Teaching ADHD Kids to Read

Tiger Tuesday teaching  ADHD children to readAre Your ADHD Kids Too Fidgety to Read?

Kids who have ADHD often have a hard time sitting still. Not to mention doing the same boring thing over and over again.

Instead of insisting that they sit still, try strategies that encourage moving. Instead of boring worksheets, try games.

Helping ADHD kids with reading proficiency often requires flexibility and creativity on the part of reading specialists, teachers and parents. Teaching ADHD kids to read can be successful and easier by following a few simple strategies.

The suggestions below can be modified for teachers in a classroom, reading specialist working with one child at a time, or parents helping with reading at home.

  • Make if fun! Research has shown that kids learn more quickly when they’re having a good time. Since ADHD kids can lose interest quickly, reading materials need to be interesting and fun. Playing reading card games and Lotto Games make it easier to gain reading skills. The Tiger Tuesday Interactive Reading Program has lots of games, including card games that can be played in four different formats: Old Maid, Memory, Go Fish, and War. Tiger Tuesday even has plays. Kids get to play a character, use props, stand up and move around.
  • Encourage writing or drawing, even scribbling while reading. When kids write a few words, draw a picture, or scribble, they think about what they’re reading and about what they can write or draw. Encourage children to use their own words. Spelling and grammar don’t count. These activities help them stay focused, learn new words, and improve comprehension.
  • Give kids permission to subvocalize. When kids “mouth” the words silently, their brains “hear’ the words. This practice often helps them stay focused and learn. If you’re working one-on-one, encourage reading out loud.
  • Follow with a finger or a bookmark. Encourage kids with ADHD to use their index finger as a guide or a bookmark with a straight edge turned on its long side. Their finger or bookmark underlines words as they read them. Teaching ADHD kids to readThis helps kids who regularly lose their place, skip lines, and omit or repeat words.|
  • Imagine and think ahead. Ask kids what they think will happen next in a story. It doesn’t matter who’s right and who’s wrong, you’ve prompted them to start thinking about reading the story.
  • De-clutter and get rid of distractions. ADHD kids are easily distracted, as you know. And it’s hard to read if you’re distracted. Messy desks, cluttered classrooms with lots of visuals, and bedrooms with so much stuff everywhere that nothing can be found make these kids even more unfocused. They have a hard time getting their “stuff” organized so you, as a teacher or parent, will need to help instead of criticizing or nagging.

Teaching ADHD Kids to Read Using Incentives

  • Play Music or white noise. Although it might seem that music would be distracting to a child with ADHD, some children find silence distracting. You can easily test whether music or white noise helps your child or is distracting. For white noise, try a CD of rain or ocean sounds, even a fan. Some teachers report improved concentration in their classes when they play calm music softly in the background. Test it in your class.
  • Give praise frequently. Even when kids haven’t met your standard for their grade level yet, acknowledge their improvement. Maybe your goal is to read for 20 minutes but the children you’re working with are a long way from 20 minutes. When they go from reading for 5 minutes to reading for 10 minutes, let them know you’re pleased with the progress.
  • Use a timer. When doing daily reading at home, it sometimes helps kids stay focused and motivated if they’re being time. The buzzer lets them know when they’re done. They can set the timer themselves.

Teaching ADHD Children to Read by Encouraging Movement

  • Move around. When you’re working one-on-one with children, allow them to stand or walk around while you have a conversation about what they just read.
  • Work in short spurts with frequent breaks. Young children learning to read need to work in short time periods. Test the limit with your reading group. If you have squirming and not paying attention after 10 minutes. Stop. Take a break. Move around. Sing. Draw a picture. Then come back to the lesson. You may find this disruptive, but in the long run, you’ll see gains in reading. The same thing applies at home. If you’re working on reading with your child, ten minutes may be the limit. Stop when your child isn’t focusing. Instead of pushing for more, take a break. Eat a snack. Go outdoors. Dance. Swing. Climb a jungle gym.
  • Exercise. Researchers have proven the many benefits of physical exercise. One of those benefits is improvement in concentration and focus. John Ratey, a Harvard psychiatrist and ADHD specialist has seen ADHD kids improve in school by doing little more than engaging in rigorous physical exercise every day. In your classroom, you may find that kids can stay on task longer if they march around the room swinging their arms a couple of times before they sit down. At home, suggest that kids run around outdoors before doing reading homework (or any homework).
  • Allow quiet fidgeting. ADHD children move around a lot. Some seem to tap and fidget endlessly. Telling them to stop doesn’t help. As a rule of thumb, allow this behavior if it doesn’t make noise and doesn’t distract other kids. Keep in mind that your goal is to improve reading skills, not to make ADHD kids stop wiggling.

Try one or two strategies. Begin with finding reading activities that are fun, allowing and encouraging kids to move, working for short intervals with frequent breaks, and giving praise when a child improves. Then add a couple more strategies. See what works and what your children respond to. Teaching ADHD kids to read may seem like a challenge but with the right strategies, patience and flexibility these kids will master reading.

Although many ADHD kids have high IQs, lots of them will have learning disabilities such as dyslexia or other challenges with reading. Depending on the children you’re working with, you’ll want to read about Learning Disabilities and Dyslexia.

The 40-page Dyslexia Toolkit has songs, games, and other fun activities. You can use these activities over and over again to help improve reading skills for all kids learning to read, not just those with dyslexia. Pick up a copy of the Dyslexia Toolkit today for your classroom or to use at home.


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