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ADHD and Challenges With Reading Comprehension

There is something nostalgic about walking into a library. You enter a place where artists and authors welcome you into their world. Countless shelves line the walls and aisles with creativity, adventurous thoughts, and life experiences. The smell of ink and worn leather-bound books permeates through the air as the stillness brings a feeling of serenity and calmness. You see strangers sharing a space, a space where minds run free and imaginations are allowed to wander into new adventures. As a child, I ingrained these experiences of visiting the library into my memory because I never wanted to forget that nostalgic feeling. As much as I loved the library, I also felt like an outsider. I felt like an outsider because I wished as a child that I could select an exciting book full of adventures and read it as if it was second nature. However, because of my ADHD, that was not an option, no matter how hard I tried. While I have no problems reading, my struggles are comprehending what I'm reading. I can read the same paragraph three or more times and still cannot retain the information I just read.

Now that I'm an adult, I still find myself longing to have the ability to grab a good book and absorb every word with ease. Libraries are still a place of wonder for me, and I enjoy visiting when the opportunity presents itself. Nowadays, perusing books online is a more convenient way to explore the "must-have" books and New York's Best Selling Authors. Because, let's be honest, going to the library isn't as convenient or popular as it was back in the '80s and '90s.

Although reading comprehension remains a challenge for me, that doesn't stop me from participating in book clubs because who wants to miss out. I learned a long time ago that I wasn't going to let this disability stop me from doing or at least trying to do the things I wanted. Don't get me wrong, the feeling of being "different" is always lurking around the corner because I'm the girl with headphones on listening to the audiobook while the rest of the group thumbs through pages. Thank goodness for technology and audible books!

Understanding ADHD and Reading Comprehension

People diagnosed with ADHD have what I like to call a beautiful, unique brain. Our brains are not broken, they just operate differently than neurotypical brains, and that's okay! One common complaint in children and adults diagnosed with Attention Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is having to read a paragraph over and over again and not remembering what they've read. Before I dive into why ADHD brains struggle with reading comprehension, it's important first to understand what the term reading comprehension means.

"Reading comprehension is the ability to process text, understand its meaning, and to integrate with what the reader already knows."

As mentioned in my previous post, difficulty with paying attention and getting easily distracted are telltale symptoms of ADHD. Distractions can be both internal and external. Internal distractions are more challenging to control because they aren't "physical things" - racing thoughts, focusing, and daydreaming, for example. External distractions can be a bit easier to manage and can be minimized by limiting those distractions (i.e., cell phone, television, location, etc.) Reading comprehension is a struggle for some people with ADHD because of internal and external distractions, as well as having a poor working memory. The challenge with reading is especially true if we are asked to focus on something that is not a topic of interest (I'll discuss this topic in a future post). Additionally, reading comprehension can be challenging for those diagnosed with this disorder because of poor time management, sitting still, and the ability to process information.

Ways to Retain What You Read

Growing up with ADHD and now navigating it as an adult, I've learned some helpful tips along the way to help with reading comprehension and include:

  • Divide reading material into small sections. Looking at an entire book can become overwhelming for those with ADHD. Dividing the reading material into smaller sections can help reduce anxiety and the feeling of being overwhelmed.

  • Eliminate internal and external distractions. As mentioned above, eliminating distractions can significantly improve reading comprehension.

  • Have an accountability partner. Accountability partners are essential to those with ADHD. The partner can help organize their time, focus their energy, and be more efficient in their efforts. In addition, they can be present to help explain words that are difficult to understand.

  • Take breaks and set timers. Taking breaks can help with becoming overwhelmed, and timers can help manage time. Some people with ADHD struggle with "time blindness," Setting a timer can help them stay on track.

  • Use highlighters and color pens to note important content. Using highlighters or color pens is very helpful when reading because it draws you to important content and can help you recall the main points.

  • Read aloud. This will help to focus and hear what you are reading, which will help to remember the content.

  • Most importantly, BREATHE and don't stress.


Who to contact if you are having ADHD symptoms:

Contact a licensed healthcare professional if you have concerns or questions about ADHD. There are several resources available to help navigate your ADHD diagnosis. One that I find helpful is the CHADD - Children, and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, and can be accessed here: National Resource Center ADHDexternal icon. The website has links to information for people with ADHD and their families.

What's coming up next?

This discussion provided a high-level insight into how ADHD can affect reading comprehension. The upcoming discussion will take a deeper dive into ADHD and offer helpful tips to manage symptoms.

I hope you continue on this journey with me and learn something new along the way!

Feel free to leave a comment, and THANK YOU for joining my journey.


Reading Comprehension:

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