ADHD affects reading mainly because of the impact is has on learning as a whole. Usually students that struggle with learning are diagnosed with a learning disability; however, ADHD is not a learning disability. A student with a learning disability has a deficit in one or two areas while performing at or above average in other areas. In contrast, ADHD affects learning on a whole.

Reading Horizons Reading Specialist, Shantell Berrett, explained the difference between learning disabilities and ADHD by saying: “It is like having all of the lights dimmed in the house as opposed to having one or two turned off with all the others on. It will affect the children when they are reading because it affects every cognitive function.”

ADHD has a huge impact on the focus of activity of those with the condition. Thus reading becomes difficult when intense focus for long periods of time is required. For example, there are certain comprehension strategies that will require more focus than others, such as the strategy of summarization. If this were a strategy a teacher wanted your child to implement, you would need to work with your child’s teacher to help him/her break down that strategy down more-manageable steps for application.

Children need to read in short segments of time with strategies and/or guidance on checking for understanding often throughout their reading.

It will also affect their reading if they are reading in a noisy environment with several distractions. You want them to read in a quiet space.

Because many children with ADHD have a difficult time staying focused, they often struggle with reading because they struggled to pay attention in class. In this case, basic phonics instruction can be beneficial for helping them learn the fundamentals of reading. Phonics is especially helpful for children with ADHD if they also have a learning disability such as dyslexia or auditory processing disorder (which often occur with ADHD).

For more information on ADHD, download Reading Horizons Free E-Book: Learning Disabilities 101, with a section on ADHD.

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