Children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and reading disabilities (RD) are integrated into the majority of mainstream classrooms across the country. These children may have similar IQ levels as their peers but often have difficulty with reading comprehension, decoding, interpretation, and sustaining attention. Educators have struggled to teach these children in the best way possible but many times cannot keep them engaged. However, adding a little variety to story lines may be just what these children need to get them hooked.
Children with ADHD need increased stimulation and arousal in the classroom. When they do not get it from external sources, they seek to find it through disruptive behavior and other means that can hold their attention. Kids with RD lose interest quite quickly in traditional story lines because they must exert extreme effort to decipher long plots and comprehend relatively uninteresting character portrayals. To determine what effect a spicier story would have, Suzanne M. Beike of the Department of Graduate Studies in Education at Purdue University conducted a study comparing how children ranging in age from 7 to 11 years, with ADHD, RD, and no disabilities, responded to and processed enhanced reading material.
Beike assessed the children’s comprehension, engagement, and attention to details after they read a high and low novelty rendition of Aesop’s fables. The high novelty condition included surprising twists and endings, more intense and active verbs, colorful adjectives, and unfamiliar characters. She found that even though the comprehension levels of the RD boys were relatively low, the novel story condition did positively affect these children. They were less taxed when reading the stories and sustained attention longer. The ADHD group also experienced more arousal and engagement when reading the high novelty stories, decreasing their need for self-stimulation. Beike believes these findings could help educators by encouraging them to enhance reading material for ADHD and RD children. She added, “It is also possible to ask children to develop their own surprising endings or to change the nature of the characters and actions in the existing text of materials they read.”
Beike, S. M., Zentall, S. S. (2012, February 13). The Snake Raised Its Head: Content Novelty Alters the Reading Performance of Students at Risk for Reading Disabilities and ADHD. Journal of Educational Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0027216
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