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Reading Comprehension and ADHD: is there a problem in processing speed or low working memory?

Reading Comprehension and ADHD

Low processing speed or low working memory?

Low reading comprehension and ADHD are two of the main causes of scholar failure. Although low reading comprehension is frequent among students, it is a strong problem especially when it is associated with ADHD. Children with ADHD tend to have deficits in processing speed and working memory. In fact, nowadays it is being studied the possibility of another ADHD variant; characterised with a sluggish cognitive time.

In the study of Noggle, Thompson & Davis (2014), the authors tried to study the relation between processing speed and working memory, with the low reading comprehension that characterises ADHD. The results showed that working memory is significantly correlated to reading comprehension and processing speed. However, working memory is more significant than processing speed in ADHD children who present low reading comprehension (Noggle et al., 2014). Moreover, this study shows that there are ADHD children who do not present executive function deficits. Low executive functions have an effect on information processing; the child cannot have a global mental image of what he has read.

A study of ADHD children and low readability showed that differences on reaction time predicts low reading comprehension because it affects the speed of reading words (decoding). Furthermore, the standard deviation in reaction time was a good predictor for reading words and reading comprehension (Tamm, Epstein, Denton, Vaughn, Peugh & Willcutt, 2014).

These two studies seem to indicate that low speed processing and low reaction time tend to mediate between low reading comprehension and ADHD.


Noggle, C., Thompson, J., & Davis, J. (2014). B-22Impact of Working Memory and Processing Speed on Reading Comprehension Performance in ADHD. Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology: The Official Journal of the National Academy of Neuropsychologists, 29(6), 544. doi:10.1093/arclin/acu038.110

Tamm, L., Epstein, J. N., Denton, C. A., Vaughn, A. J., Peugh, J., & Willcutt, E. G. (2014). Reaction Time Variability Associated with Reading Skills in Poor Readers with ADHD. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society: JINS, 20(3), 292–301. doi:10.1017/S1355617713001495

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