also affect their ability to gain meaning from text. 

Children with ADHD may struggle to stay still when reading. They may find it difficult to focus and concentrate. These issues can also affect reading comprehension. 

In addition, readers with ADHD may struggle to recognize words while reading. They may also fail to grasp figurative language in text. Both of these skills are important for reading comprehension. 

Thankfully, children with ADHD can learn strategies to support their reading skill development. Therapists can also work with them to help them gain and practice the necessary skills to become successful readers. 

Let’s explore some of these strategies and interventions for readers with ADHD. 

How to Read with ADHD: Tips and Strategies 

Here are some tips and strategies to improve reading skills in people with ADHD. 

Classroom Accommodations

Making modifications to the classroom environment can be a great way to support readers with ADHD. These include:

  • Seating Arrangement Considerations — kids with ADHD may benefit from sitting at the front of the class or even next to the teacher. This can promote their attention during class. It can also help teachers monitor and check in with them, throughout the school day. 
  • Providing Clear Instructions — teachers can provide clear instructions to support children with ADHD. This can help them plan and organize their thoughts during reading activities and assignments. 
  • Visual aids — kids with ADHD may benefit from written and visual aids to help them conceptualize and complete reading tasks. Teachers can provide outlines for reading tasks for kids with ADHD to support their comprehension. Story maps and diagrams can also be provided. 
  • Underline and highlight — ADHD readers can support processing by highlighting important information. This can help them understand important concepts and plot points. It can also help them organize and recall information when reading.
  • Multimodal Cues — kids with ADHD benefit from support and cues given in more than one modality. For example, a teacher can explain a reading assignment verbally and provide a written outline for a child to follow. They can also provide visual aids such as character diagrams or story maps. 

Tailored Reading Interventions 

Reading interventions for kids with ADHD should be customized to suit each child and their learning needs. Speech pathologists can work with parents and educators to provide ADHD reading instruction. Reading interventions for children with ADHD may include:

  • Individualized Assessment — SLPs can select a range of assessments, based on each child’s needs. They can use standardized tests and informal methods to assess a child’s reading strengths and weaknesses. A standardized test like the PAT-2 can be used to assess emergent literacy skills. This can help form a plan for a child’s individualized reading treatment. 
  • Supporting Decoding Skills — many children with ADHD struggle with recognizing words in text. This is known as decoding. Reading interventions can focus on developing decoding skills by using flashcards of sight words. The Dolch Word List is a great resource for this. Supporting children with sounding out written words in drills and games can help them develop decoding skills. 
  • Vocabulary Development — a strong vocabulary is the foundation of reading skills. Recognizing and knowing the meaning of the words we encounter in text is vital to support reading comprehension. ADHD readers can participate in games and exercises that involve being presented with and learning the meanings of new words. 
  • Reading Aloud — reading aloud is a great way to support ADHD readers. This can promote their attention skills and ability to process what they read. When we read aloud, our brain uses both cognitive and auditory processing skills. This allows more parts of our brain to be activated in understanding what we’ve read. 

Parental Support at Home

Parental support is important for readers with ADHD. You can help your child learn and practice their reading skills at home, and reach their treatment goals. 

  • Reading routine and structure — a reading routine can support your child’s skill development. Reading with them for 30 minutes each day after school is a great way to build reading into their daily routine. Because practice makes perfect! The more they read, the more they can hone their reading skills. 
  • Appropriate reading materials — as a parent, you’re the expert on your child. This comes in handy with reading material selection. You can choose reading materials for your child that challenge them to build skills but aren’t so difficult as to create frustration. You can also encourage your child’s enjoyment of reading by selecting materials on subjects they like and are interested in. 
  • Read aloud together — shared reading time can be an enjoyable bonding activity for you and your child. It can also support their reading skill development. Reading text aloud allows ADHD readers to process information visually and auditorily. This can enhance their reading comprehension abilities. It can also encourage their motivation to read. 
  • Offer praise and encouragement — your words of praise can motivate your child to continue reading. They can also enhance their conception of themselves as a reader. Children with ADHD often suffer from poor self-concepts. You can help them overcome any issues with self-confidence when it comes to reading.  

Encourage Self-regulation Skills

Self-monitoring and regulation skills are important for ADHD readers to learn. After all, the goal is to help them read confidently and independently. Teaching them self-regulation skills when reading can help them achieve this goal. Self-regulation skills when reading include:

  • Taking notes — taking notes when reading can help ADHD readers with thought organization and info processing. This can support their recall and comprehension skills. 
  • Summarise reading — ADHD readers often struggle with recalling and restating what they’ve read. Practicing this skill can be a great way to develop it. You can support them in this by providing outlines and guiding questions. 
  • Re-read — There’s a saying in the construction world about the importance of measuring twice and cutting once. This notion also applies to your child’s reading comprehension skills. Reading a passage more than once can support info processing and recall. Encourage your child to monitor their reading comprehension as they go. Ask them to re-read passages to make sure they understand what they’ve read. 
  • Eliminate distractions — the right environment is especially important for readers with ADHD. Encourage your child to set themselves up for success, by ensuring their environment is free from distractions. You can support your child by asking them to notice any sights or sounds that might pull their attention away from reading. You can also encourage them to read at a time when they are well rested and their brain is working at its peak. Some people are best in the mornings, others in the evenings. Help your child know when they learn best, and set them up for success. 

ADHD and Reading FAQs

If your child has ADHD, you probably have more questions about how it can affect their reading skills. Let’s explore some common questions about ADHD and reading. 

Do people with ADHD read slower?

ADHD can impact information processing and reading fluency. This means readers with ADHD may take longer to gain meaning from what they read. It also means they may not read as accurately as their typically developing peers. 

These issues can make reading a slower overall process for kids with ADHD. While they may speed through a text, they may fail to recall or understand what they’ve read. They may skip over words and become distracted when reading. These issues can affect reading comprehension and may make reading for meaning a more difficult task for readers with ADHD. 

What reading style helps with ADHD?

Readers with ADHD benefit from using reading strategies to improve their comprehension abilities. Two strategies readers with ADHD can use to improve their comprehension are the TWA and RAP strategies.  

The TWA strategy encourages readers to think while reading, as well as before and after reading. This strategy helps readers with ADHD to self-monitor what they’ve read. It can benefit their recall and info processing skills. This can lead to improved reading comprehension. 

The RAP strategy is widely taught to elementary school students as a learning strategy. It stands for: read, ask, and put in my own words. This strategy supports reading comprehension and recall, by asking readers to use the information they read. 

Both of these strategies can support recall and comprehension skills in readers with ADHD. 

Do ADHD children enjoy reading?

Readers with ADHD may face challenges with reading. This can negatively impact their enjoyment of reading. It’s important for parents and educators to encourage kids with ADHD to read and to support their love of reading. The more a child reads, the more practice they have. This leads to improved reading fluency and comprehension. It also supports a child in knowing how they learn best and discovering strategies that work for them. 

You can encourage your child to read by providing books on subjects of interest to them. Engage them in shared reading activities. And provide words of praise about their reading abilities. 

At what age do ADHD kids start reading?

Children with ADHD tend to develop literacy skills along with their typically developing peers. However, they often have difficulty acquiring emergent literacy skills. 

Readers with ADHD may face issues with phonological processing. This involves understanding that the sounds of speech are represented by letters in written language. ADHD readers may also struggle with decoding skills. These involve mapping the sounds of spoken language onto written language to recognize words in text. 

Foundational literacy skills like these are often impaired in readers with ADHD. This can affect their ability to gain meaning from what they read later on in their literacy development. 

Using Forbrain to Help with ADHD

Forbrain is a wearable auditory stimulation headset. It can be used in therapy for children with ADHD to help them focus, recall, and learn. It can be used to support reading skill development in children with ADHD. 

Forbrain allows children to hear their voices in real time and at a louder volume. For children with ADHD, this can support information retention and processing. It can also encourage their sustained attention. Forbrain can be used to support shared reading and reading aloud with kids with ADHD. This can help them overcome common issues related to ADHD’s impact on reading comprehension. 

Here is a helpful video that explains more about Forbrain’s applications for readers with ADHD. 

Final Words

Children with ADHD often face challenges as readers. This doesn’t mean they can’t go on to be strong, effective readers who enjoy reading. Many people with ADHD learn strategies to support and enhance their reading fluency and comprehension. Therapists and educators can train them in strategies to promote attention, recall, and processing.

When you’re the parent of a child with ADHD, you can encourage their reading skills and promote their love of reading. Individualized strategies are important for children with ADHD. Each person has unique needs and preferences, so it’s important to meet your child where they are and support them in reaching their full potential. Folding in their preferences is a great way to encourage your child to participate in reading activities. 

You can work closely with your child’s therapists and teachers to develop strategies and learning approaches that work best for them. Together, you can help your child access a full educational experience, and become a skillful reader. 


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Crystal Bray

Crystal Bray is a speech-language pathologist and healthcare copywriter. She’s passionate about providing individuals and families with the quality health and medical information they need to make informed choices. She lives in the mountains of North Carolina and enjoys traveling, reading, and being outdoors.