ADHD and Reading: Understanding the Connection

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. It is characterized by inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. One of the challenges faced by people with ADHD is reading. Reading is an essential skill that is acquired early in life, and it plays a critical role in academic success. But, for individuals with ADHD, reading difficulties can negatively impact their educational attainment, job performance, and life opportunities. In this article, we will explore the link between ADHD and reading and provide strategies to help individuals with ADHD improve their reading skills.

ADHD and Reading Comprehension

Research has shown that children and adults with ADHD have lower reading abilities than their peers without ADHD. This is because ADHD affects attention, focus, and executive function, which are all necessary for reading. For example, individuals with ADHD may find it difficult to concentrate on the text, comprehend what they are reading, or remember what they have read. Symptoms of ADHD such as impulsivity and hyperactivity can also interfere with reading. For instance, impulsive individuals may skip words or lines while reading, and hyperactive individuals may find it hard to sit still and focus on the text.

Another challenge faced by people with ADHD is reading comprehension. Reading comprehension involves understanding text, deriving meaning from it, and applying the information in real-life situations. Studies have revealed that individuals with ADHD have weaker reading comprehension skills than their peers without ADHD. This is because ADHD affects working memory, which is responsible for holding and manipulating information in the mind while reading. Individuals with ADHD may also struggle with inferential comprehension, which involves making connections between the text and background knowledge or experiences.

ADHD and Phonological Processing

Phonological processing refers to the mental processes involved in manipulating and recognizing sounds in spoken language. Phonological awareness is the ability to recognize and manipulate the sounds that make up words, such as rhyming, segmenting, and blending. Phonemic awareness is a sub-skill of phonological awareness that involves identifying and manipulating individual sounds or phonemes in words. Individuals with ADHD may have challenges with phonological processing, which can negatively impact their reading skills.

Children with ADHD may have trouble with phonological awareness, which is essential for learning to read. For instance, they may find it difficult to rhyme words, segment sounds, or blend sounds to make words. Adults with ADHD may also have challenges with phonemic awareness, which can make it hard to decode unfamiliar words while reading. For example, they may struggle to sound out words, recognize sight words, or apply spelling patterns.

Strategies for Improving Reading Skills in ADHD

Fortunately, individuals with ADHD can improve their reading skills through various strategies. Here are some tips:

1. Engage in Reading Practice

Reading is a skill that improves with practice. Individuals with ADHD should set aside time each day for reading practice. They can start with short passages and gradually increase the length and complexity of the texts. To keep their attention and interest, they should choose reading material that is relevant and engaging to them.

2. Use Multisensory Approaches

Individuals with ADHD often benefit from multisensory approaches that engage different senses while learning. For reading, they can use techniques such as finger tracing, reading aloud, listening to audiobooks, and highlighting text with different colors. These approaches can help them focus, remember, and comprehend the text.

3. Break Down the Text

Breaking down the text into smaller chunks can help individuals with ADHD manage their attention and focus. They can use strategies such as outlining, summarizing, and highlighting key points. These approaches can also help with comprehension and retention of the information.

4. Build Phonological Awareness

Phonological awareness is an essential skill for reading. Individuals with ADHD can improve their phonological awareness by engaging in activities such as rhyming, segmenting, blending, and manipulating sounds. These skills can help them decode unfamiliar words, recognize sight words, and spell correctly.

5. Seek Professional Help

If reading difficulties persist despite these strategies, individuals with ADHD should seek professional help. A qualified reading specialist or educational therapist can diagnose any underlying learning disabilities and provide targeted interventions to improve reading skills. Medication and behavioral therapy may also be necessary to manage ADHD symptoms that interfere with reading.


Reading is a critical skill that is challenged by ADHD. Individuals with ADHD may struggle with attention, focus, executive function, phonological processing, and reading comprehension. However, with the right strategies and support, they can improve their reading skills and achieve success in academic and career pursuits. Engaging in reading practice, using multisensory approaches, breaking down the text, building phonological awareness, and seeking professional help are some of the ways that individuals with ADHD can overcome their reading difficulties.


FAQs about ADHD and Reading

1. How does ADHD affect reading?

ADHD can make it difficult for people to focus and pay attention, which can impact their ability to read and comprehend text. They may struggle with staying focused long enough to read an entire page or chapter, and may have difficulty remembering what they’ve read. Additionally, people with ADHD may experience difficulties with processing information, which can further impact their reading ability.

2. What strategies can help individuals with ADHD improve their reading skills?

There are several strategies that can help individuals with ADHD improve their reading skills. These include breaking reading tasks into smaller, manageable chunks, using a highlighter or sticky notes to help stay focused on important information, and using visual aids such as diagrams or charts to help organize information. Additionally, audiobooks or text-to-speech software can help individuals with ADHD who struggle with reading comprehension.

3. Can medication help improve reading ability in individuals with ADHD?

While medication may help improve attention and focus in individuals with ADHD, there is limited research to suggest that it directly improves reading ability. However, some individuals may find that with improved attention and focus, they are better able to comprehend and retain what they read. It is important to work with a healthcare professional to find the best treatment plan for managing ADHD symptoms.


1. Milich, R., Balentine, A. C., & Lynam, D. R. (2001). ADHD combined type and ADHD predominantly inattentive type are distinct and unrelated disorders. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 8(4), 463-488. (Milich et al., 2001)

2. Willcutt, E. G., Pennington, B. F., Olson, R. K., Chhabildas, N., & Hulslander, J. (2005). Neuropsychological analyses of comorbidity between reading disability and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: in search of the common deficit. Developmental Neuropsychology, 27(1), 35-78. (Willcutt et al., 2005)

3. Frazier, T. W., & Demaree, H. A. (2004). Nonverbal memory and attention deficits in children with ADHD: combined subtype versus predominantly inattentive subtype. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 32(5), 537-548. (Frazier & Demaree, 2004)