Blog, Bookish Life

Tips for Reading with ADHD/ADD


woman laying on bed reading a book

For us neurodiverse folk, everyday tasks can often be overwhelming. The media often portrays this as an issue exclusive to homework or to any work generally considered tedious. In reality, these overwhelming and sometimes internal urges to resist can happen within and against tasks and hobbies we thoroughly enjoy.

On the opposite end of that, neurodiverse people can hyperfixate on any given task and completely forget their need to pee or eat or even breathe. Having dealt plenty with this, I have composed a list of tips to help neurodiverse people settle into their book free of frustration and anxiety so they can finally tackle that TBR list. 

Note: This list, though written primarily for people with attention deficit disorder and/or autism, may be used in reference to anyone who deems it helpful. Even those undiagnosed. 

Use a Bookmark/Card 

Whether it be an old receipt, a business card, or a leather-bound bookmark, using some sort of device to underline the row you’re reading will do wonders for your reading experience. Not only is this great for creating crisp annotations but it’s also a fantastic tool for keeping you focused. This will help improve your reading comprehension and may help increase your reading speed. (This may be especially helpful for neurodiverse children who have to participate in Star Reading or similar programs implemented in schools.) 

Set a Timer 

For anyone with ADHD/ADD, I highly encourage you to take advantage of your clock/timer app. Setting a timer for small intervals of time (5-45 minutes depending on your energy and dopamine waves) can be extremely effective for avoiding both restlessness and hyperfixating.

The best practice is to set a timer for the duration of time you want to focus. If you are familiar with your own natural (neurodiverse) cadences, set your timers around those intervals. (For those who aren’t quite familiar with their natural cadences, this may be a good tool for finding them.) Once your timer goes off, set the timer again for a break period. Use this time to access your bladder and hunger levels. You may go on a walk, do another task, or surf the internet, but make sure to take a break. When your timer goes off again, try picking up your book and see how it feels.

If you have the urge to return to your book sooner, do it! It’s always good to follow the dopamine.

Extra Tip: Investing in a physical timer may be helpful for folks who are easily drawn in by their phones. Timer apps like Forest are great as well. You set a timer, grow a tree and if you abandon the timer app, your tree dies!

White/Brown Noise and Rain 

Listening to white noise, brown noise or (my personal favorite) rain sounds can be game-changing for the neurodiverse individual. Putting on headphones or AirPods and playing any of the previously mentioned sounds via YouTube, Spotify, or AppleMusic is a great way of blocking out outside noise and conversations and may even help to ease anxiety. This tool has been extremely helpful in helping me set the mood to focus and read. 

Snacks & Drinks

For those of us more prone to hyperfixation (or dehydration), I encourage you to prepare a snack and/or a drink and place it an arm’s length away from your intended reading area. This is perfect for when the romance starts getting steamy and you need to stuff your mouth to stop from screaming out loud. The presence of food or drink may also remind you and keep you conscious of how hungry or thirsty you are. Having a snack and drink handy prior to starting your reading may also help ease anxiety surrounding food preparation or potential interference with your outlined schedule for the day. 

Schedule a Read 

Incorporating a set reading time or block into your daily routine or schedule is a great way to prepare your brain to settle down. This can be one long reading block or a few smaller time periods dispersed throughout the day. You can schedule reading at certain times or around daily tasks. For example, you may decide to read for an hour right after you wake up. Maybe you read every day during your lunch break. Maybe you decide 4 p.m. every day is a perfect time. The best practice is to pick a time you can commit to and rely on even when on vacation or during unusually eventful days. 

Find a Spot 

Finding and designating a specific reading spot may be helpful in conditioning and preparing your brain to read. This can also easily be incorporated and attached to your scheduled reading. This spot should be comfortable and easily accessible. It can be your bed, your porch/fire escape, your floor, your office chair, your favorite lunch spot, a spot in the park, your bathtub… there are lots of options to choose from! Choose the one that sparks the most joy. 

Follow the Dopamine 

Following the dopamine is quite possibly the best thing you can do with anything in life. It essentially means doing what makes your heart content or, in this case, what scratches the itch in your brain. If your brain tells you to ditch the 762-page epic fantasy 422 pages in so you can read an entire graphic novel series set around three blueberries discovering the meaning of life, then by all means become a blueberry person! If you told yourself you were going to plant that lettuce today but you’re dying to find out whether the two characters in your romance novel finally kiss after what feels like eons of denial, go read that book!

Life is already filled with pretty stressful stuff. Books shouldn’t be one of those things. 

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