What’s the Connection Between ADHD and Dyslexia?

ADHD and dyslexia image 1Many children diagnosed with ADHD or who experience attention problems also struggle with reading. Approximately 25% of all children who are diagnosed with ADHD are also dyslexic. ADHD and dyslexia commonly co-occur, so many children who experience deficits with basic reading skills such as phonics, reading comprehension, or reading fluency also have difficulty sustaining their attention and effort across all types of academic tasks.

There are also many children who do not have dyslexia, but whose short attention span makes it difficult to master reading, even though they have the necessary phonological, decoding, and  fluency skills to be a good reader. These children may have difficulty putting the necessary time and effort into acquiring reading-mastery skills and, as a result, are sometimes mistaken for showing signs of dyslexia. Many children with ADHD struggle to sustain their effort and attention to difficult tasks that are not inherently rewarding to them such as reading. For example, parents regularly report how difficult it is to get their child with ADHD to stay still and practice his daily reading assignments or to take the time to sound out a word without rushing through it.

The good news is that we are finding that many children with ADHD and dyslexia or with short attention spans will put forth more time and effort into learning academic skills through the use of technologies. One tool that has some research data support is Mimio Reading, formerly Headsprout. Mimio Reading and MimioSprout are computer programs that provide instruction in phonological awareness with high levels of interactivity, immediate feedback, and an opportunity for both children and parents to keep track of their progress.

In a small study  conducted by July Clarfield and Gary Stoner, children with ADHD were found to display more improvement with reading fluency when using Mimio technology as compared to traditional teacher-directed instruction. In addition, less off-task activity was observed in children with ADHD when engaged in the computer program rather than with teacher- directed instruction. While very few other studies examine this issue, the results fit with anecdotal observations on the part of parents and educators about how children with ADHD and attention problems tend to sustain their focus more on computerized training of academics than in traditional classroom-based approaches.

The Connection between ADHD and Dyslexia:

1.) Games and apps.  Children with attention problems can effectively learn academic skills from well-designed games and apps designed to meet their specific learning needs, and can be very helpful for struggling readers

3.) Interaction is key. Not only do parents and teachers play a powerful role in teaching the skills, they also need to structure learning materials and provide encouragement and reinforcement.

3.) Look online. Use other similar web-based reading programs such as BrainPop and SmartTutor that have engaging, explicit instructional strategies and a sequential approach to teaching skills.

4.) Feedback matters. Immediate and positive feedback from the game and from instructors promotes learning and sustained attention. The newest neuroscience of reading confirms the importance of repeated practice for emerging readers, so combining computerized instruction and opportunities to sit and read with parents or teachers is the best course of action.

5.) Embrace eReaders & audiobooks. Use eReaders and tablet devices such as an iPad or Kindle to improve reading skills. Recent studies suggest that fluency and comprehension can be improved in students with dyslexia while they are using an e-reader and that it may have an impact on attention processes. Audiobook apps such as Blio can also be of great assistance.

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