Reading with ADHD: Strategies for Focus and Comprehension

Reading with ADHD

Understanding the connection between ADHD and reading has been a challenge for people for the better part of the past decades. Reading with ADHD is not a condition that is easy to understand and overcome by any means. 

ADHD stands for attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder and is one of the most commonly met neurodevelopmental disorders. While it is particularly common in children, studies have shown that more adults suffer from it than was initially believed. 

Here at Basmo, our dedication to making you a better and more accomplished reader goes well beyond the regular scope. Our mission is to provide you both with the know-how and the proper tools to improve your reading habits, performance, and overall experience. That is why we explored the link between reading and ADHD, what reading with ADHD looks like, and possible solutions for overcoming the effects.

How Does ADHD Affect Reading?

As you would expect from any neurodevelopmental disorder, ADHD has a very strong negative effect on reading as an activity, but also on reading comprehension and information retention. 

There are several ways in which ADHD can affect reading performance, and some still remain unknown as they are still being researched. But nevertheless, here are the most relevant connections between ADHD and reading and the negative effects it can have on performance.

1. Difficulty Staying Focused 

One of the most common symptoms of ADHD is an inability to focus on a certain task for more than a couple of minutes. People with ADHD are notorious for the way their attention wanders from one thing to another and their rather limited attention spans. 

Reading is an activity that requires a high level of concentration. From actually following the line of text to putting in the effort of actually comprehending the content and retaining the important information from it, a successful reading session simply cannot happen unless the reader manages to stay focused. This difficulty or even inability of maintaining focus is part of the reason why people with ADHD have a hard time reading or creating healthy reading habits.

2. Adults With ADHD Tend to Be Impulsive

The process of reading with ADHD is generally governed by a lack of patience on the reader’s part. An impulsive reader will have a tendency to skip over parts of the text that seem irrelevant to the main point of the book.

Unfortunately, the save impulsivity can be responsible for not paying enough attention to what really is important and what isn’t. Reading is a process that takes time, finishing a book can take hours, days, or even weeks.

Since ADHD tends to make people impulsive to a certain extent, reading comes as a contradiction to what seems natural for adults with ADHD. Long-term tasks like reading a novel can seem like an impossible assignment.

3. Hyperactivity Is Damaging to Reading Habits

Another common symptom or issue caused by ADHD both in children and adults is a certain level of hyperactivity. By that, we understand a tendency not to be able to stay still or do the same thing for longer than minutes-long bursts.

As we know, reading is not a very active endeavor. We are required to stay still in order to be able to focus on what we read. While we can read and walk at the same time, that is quite unlikely to be a solution for a person with ADHD.

4. Lack of Organization

While the connection between reading comprehension and ADHD is quite clear, one thing that is often overlooked is the damaging effects ADHD has on a person’s ability to organize their reading sessions and structure their habits.

Children with ADHD are well known for their inability to maintain a schedule, their lack of organization in different aspects of life, and their rather chaotic way of approaching pretty much any task. Time management can also be a huge problem for ADHD sufferers.

Reading, as we know, requires a certain level of discipline, patience, and a more structured approach than other activities, which can turn out to be a rather taxing challenge for children with ADHD or even adults affected by this condition. The reading experience can be quite severely affected by a chaotic approach and this can make it quite problematic for people with ADHD.

5. Issues With Working Memory

One of the most important reading skills we possess is our ability to retain information and further use it when needed in the future. Working memory refers to our ability to use our short-term memory effectively.

People with ADHD struggle with their working memory, as it is quite challenging for them to remember important details while reading and make certain connections between elements in the books or other reading materials.

Being able to connect the dots is essential while reading, as using our short-term memory gives us the chance to remember things that happened earlier in the book and better understand current events based on past elements. 

6. Getting Distracted

Filtering out distractions is one of the most difficult things to do for a person with ADHD. Given their tendency to actually distract themselves by simply letting their minds wander from one thing to another, if we add to the mix other external factors like noise, phone notifications, and any other things that will move their focus from the task at hand, things can get a lot more difficult.

Reading requires a controlled environment, a low level of distractions, and an ability to stay focused for long periods of time. Noise and other stimuli need to be reduced to a minimum for the best performance in terms of comprehension, information retention, and overall experience.

People with ADHD tend to be easily distracted, so even while reading interesting books, remaining focused can be a huge challenge if external stimuli are present and interfere with their ability to stay motivated and focused.

7. Reading Comprehension Can Be Compromised

It happens to the best of us to read and simply realize that we haven’t understood much from the last paragraph we went over. This can be due to difficult phrasing, a distracted mind, or a plethora of other reasons.

For people with ADHD, this can be a constant state of mind. Reading without actually comprehending the essence of the text is a common problem for those who suffer from ADHD simply because of their reduced level of focus and a cluttered mind, overwhelmed by different other thoughts that have little or nothing to do with the reading material. 

One of the most common ADHD reading difficulties is the fact that even though the reader goes through all the words on a page, more often than not, those words don’t actually form sentences or make real sense in the mind of the reader. 

8. Interest in Reading and Motivation

As we all know too well, being a successful reader is challenging enough in terms of maintaining interest and staying motivated even without any mental health problems.

People with ADHD tend to face much bigger challenges while reading, and this usually results in them losing interest in reading completely and a total lack of motivation to even keep trying again.

There are certain ADHD reading tips that can help you avoid situations like these where you lose interest completely. We will go over different strategies below.

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How to Read Better With ADHD?

Learning how to read with ADHD can be a challenging endeavor, but it is certainly not an impossible one. ADHD reading difficulties can have a negative impact on a person’s life, with issues like low self-esteem, comprehension problems, and an inability to practice active reading being relatively common issues. Here are some tips to help you learn how to focus on reading with ADHD.

1. Try Bionic Reading for ADHD

While there are currently no studies exploring the relationship between bionic reading and ADHD, there are many voices claiming that using this technique can have some positive results in your attempt to overcome the problems caused by ADHD on your reading performance. 

Bionic reading is a relatively new technique that relies on creating a different effect on your brain during reading by bolding certain parts of words and thus activating different parts of the brain, forcing it to fill in the blanks more than actually reading the entire words.

This comes with certain positive effects on reading performance: it is claimed to improve comprehension, increase reading speed, and improve the reader’s ability to stay focused. People with ADHD can benefit from this reading system, as well as others affected by different reading problems like dyslexia.

2. Create a Distraction-Free Environment

As I mentioned above, one of the most relevant problems a person with ADHD is facing while reading is an inability to focus and filter out distractions. In order to overcome that, you should make sure to set yourself up for success by managing your reading space and the conditions you read in.

Make sure to read in a quiet place, set your phone on silent, use noise-canceling headphones, or whatever else may seem like a good way to aid you in your efforts to stay focused on the task at hand.

3. Highlight or Use Visual Aids

While writing on books may be generally seen as a bad habit, it can be a great way to help yourself stay focused and motivated while reading with ADHD. Using visual aids like underlining, highlighting, or taking notes while reading can help guide your eyes better on the page, it can be a great way to remain focused on what is important, and can even be a great way to improve comprehension and retention.

As a reader with ADHD, you should try to use any tools at your disposal to improve your reading experience. Highlighting or using any other visual aids like using a ruler to stay focused on the line you are reading can have a positive effect on your performance.

4. Read in Manageable Chunks

One thing readers with ADHD struggle with is managing their expectations in terms of what they should be able to achieve in one sitting. Reading a whole book in a single session is not exactly something a person with ADHD should expect to be able to do and not accepting this can lead to frustration, low self-esteem, and even a complete loss of interest.

Instead of putting too much pressure on yourself, you should accept the fact that taking breaks can have a positive effect on your performance. Frequent breaks can give you a chance to let your mind wander and thus allow you to better focus on your short bursts of actual reading.

5. Read Aloud

While reading aloud may seem like an even more complex process than reading, which could make it an even more difficult task for someone with ADHD, the truth is that it can actually help.

The main problem ADHD causes for readers is not allowing them to engage and retain information while reading. Reading aloud can actually disable this negative effect exactly by making reading a more complex process that uses different parts of the brain.

While you read out loud, you activate the speech centers of the brain, you also hear yourself saying the words you read can have a positive effect both on comprehension and on information retention.

6. Use Basmo

As mentioned before, one of the most damaging effects ADHD has on reading habits is the fact that it can make it almost impossible for readers to stay organized and manage their time effectively.

Using a reading-tracking app like Basmo can change that for the better and can improve reading skills tremendously. With Basmo, you get a whole bunch of features meant to help you create healthy reading habits, stay organized, and manage your reading in the most efficient way possible. Here’s how:

With Basmo, you can create your own reading schedule. Whether you want to read daily or just a couple of times per week, Basmo encourages you to set yourself up for success with a clear schedule. Choose the days of the week and even separate times of day for each one, and schedule your sessions. The app will remind you of these sessions before they are scheduled to start so you don’t miss them.

Time your sessions. With taking frequent breaks being one of the most efficient strategies for reading with ADHD, you will definitely benefit from the way Basmo tracks your reading sessions. With each session, the timer is automatically started, and this makes it easy for you to take breaks after every 15 minutes for example.

Annotate. Making notes, highlighting, and annotating as you read is a good way to improve your reading experience if you suffer from ADHD. With Basmo you can do all that in a modern way, without ruining your books. Use the note-taking feature or the book scanner to extract text from books in order to avoid writing on your books.

Track your performance. Basmo analyses a wide range of key factors about your reading performance. You can use these statistics regarding the time you spend reading and your speed or overall experience in order to see where you can improve. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Reading With ADHD

While we did our best to cover everything that you should know about reading with ADHD, we are sure you still have some questions. Here are the answers to the most commonly asked questions about ADHD and reading.

1. Does ADHD Make Reading Hard?

Yes, ADHD has a negative effect on reading performance. Even with all the available tools, reading with ADHD is a challenging activity and those affected by this affliction have a lot to overcome in order to enjoy reading. 

2. Does ADHD Affect Reading Comprehension?

Yes, ADHD makes reading comprehension a lot more difficult. By making it hard for the reader to stay focused, comprehension and information retention are clearly affected.

3. What’s It Like to Read With ADHD?

Reading with ADHD can be described as difficult. People with ADHD have a hard time staying focused, maintaining a healthy reading speed, and can become frustrated. They have a tendency to let their mind wander, which makes reading challenging, to say the least.

4. Does Reading Help ADHD?

Yes. With the right strategies, reading can be a positive force in the life of people suffering from ADHD. Reading can reduce stress, help with anxiety, and can be a great way for people with ADHD to learn how to manage their symptoms and even overcome some of them.

5. Why Is It So Hard to Read With ADHD?

The main thing that makes reading difficult for those suffering from ADHD is their inability to stay focused. 

6. How Many Times Does Someone With ADHD Have to Read Something to Understand It?

This can vary tremendously from one person to another depending on the severity of the ADHD symptoms, the strategies they use, and how well they understand and manage to overcome their symptoms. 

Final Thoughts

Reading with ADHD is certainly no walk in the park. Reading challenges most of us in different ways, but having to overcome a mental problem that prevents you from being able to concentrate and properly comprehend what you read is definitely problematic. Luckily, with the help of our reading tips and strategies, plus the benefits you would get from using Basmo, we are certain that things will get better for your reading experience.


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