5 Ways to Help Readers with ADHD
Learning how to read, and even more importantly, how to understand what you read is a mountain to climb for anyone. For children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), reading presents additional challenges that come with symptoms like restlessness and impulsivity.
While your child may receive additional support with reading at school, the way you approach reading at home is equally beneficial in promoting their analytic and critical thinking skills.
1. Use active reading strategies
Active reading strategies can bring a story to life or make information easier for your child to relate to. The easiest active strategy for your child to implement while reading is to physically follow along with the text. They can use a fun bookmark, a pointer, or their finger to keep track of which line they’re on and avoid the dreaded line repetition that trips them up.
Another way for your child to interact with their books is to take notes and summarize while they’re reading. There are so many methods to take notes, you can find which one works best for your child. This blog goes in depth about the benefits of notetaking and tips for effective notes, such as giving your child the freedom to use incomplete sentences and drawings. Also, using computers or tablets may be more helpful for children who struggle with handwriting.
Summarizing after each paragraph or page, depending on your child’s assignment, is also essential in helping your child remember what they read. Rachelle Gardner, a literary agent, has a great set-up for what she calls the One-Sentence Summary. The One-Sentence Summary is made up of a character, a conflict, the stakes, the setting, and the action. This structure is designed for summarizing entire books, but a simplified version can work well for paragraphs or pages in a book to help your child digest what they read and be able to explain it in their own words.
What is something that kids are great at but eventually drives you crazy? You guessed it – asking questions. Lots and lots of questions. Put their questioning abilities to good use and apply it to their reading. It’s important for students to learn how to ask thoughtful questions while they’re reading to start developing their critical thinking skills. Have them write down questions as they read or come up with questions at the end as a pre-summary activity.
2. Use movement
One of the most common symptoms experienced by children with ADHD is having a hard time sitting still. This may or may not be the case for your child, but regardless of their diagnosis, using movement during reading time can make the process go by more smoothly.
Kids can have trouble with time perception and understanding how long a task will take them, which can cause anxiety. Assigning them, or letting them choose, a certain amount of time to read before taking a break makes reading more manageable for your student.
Equally as important, make sure the break involves movement without distractions to help your child return to their reading refreshed and refocused. Good examples of movement include racing to the front door and back, touching their toes, or doing a bear crawl around the room.
If intermittent breaks during reading aren’t enough, add more movement! Fidget spinners have come and gone, but maybe they still work for your child. Squeeze toys, slime, clickers, any of these objects allow your child to release energy while still being able to complete their assignments.
Going back to the note-taking tips, encourage your child to get up and move when they take notes too. They can write down their ideas on sticky notes and walk across the room to stick them on the wall. Getting their wiggles out will help them stay on task longer without burning out.
3. Take turns
Not all parents have the luxury of time to sit down and read with their kids. If you’re one of the lucky ones, here are a few pointers to make the most of your time together. If your child has ADHD, they may find it challenging to get started on a task, like jumping into their reading homework.
A quick way to reign your child in is to offer to start reading first and then take turns reading paragraphs out loud. This helps reduce the anxiety that comes with anticipation of having to do something you really don’t want to (we’ve all been there) and offers the comfort of knowing that mom or dad is suffering through that boring schoolbook with them.
Speaking of boring schoolbooks, teach your child to think “glass half full” when it comes to homework assignments. Your child is probably a natural at complaining, but a positive mindset can get them far in their education. So, next time they say a book is boring, question them on it. What would make the story better? If possible, you may try switching to a new book that fit your child’s interests. Discuss what is going on in the book: the characters, the setting, the conflict.
A lot of times reading is boring because they don’t understand what they’re reading or they’re not retaining any of the information. Breaking down the passage as you read will keep them engaged and help with comprehension.
4. Location, location, location
Choosing where to let your child do their reading can be a tricky balance of work versus play. Children like to push their boundaries, and while you want to let reading be fun and relaxing, you also want to minimize distractions. Sometimes sitting at the dining table to read a book isn’t the ideal setting. As long as they refrain from texting, playing games, etc., encourage your child to get comfortable while reading. Maybe this means laying on the floor or curling up in a bean bag chair – switch it up!
Noise is another factor to consider for reading locations. If your child has rowdy younger siblings, it’s crucial to give your child a quiet space to be able to concentrate or even invest in noise-cancelling headphones for reading time. Some children with ADHD, however, find that reading in silence is the distraction. For these children, a white noise machine might be useful. White noise in the background helps inhibit intrusive thoughts without providing additional sources of distraction, such as lyrics in music.
If your child struggles with reading, a great strategy to build their confidence is to practice sight words and vocabulary words with them. The more words they rehearse and learn, the more fluent their reading will become. The simplest way to practice sight words and vocabulary words is to use flashcards. Whenever you have extra time, such as while waiting at the doctor’s office or standing in line at the grocery store, pull out your cards and make a game out of having your child read the cards as fast as they can.
Pinterest has lots of fun ideas for other games and strategies to practice sight words and vocabulary words. This post goes through ten easy activities you can use with sight words. If your child is tech-savvy, this website donates grains of rice to the World Food Programme for every correct answer they get on vocabulary questions. Regardless of how your child chooses to practice, they can work on developing their reading knowledge and have a blast doing it.