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Do You Have ADHD and Struggle With Reading?

Seven strategies to improve your focus and comprehension.

 iStock jacoblund
Source: Source: iStock jacoblund

Many patients with Adult ADHD struggle with their professional or school reading. People with ADHD have a tendency to lose interest, miss important information, and become easily distracted. Does this sound familiar to you?

Since many of my patients struggle with this issue, I have developed seven researched-based steps to improve their reading abilities and comprehension.

Write It Out

Write down the “why." Why am I am reading this? Am I reading this for background material? Something I may need in the future? To prepare for a meeting? Or to use for a project or presentation? When the “why” is very clear, it can help you to focus on what to look for and increase your motivation.

Start With the End

The other day, a patient told me that he needed to read a very technical document. He was going to attend a meeting where specific questions were going to be asked about the material related to his expertise. He was able to get the questions ahead of time and then do the reading. Thus, I suggested he write out the questions and answer them as he read the material. This increased his motivation and helped him delve more efficiently into the relevant material.

Always Read the Paper Version

This may sound old-fashioned; however, when people read on the computer screen, there are many distractions. Thus, I always recommend printing out the article or material in a paper form to improve focus.

Summarize in One Word

I learned this vital skill in a test preparation class and it has served me well during my training and professional career. First, read the paragraph, and then designate one word or a simple phrase that represents the material. If you can’t do this, you might get the sense that you didn’t understand what you read. And the sooner you realize this, the more time it will save you. Then, while you are reading, your brain is thinking about how the paragraph can be summarized. It can be challenging but make all the difference.

Engage With the Text

I feel like I am sounding like an English teacher. But engaging with the text is crucial. In the margins, write questions and comments. Which parts don’t you understand? What do you agree with and disagree with? Engaging with the text improves your reasoning skills and your comprehension of the material.

Read in 15-Minute Chunks

So often, people have great aspirations and they may avoid a task or project. Aim to read for 15-minute chunks of time. The brain can easily handle this. Planning to read a document or report for two hours feels onerous and the “procrastinating” brain will latch onto a more pleasurable behavior. Thus, aiming for a shorter time period can make the task more approachable.

Change the Environment

Do whatever it takes to get through the 15 minutes. Stand up rather than sitting at your desk or go to a coffee shop. Changing the environment can make the reading more palatable.


I hope you have found these tips useful and that you try them out today, maybe even right now. Look for something that you have been wanting to read. Give yourself 15 minutes and practice these skills.

I want you to incorporate these strategies in your life. If you do it right now and notice what helps and what doesn’t help, the chances that you will benefit from these tips will be higher. I wish you the best of luck.

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