ADHD and Reading Difficulties

Young boy having difficulty reading

ADHD and reading difficulties often go hand in hand. In fact, reading difficulties are some of the most common problems associated with ADHD in children. Because ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) interferes with the learning process, reading and other academic skills can continue to fall behind if the symptoms aren't recognized and addressed.

ADHD and Reading Difficulties

Because ADHD symptoms typically include inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, reading comprehension can be difficult for a child diagnosed with ADHD. In contrast, however, there are some children who comprehend the written word much better than the spoken word. In other words, they are able to better focus while reading than while listening. Most often, however, children who are diagnosed with ADHD also have reading difficulties.

Children who are diagnosed with ADHD are often placed into a special education program. If so, an individualized lesson plan or IEP is constructed that documents specific problems, accommodations, and instructions for the education of the child. The IEP may be very specific and may include a behavior plan, testing instructions, and reading specifications as well. Assessment of the child's behavior and performance in class will be carefully documented and modified, if needed. A key area for assessment is reading.

Reading Help

Children diagnosed with ADHD are often prescribed medicine to correct the chemical imbalances in their body. This medication may be enough to manage ADHD and reading difficulties. For some children, behavior modification, training, and counseling help the child maintain control over his actions and academic and social performance. Many children achieve success with a combination of these two interventions, however.


Before help can be offered, a thorough assessment of the child's ADHD and reading difficulties must be conducted. Assessments can weed out hidden or unidentified problems that can increase if not addressed and managed. Children who are already struggling with reading difficulties may over time simply give up. This is why it is extremely important to deal with this problem as soon as it is detected. A reading specialist can identify a wide range of reading difficulties, determine where the reading process has broken down, and design a plan or program that will best address the problem areas. Specific reading areas might include the following:

  • Listening comprehension
  • Reading comprehension
  • Letter identification
  • Word identification
  • Pronunciation

Tips for Reading with ADHD Children

Parents and teachers can help their ADHD children be successful readers. Of course, it takes time and patience. Still, with medication (if necessary) and behavior modification, a child who has been diagnosed with ADHD can be a good reader. Reading is the key to success in the classroom. Once a child becomes a better reader, his performance levels will increase in all of his subject areas. The following tips will help you when dealing with a child who has both ADHD and reading difficulties.

  • Read! Read! Read!
  • Talk about what you have read.
  • Let your child read to you.
  • Let your child see you reading.
  • Visit your local library-often.
  • Provide lots of interesting reading materials.
  • Find a quiet place to read together.
  • Read slowly and quietly.
  • Don't overdo it!

More Resources

Finally, more information and resources on ADHD and reading difficulties, check out the following Web sites:

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