Speed Reading: the ADHD Reader’s Secret Weapon?

Troy Shu
Troy Shu
Updated at: August 24, 2023
A person sprinting through a tunnel made of books

Table of Contents

    Reading is a magical journey that takes us to new worlds, introduces us to different ideas, and expands our understanding of the world around us. But for some, this journey is not as easy as it might be for others. If you or someone you know has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), you may understand how challenging reading can become.

    ADHD often leads to struggles in focusing, making reading a daunting task. Distractions become more tempting, and even the most thrilling story might fail to keep one's attention. So, what can be done to turn the pages more easily? In this blog post, we will explore how speed reading might be the answer to these reading difficulties. We'll take a look at what ADHD is, understand its effects on reading, discover the techniques of speed reading, and hear real-life success stories. Most importantly, we will explore practical and effective reading strategies tailored to help individuals with ADHD.

    Understanding ADHD and Reading Challenges

    What is ADHD?

    ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is a condition that affects both children and adults. It's marked by symptoms such as difficulty in focusing, being overly active, or acting without thinking. These symptoms can make daily tasks, including reading, a real challenge.

    How ADHD Impacts Reading:

    • Distraction: A leaf rustling outside the window, a clock ticking, or even a thought popping up about dinner can easily pull one's attention away from the book.
    • Lack of Interest: Even the most engaging story might fail to capture attention, leading to boredom and a wandering mind.
    • Zoning Out: Sometimes, the mind drifts away, and although the eyes move across the words, the meaning doesn't sink in.

    Not everyone with ADHD struggles with reading, and not all reading challenges are a result of ADHD. It's a complex issue, and understanding it requires more than simply labeling it as a difficulty. ADHD is a medical condition, and it needs understanding and tailored strategies (which can include medication and non-medication treatments) to overcome its challenges, especially as it relates to reading.

    In the following sections, we'll explore the exciting world of speed reading and how it may be a game-changer for those struggling to read due to ADHD. Let’s dive in.

    What is Speed Reading?

    Speed reading is not just about racing through a book; it's a set of methods to read more quickly while still understanding what's being read. Imagine soaking up information at a faster pace, yet retaining and enjoying it just the same. It's like putting on running shoes for your mind, enabling you to traverse the landscape of literature with agility and grace.

    Brief History and Rise in Popularity:

    The concept of speed reading isn't new. It began to gain traction in the mid-20th century when educators and researchers began to experiment with reading methods, and has continued to grow in popularity. With the information age booming and the constant demand to stay updated, speed reading has become a valuable skill for many.

    Common Misconceptions about Speed Reading:

    Some think speed reading is about skipping words or pages, but we think speed reading is more than that: it’s about being able to read and get the information you want out of text in an efficient way. It includes techniques like reducing subvocalization (reading aloud in your head) and enhancing focus and comprehension. It's not a superficial skim but a deeper dive into the content, done more swiftly. You can read more about our definition of speed reading here.

    In the following sections, we’ll dive into the scientific reasons behind why speed reading works so well with ADHD and uncover specific strategies that you can try yourself or with a loved one.

    Scientific Perspective: Why Speed Reading Can Work Well with ADHD

    Sometimes, connections form in the most unexpected ways. Who would have thought that speed reading, a set of techniques designed for absorbing information quickly, could become a lifeline for those grappling with ADHD? To understand why this connection is more than a happy coincidence, we must delve into the scientific reasons behind it.

    ADHD Brain: Disruption between Knowledge and Performance:

    Researchers have discovered that while many ADHD brains can process information more quickly, they tend to struggle with maintaining attention. This is where speed reading fits in like a missing puzzle piece.

    ADHD often results in a disconnect between knowing what needs to be done and actually doing it. It's like having a super-fast car but struggling to keep it on the road. The ADHD symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and distractibility can often act like roadblocks.

    Making the Abstract More Tangible With Speed Reading

    Speed reading techniques offer a way to navigate these challenges. They turn reading into a multi-sensory, active, and engaging experience that feels more tangible and "real", which enhances focus. The brain starts to engage with the text in a new way and can tap into its natural processing speed more productively.

    Traditional reading methods might feel flat and un-engaging for an ADHD brain. Speed reading, on the other hand, adds layers of engagement by making reading more active, multi-sensory, and motivating.

    Speed Reading Techniques for the ADHD Brain

    Let’s take a closer look at speed reading techniques that are effective for the ADHD brain, offering insights and exercises that can be put into practice.

    1. Visualize While Reading:

    Remember how we talked about making reading multi-sensory? Visualization is key here. By painting a picture in your mind of what you're reading, you create a vivid and engaging experience. This strategy is particularly powerful for the ADHD brain, which often craves stimulation and engagement.

    How to Do It: As you read, imagine the scenes, characters, or concepts in your mind. Turn words into images. Create a mental movie that unfolds as you read.

    2. Reduce Subvocalization

    Subvocalization is the habit of silently pronouncing each word as you read. This can slow down reading and, for someone with ADHD, may lead to losing interest. Speed reading encourages reducing this habit, which can create a more fluid and engaging reading experience.

    How to Do It: Practice reading faster than you can sound the words out in your head. Reading software like SwiftRead can help you pace your reading to minimize subvocalization.

    3. Use a Pacer

    We spoke about adding a sense of urgency to reading. Using a pacer, like a finger or a pen, helps maintain a rhythm and adds that much-needed momentum for the ADHD brain.

    How to Do It: As you read, guide your eyes with a pacer, moving it along the lines at a steady pace. Challenge yourself by gradually increasing the speed of your pacer. This keeps the reading lively and interesting, aligning more with the pace of the ADHD brain.

    Keep in mind that one size does not fit all, especially when it comes to ADHD. Recognize your unique challenges and adapt these strategies to suit your reading style. Experiment with these techniques and find what feels most natural and effective for you. Don't be afraid to tweak and combine them, and let us know what you discover in the comments below!

    Success Stories: Speed Reading and ADHD

    For some, speed reading might seem like a talent reserved for the elite few. But what if I told you that speed reading has transformed the lives of everyday people, especially those with ADHD? Here are some inspiring quotes from readers with ADHD who’ve used SwiftRead, speed reading software, to read faster and learn more:


    I have ADHD so reading normally is usually a struggle. With SwiftRead I can read much faster than before.


    Absolutely game changing. I have ADHD and it's so hard to get through text. Getting it just "beamed into" my brain with SwiftRead is so much nicer. I've already shared SwiftRead with my co-workers.


    I've used SwiftRead for about a month now and I can say its one of the most helpful things I've used when it comes to school. I used to read very slowly due to ADHD, but now I can read almost anything very quickly.

    These real-life examples shed light on the potential that speed reading holds for those struggling with ADHD. Speed reading is more than a set of techniques; it's a pathway to rediscovery, empowerment, and a love for reading.

    Speed Reading and the Modern Mind

    In this blog post, we’ve revealed an unexpected but harmonious connection between speed reading and the ADHD brain. From understanding the unique challenges of ADHD to exploring the science behind speed reading, we've talked about how these strategies add layers of engagement, making reading more tangible and exciting. This isn't just about reading faster; it's about rediscovering the joy of reading, even if you have ADHD.

    But this connection goes beyond ADHD. In our rapidly evolving world, attention spans are shrinking. The digital age, filled with constant information and distractions, has affected how we all engage with content.

    The challenges of focus and attention faced by those with ADHD resonate with today’s broader societal patterns. In a world where information is king, speed reading can be thought of as a tool for lifelong learning and adaptation in the modern world.

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