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Reading with ADHD in 2024: best tools and tips

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Many children and adults with ADHD find reading difficult. They may struggle with focus, with sitting still to read, or they may battle distractions. See tips for reading with ADHD

Many children and adults with ADHD find reading difficult. They may struggle with focus, with sitting still to read, or they may battle distractions. All this can impact reading comprehension and retention of the material. Kids may struggle with focus and this difficulty reading can affect their grades. At work, adults may find that difficulty reading with ADHD affects their performance on the job. These difficulties can cause frustration, low self-esteem, and even lead to depression as both kids and adults become discouraged because they can’t see a way to overcome them. There is a solution. An exciting ever-evolving technology, human-sounding text-to-speech (TTS), can help by offering children and adults a way to listen to text. Best of all, it empowers individuals with learning disabilities like ADHD, children and adults alike.

Before we begin, what is ADHD?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, affects about 8% of children in the United States and about 4% of adults over 18. According to the CDC, it is one of the most prevalent neurodevelopmental disorders affecting children – although adults can also be affected. Individuals who have ADHD diagnosis often struggle with paying attention or focusing, in addition to having challenges reading books. They might have a hard time with impulse control or have a tendency to be fidgety, overly active or lose interest in things quickly. Any of these symptoms can make reading difficult, but when the person experiences several of them at once, reading can seem impossible.

There are three types of ADHD:

  1. Predominantly Inattentive Presentation – The person struggles with focus, making it difficult to stay on task, organize, follow instructions, pay attention to detail, or keep up with a conversation. They are easily distracted and are often forgetful.
  2. Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation – The person struggles with sitting still for any period of time. They tend to talk a lot, fidget, and struggle with impulsivity. Adults may feel restless while children may move constantly, running, climbing, or jumping. They interrupt when others are talking, speak at times that are inappropriate, have trouble with controlling the volume of their voice, have trouble waiting their turn, and grab things out of other peoples’ hands.
  3. Combined Presentation – The person exhibits symptoms of both types of ADHD.

You can read more about ADHD here.

Symptoms and challenges of ADHD

Do you find yourself rereading material because you lost focus? Do you find it difficult to stay on task? Do you feel intimidated by your workload? Individuals with ADHD often struggle with staying organized, managing time, and maintaining attention. They may find it challenging to complete tasks, follow instructions, or stay on track with their goals. These difficulties can lead to academic and professional challenges, as well as strained personal relationships. In addition it can affect their mental health and self-esteem. Moreover, individuals with ADHD may experience difficulties with emotional regulation and impulse control. This can result in impulsive decision-making, difficulty managing frustration, and a tendency to act without considering the consequences. These challenges can further contribute to the overall impact of ADHD on an individual's life. But it's important to note that this disorder doesn’t define the individual. There are plenty of resources like Speechify that mitigate some of these challenges. The software helps read aloud content.

How ADHD may make reading difficult for some people

All types of ADHD have the potential to cause reading difficulties for children and adults. Difficulty sitting still and difficulty focusing are common symptoms and can affect the way the child or adult processes, comprehends and retains the information and ultimately causes reading problems. Memory and retention are two of the most common concerns of adults with ADHD as well as parents of children with ADHD. Processing information for the ADHD brain is a struggle because of distracting thoughts and distractions in the environment. Managing distractions as well as managing time can be difficult and can significantly impact reading. What’s more, just sitting still can be a source of frustration and make reading a struggle. People with ADHD have a very hard time concentrating and focusing. This is not their fault. It is how their brain processes information. However, it does make it harder for them to retain information or maximize their working memory. This can affect comprehension as well as reading speed. It can also cause them to avoid reading because it’s “just too hard.”

Top 5 ADHD-friendly reading tools to enhance focus and comprehension

Navigating the challenges of the ADHD struggle can be daunting, especially when it comes to reading material and focusing on text. Fortunately, technology offers a range of tools designed to assist those who struggle with attention and concentration. From text-to-speech applications that breathe life into the written word, to distraction blockers that help maintain focus, these tools are transforming the reading experience for individuals with ADHD. Below is a carefully curated list of the top 5 ADHD reading tools, each offering unique features to cater to different needs and preferences, with the standout option, Speechify, leading the pack.

  1. Speechify
    • Pros: Offers web, mobile, and tablet apps, allowing text to be converted to speech for listening anywhere. Features high-quality, human-like voices and supports a variety of content formats.
  2. SwiftRead
    • Pros: Browser extension that uses rapid serial visual presentation for speed reading, with customization options for font and colors. Free version available, with paid upgrades for additional features like text-to-speech.
  3. Freedom
    • Pros: Blocks distractions across all devices with the ability to create multiple blocklists. Also provides ambient background noise to aid focus.
  4. Cold Turkey Blocker
    • Pros: Customizable blocking schedules, system-wide operation to prevent bypassing, and features that make it difficult to cheat, with both free and paid versions.
  5. Forest
    • Pros: Engaging tree-growing concept to maintain focus, with functionality for tagging work periods and tracking productivity trends. Offers a unique approach to the Pomodoro technique with a gamified aspect.

These tools provide various approaches to improving reading and focus for individuals with ADHD, from audio assistance to distraction blocking and time management.

How can parents help their children with ADHD?

Once a learning or reading disability is ruled out or addressed, parents can support their children with ADHD by educating themselves. Trying to force an ADHD child to be “normal” is a mistake. It makes the child feel defective and less than. This can have a serious emotional impact, causing problems with self-esteem and self-worth. Instead, find solutions that work with ADHD symptoms. Talk to your child to better understand their personal struggles – ADHD does not look the same in all people. Use that information to launch a plan to not only help them read, but that instills a love of reading. Identify tools that can help.

How adults and students with ADHD can get more from their reading experience

Whether reading for leisure, schoolwork, or job performance, adults and children with ADHD can get more from their reading experience. There is a lot published on ADHD and reading challenges for adults as well as children, and experts stress the importance of minimizing distractions and working with the individual’s unique ADHD presentation. A counselor can help with finding strategies tailored to the individual that can help increase reading comprehension and speed. Finding a low distraction reading space is another popular solution. Text-to-speech is another common solution that is quickly gaining popularity because it frees the person to do other things while “reading” such as playing with a fidget spinner, doing other work, or walking or exercising – or they can follow along with the text reader that can help summarize the most important information.

Common methods of managing ADHD

Various methods are used to manage ADHD, including medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes. Medication, such as stimulants or non-stimulants, can help regulate brain chemicals and improve focus and impulse control. Therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), can provide individuals with strategies to manage symptoms and develop coping mechanisms. In addition to medication and therapy, lifestyle changes can also play a crucial role in managing ADHD. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and sufficient sleep can contribute to overall well-being and help alleviate some symptoms of ADHD. Additionally, implementing organizational strategies, such as using planners or setting reminders, can assist individuals in better time management.

Tips for reading with ADHD: try text-to-speech with Speechify

TTS tools can turn any text into speech. People tend to stay focused on what they are hearing, though they might be doing something else. You or your child with ADHD can do this for a long period of time. There are ways that people with ADHD can read and review information. There are a number of apps available that help organize information, read text, and provide summaries of larger works. TTS gives them that freedom by empowering them to pursue active reading activities independently. Speechify offers TTS reading solutions that allows users the choice of listening to the text or following along with the Speechify text highlighter. Not only that but it helps the user improve their reading skills as well. This makes it easier to complete schoolwork and adults can experience increased job performance and productivity. It opens the door for them to discover the adventures and excitement of delving into a good book and getting lost in the story without frustration. But best of all, it gives them the power and freedom to finish reading a piece of content more often than not. Its vital not to miss the important details, with speechify that won’t happen!


Can you enjoy reading with ADHD?

Reading is an activity that can be enjoyed by just about anyone, including adults and children with ADHD. However, it can be a challenge because the person with ADHD may have trouble sitting still. Focus may also be a problem because their mind is racing. TTS provides a hands-free way to read text, allowing the user to do other things while reading, such as using a fidget spinner, or other focus enhancing activity.

How can I get better at reading with ADHD?

ADHD can make reading a challenge, but it is not impossible. If you have ADHD you can read, comprehend, and retain what you read. These tips can help.

  1. TTS works like audiobooks by providing a hands-free reading experience but gives you the flexibility to expand your library with works that have not been made into audiobooks – and even other types of documents.
  2. Create an area just for reading, where you are comfortable and are free from distractions.
  3. Read daily and set measurable goals for each day.
  4. Choose books that have shorter chapters.
  5. Read books that are illustrated so that your brain is constantly engaged as it goes from reading to viewing the image, then back to reading.
  6. Identify several authors whose styles you like and search for books by them, but also search for other authors like them to expand your interests.
  7. Accept any challenges that ADHD presents and look for ways to work with it. Don’t try to change to fit some preconceived notion of what a reader should be or how you should read and comprehend. Find your way, what works best for you, and stick with that.

Are audiobooks better for ADHD?

People with ADHD often do quite well with audiobooks because they provide a stimulating, hands-free alternative to paper books. They can still get their reading in, satisfying the desire for new information, ideas, and stories, but without being bound to one place, trying to sit still and read. Audiobooks can be liberating for the person with ADHD. Audiobooks can also aid people who struggle with dyslexia.

Is TTS good for ADHD?

Text-to-Speech, or TTS, can be a good solution for someone with ADHD, simply because it allows the person to expand their library beyond books that have not been made into audiobooks. TTS applications like Speechify have tools that make reading even easier. A text highlighter allows the reader to follow along by providing a visual marker within the text. It can help train the brain to focus on text, read, and comprehend. This empowers the person with ADHD by encouraging reading on their terms.

Cliff Weitzman

Cliff Weitzman

Cliff Weitzman is a dyslexia advocate and the CEO and founder of Speechify, the #1 text-to-speech app in the world, totaling over 100,000 5-star reviews and ranking first place in the App Store for the News & Magazines category. In 2017, Weitzman was named to the Forbes 30 under 30 list for his work making the internet more accessible to people with learning disabilities. Cliff Weitzman has been featured in EdSurge, Inc., PC Mag, Entrepreneur, Mashable, among other leading outlets.