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Improving Reading Comprehension in Students With ADHD

Strategies for Increasing Reading Comprehension and Recall

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Updated September 04, 2012

Improving Reading Comprehension in Students With ADHD

Reading is such an important part of school and learning in general. Every subject area requires that a student be able to comprehend reading material and retain that information.

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Reading comprehension can sometimes be a challenge for students with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In order to comprehend reading material a student must be able to recognize and decode words, sustain attention and effort while reading, effectively utilize working memory, and process information in an efficient and timely manner.

For more information on understanding reading challenges students with ADHD often face read ADHD and Reading Comprehension.

Below are strategies that are often helpful in improving reading comprehension for students with ADHD:

  • For younger students and as much as is possible with older students, it is helpful to provide high-interest reading materials for them to read while they develop skills for improving recall. You’ll be teaching these students the strategies listed below and assisting them while they practice and learn skills for becoming an active reader. Students with ADHD will have an easier time maintaining attention on reading passages that are exciting, stimulating and of shorter length.
  • Minimize outside distractions during reading time. Some students do better reading in quiet places, others prefer white noise -- listening to background sounds or music while reading. Allow the student to read in chunks of time, taking breaks to move around and refocus. Teach student how to use a book mark to keep his or her place on the page while reading. Slide bookmark down the page one line at a time. When reading passages are of longer length, help student break down reading material into shorter segments so it is not as overwhelming.
  • Teach active reading strategies like underlining and note taking. Provide student with both regular and colored pencils, colored pens and highlighters, and post-it-notes. Use various colors for highlighting important points or passages. Use pencils or markers to underline, star, circle, etc. (If student is not able to write in book, one option is for the parent to purchase a second copy of the book so that the student can highlight key information. Another option is to provide a photocopy of the material.) Use post-it-notes to jot down points to remember. Walk the student through this process, explaining and modeling strategies, highlighting important points together. Continue to provide this guided practice to help the student develop competence with this “active reading” skill and those listed below.
  • Preview content with the student. Summarize key points of the material to be read in the same sequence as it appears in the passage. Provide general information about topic area, setting, characters, conflicts in the story, etc. Before the student begins reading a passage, walk him or her through several previewing techniques by reviewing title of the reading selection, headings, illustrations, bolded or italicized sentences, side bars, and chapter questions. Talk about how the reading material is organized. Teach student how to find introductory paragraphs and summary paragraphs. Use story maps to help student identify and organize main components of reading material. Review and provide definitions for any new vocabulary that will be found in reading sections.
  • Teach the student how to subvocalize when reading. As opposed to reading silently, subvocalizing means to say the words while reading, but to do so very softly so that the words are barely audible to others. Reading aloud is a good strategy to help with comprehension, as well, but for some students reading out loud slows down the reading process and can be more frustrating. Silent reading can be hard for kids with attention issues. The auditory input they receive from subvocalizing often helps these students maintain focus on what they are reading.
  • Teach students techniques for monitoring how well they understand what they are reading as they read. Practice paraphrasing and summarizing paragraphs, asking questions about material while reading, making predictions about what may happen next, and rereading for better clarity. The teacher can model this skill by reading aloud to students stopping at various points in the text to comment on mental processes related to comprehension that take place during reading. When students read material they may benefit from using a tape recorder to summarize these processes with guided help from the teacher. Another idea is for the teacher to help the student underline key ideas, have the student read the highlighted points into the tape recorder, replay recorder and then talk about those ideas. Some students benefit from visualizing material, illustrating points, making diagrams and visual pictures to increase recall and comprehension of the main elements in a passage.
  • Allow the student extended time for reading. Many students with ADHD who have weaknesses in working memory and slower speed of processing information benefit from additional time to read and comprehend material. This extended time allows the student time for processing the material more effectively, looking back to clarify any confusion, and reread the text for better understanding.

Related Reading:

Writing Problems Common for Students With ADHD
Strategies to Improve Writing Skills
ADHD and Math Skills
Strategies to Improve Math Skills

Source:

Thomas E. Brown, Philipp C. Reichel, Donald M. Quinlan; Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine. “Extended time improves reading comprehension test scores for adolescents with ADHD” Open Journal of Psychiatry; 1, 79-87, October 2011.

Mel Levine, Educational Care: A System for Understanding and Helping Children With Learning Differences at Home and School. Educators Publishing Service, 2001.

Sydney S. Zentall, ADHD in Education: Foundations, Characteristics, Methods, and Collaboration. Person Education, Inc. 2006.

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