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Sunday, April 22, 2012

ADHD reading tips

Do you have trouble sitting down and reading? How about remembering what you read with out having to reread the material? Are there subjects you find harder to read than others? Well, so did I until I discovered/invented reading strategies to help me get through reading assignments and study.

If you think there is only one way to read a book or an article, then you have a lot to learn about reading. Following someone else's prescription for how to read a book or an article isn't going to get you very far unless you are someone else. I wouldn't even have an AA degree if I did that, let alone get through all of my science and general ed classes. I entered community college with an eighth grade reading and writing level, I have since then developed a high reading capacity and my friends and family can vouch for the fact that my reading methods are anything but ordinary. I am going to share some of my own reading strategies as they maybe the very unorthodox ideas some of you need. And if they don't work for you at least you have more ways to look at reading than before.

OK now for my tips.

  1. Start by reading the chapter summary at the end of the chapter, glossary of terms and maybe questions. This can give you a framework of what the chapter is about.
  2. Skim through the subheadings, boldface print, and pictures. This can build on the framework you created in (1).
  3. Now when reading feel free to highlight, underline, write, doodle, fidget while reading. 
  4. Make sure you have pens and highlighters of many different colors.
  5. Color code your highlighting and pens. To keep it fresh change color coding every chapter. Color coding helps with distinguishing between key information from details. For important/key material consider marking it with your favorite color.
  6. Take frequent breaks, especially with dense material. 
  7. Make sure you drink plenty of water and eat a high protein snack or meal.
  8. Feel free to move around, experiment with white noise and different environments.
  9. Libraries or quiet environments aren't for everyone. Some people do better in coffee shops, restaurants, or at the park.
  10. feel free to turn the TV, listen to music, turn on a fan/air conditioner or white noise machines/tapes.
  11. For terms, formulas and key concepts consider having a stack of multicolored index cards to write down.
  12. If you take medication for ADHD and/or drink caffeinated beverages, be sure that they are in your system. 
  13. Sticky notes are great for marking important information and can also signal where you left off. This makes starting up after a break easier and helps you quickly refer back important material.
Most important thing to remember is to honor your learning/processing styles and your ADD/ADHD and coexisting diagnoses. This will help you determine/develop a system for reading textbooks and other material that maximizes your learning. This also can make it fun to read a textbook, which sounds unbelievable.


  1. Not being able to read is sooooooooooo frustraing. I can relate to all this colorful highlighting and doodling. This is the only way I can read--albeit slowly.

    1. There's nothing wrong with being a slow reader, in fact it gives you a different perspective from those of us who read more quickly.

  2. I really like these suggestions. Some of them I already use and some I think I will experiment with. Another thing that is really helpful for me relates to moving around. Sometimes, I'll find that I do my best work standing up. In college, I had a raised bed. It was the best desk I ever had. I would eat mustard on cheez-its (weird, I know) ;) and study for my tests, sometimes stretching or doing leg-lifts while I did. Although I've moved beyond those odd food habits (believe me, I have others), I need to find a raised space where I could study now that I'm back in school.

  3. P.S. Sarah is a GREAT ADD/ADHD Coach. If you're thinking about it, give it a try. Even a few sessions with her could turn your frustrations into positive solutions that you can apply throughout the rest of your life. I think one of the best things about her style is that she doesn't just help you come up with solutions for habits or ADHD-related issues that are coming up in your life; she helps you change your way of thinking until your positive behavior is a result of a new way of seeing yourself, your ADHD, and the world. Seriously--give it a try!