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Struggling with Reading as a Neurodiverse Learner: How to Strengthen Reading Comprehension

Updated: Aug 12, 2022

Neurodiversity can mean a lot of different things to a lot of other people. Today’s article will focus on tips for your neurodiverse learner. They struggle with concentrating while reading, have problems retaining information, and have difficulty reading comprehension.

What is a Neurodiverse Learner?

The basic understanding of neurodiversity is “people whose brains function differently than the A-Typical brain.” These differences, seen in brain imaging, can explain the struggle some children have had in school for decades. Therefore, people with a diagnosis of ADD/ADHD, Autism, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, or Sensory Processes Disorder are all considered, Neurodiverse learners.

These students need different modifications and tools to strengthen reading comprehension. Because neurodiverse learners’ brains process information differently, it is necessary for educators to deliver content differently. Each neurodiverse student will need their own unique path in education to be successful.

Keep this in mind while you and your neurodiverse scholar work to find the best solutions. Strengthening reading comprehension for neurodiverse learners can be a lifelong struggle. Hopefully, this article will help determine the right path for you. Here are different things to try to strengthen reading comprehension if you, your child, grandchild, or loved one.

neurodiversity learner tips keep a journal

Reading shouldn’t be something you dread, but something that you love because it takes you to a whole new world and place you’d never experience otherwise.

Keep A Journal

Reading journals can be used in a variety of ways. Not only can we take notes as we read, but we can also draw images. Using drawing and color lights up a different location in the brain to help us make neural connections between information and memory. This can help struggling readers solidify their comprehension.

  1. Draw the setting

  2. Sketch the Characters

  3. Draw Important symbols

  4. Make a Table for things you take note of

  5. Recreate impactful scenes

Let the learners use as much or as little color as they want in these drawings. The key is to make it enjoyable. If the process is torture, it will create negative neural connections, and learners can block content.

In these journals, learners should avoid summaries longer than 2 sentences. Instead, try to do the following:

  1. Ask questions

  2. Make predictions

  3. Rewrite chapters

If we write as we read, it increases our understanding of what’s happening in the book. For those minds that tend to wander a lot as they read, writing a journal can give them a task so they don’t wander too far from the story. Journaling helps prevent your mind from reading three pages and not remembering a single thing that was read. For example, suppose you wait until the end of a chapter instead of jotting down notes, thoughts, and feelings as you go. In that case, it is more likely readers forget a lot of crucial information you wanted to touch on.

I like having a physical journal next to me when I read to list out my thoughts and make little drawings. Some people may feel that writing in the book margins is enough, but writing in the book itself doesn’t have enough space for my highly active brain. -Jessica Senesac

Still, I will highlight or underline things I think are essential in the book or something I feel is particularly well written. However, I still like to keep a journal beside me, so I don’t miss anything and forget the information later. It helps increase my ability to predict what will happen next like I’m a detective. In addition, it helps my comprehension of the story itself.

Tabletop has special reading journals for neurodiverse and neurotypical learners.

neurodiversity learner tips keep a journal

Sitting still and reading without an extra activity will not help strengthen reading comprehension. Engaging in the book by talking about, writing about, or drawing what you see will.

For Those Who Can’t Sit Still

Some people think that audiobooks aren’t the same as reading. The Tabletop Teaching Team would argue that some readers need an audiobook as they read. It helps dyslexic readers with comprehension, especially as they stare at a dauntingly long page.

Audiobooks also help those readers who can’t sit still. While it’s great to look at the pages of a book while listening to an audiobook, it isn’t always necessary. Yes, it is excellent to use the part of the brain that reads and processes information visually. However, when you simply need the information from the book, an audiobook will do the trick. This way, learners who need to move can walk around while the audiobook is playing.

Life isn’t simple when you’re feeling fidgety. Sometimes it can be a huge deal. Allowing a learner to move while listening to an audiobook or finding something to fidget with can significantly impact the learning experience.

When using an audiobook, it is still crucial to utilize a reading journal. Keep the journal out so that when you hear something you want to jot down, you can. It’s nice to be able to quickly write down a thought you want to express. Even more important, to write a question you want to ask about the book.

However, also allow yourself to move around. Maybe tap with a pencil, or pace the room as you listen to the book. If you or your scholar can physically read while doing these sorts of activities, allow this to happen. These little things go against the philosophy of “sit still and focus”; however, moving is the only way some neurodiverse learners will strengthen reading comprehension. If your learner is like this, don’t fight it; encourage it.

neurodiversity learner tips don't sit still

Movement isn’t a bad thing. In schools the kids who can’t sit still is frowned upon. Let’s understand their difference and give them a space to move as they need to help them focus. This will help strengthen their reading comprehension.

Dyslexic Readers

Dyslexia can be a big problem when it comes to reading. The most challenging years are not kindergarten, when kids are learning letters, or even first or second grade when kids are learning sight words. For dyslexic readers, the most challenging time for learning starts in third grade. This is when kids learn how to decode words, which is the process of sounding words out. This is also when kids are expected to start spelling correctly.

But all is not lost when it comes to dyslexic readers. There are multiple tricks that you can try. See which one works best for your learner.

  1. Use a ruler or piece of paper to block out all lines below the line being read.

  2. Use audiobooks to listen to while reading. This can help a dyslexic reader connect letterforms with words.

  3. Allow your reader to scan and report. Some dyslexic readers take in an entire page when “reading.” If this is the case, allowing them to record what they “scanned” for each page and help them learn how to hone the skill.

  4. Color films can help settle the letters on the page. Use a see-through color film, either red or blue, to help your reader.

  5. Using Journals can also allow dyslexic readers to record what they have read if they are struggling to get through small text sections.

neurodiversity learner tips dyslexic readers

There are so many new resources available for dyslexic readers. Try some of these tips to gain a confidence in reading that is well deserved.

Strengthen Reading Comprehension

Games can be a fun and interactive way to strengthen reading comprehension for younger and even older learners. Whether it’s a vocabulary game to help with sentence comprehension or a story creation game to understand an author’s purpose, games help.

We have a story creation game available on our YouTube channel. Try it out here.

If journals and games aren’t your thing, try talking out the book as you go. Find a reading partner, take turns reading and discussing what’s happening as you read. What are your thoughts and feelings? What questions do you have about the book? Then, see what the other person has to say!

Another great way to strengthen reading comprehension is to only read the stories you’re interested in. For example, today’s graphic novels have tons of complex stories with a higher vocabulary. These are perfect ways to get older kids and adults interested in reading. In addition, the pictures help tremendously for neurodiverse learners who need that add visuals to strengthen reading comprehension.

Sometimes a picture is what makes things clear. There’s a graphic novel for every type of genre out there if superheroes aren’t your thing. At the end of the day, it’s vital to have a choice in what you’re reading. Without interest, there’s no motivation to even try to comprehend what you’re reading. Not everyone needs to read Shakespeare to have a high comprehension level in their reading.

These tips and tricks will help the neurodiverse learner in your life. Try them out and see which tips are a good fit. Trial and error is one of the best paths to success.

neurodiversity learner tips

These tips and tricks will help the neurodiverse learner in your life. Try them out and see which tips are a good fit. Trial and error is one of the best paths to success.


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