Improve Reading with Dyslexia and ADHD with Mindfulness


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“Mindfulness has its roots in meditation and blends numerous approaches such as yoga. Meditation enables the individual to reprocess internal experiences with more awareness, neutrality and acceptance. It focuses on the breath to develop concentration and take control of attention. This is particularly helpful for people with specific learning difficulties who often report difficulties with concentration and attention.”


Reading skills have always been important but in the modern world they are essential. So, difficulties with reading can be a major obstacle in school, work, and life in general. Unfortunately, difficulties with reading are all too common. It has been estimated that 20% of the children in school struggle with reading. There are a number of problems that are responsible for these struggles, but the most common ones are dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).


Dyslexia is the most common form of language based disability. It literally means “poor language” and affects around 15% of the population. “Dyslexia is a neurological learning disability, characterized by difficulties with word recognition, by poor spelling, and limited decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede the growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.” – (International Dyslexia Association)


ADHD, on the other hand, also produces reading difficulties but in an entirely different way. It is a brain disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development. About 6% of school aged children exhibit ADHD with about 25% of these students have other serious learning problems with oral expression, listening skills, reading comprehension, and/or math and about 50% have listening comprehension problems. Hence, ADHD appears to affect reading primarily by inattention and impulsivity.


Mindfulness training may be helpful with the reading problems of children with dyslexia and ADHD. It has been shown to affect many of the symptoms of these disorders, improving attention and cognitive processes, reducing impulsivity, and generally improving ADHD symptoms. So, it would be expected that mindfulness training might be helpful with the reading problems of students with dyslexia and ADHD. In today’s Research News article “Mindful Reading: Mindfulness Meditation Helps Keep Readers with Dyslexia and ADHD on the Lexical Track.” See:

or below or view the full text of the study at:

Tarrasch and colleagues recruited adult college students with either dyslexia or ADHD and measured their reading, attention, mindfulness, emotional well-being, and sleep disturbance. They were then provided with an 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program which involves meditation, body scan, and yoga practices. They were re-measured at the conclusion of MBSR training.


They found that following the MBSR training there was a 19% decrease in reading errors and a significant improvement in sustained attention. There was an increase in lexical reading, indicating a greater reliance after MBSR on previously learned words and a reduction in reliance on phonetic reading, sounding out words. They also found significant decreases in impulsivity, perceived-stress, rumination, depression, state-anxiety, and sleep-disturbances and an increase in mindfulness. In addition, they found that the greater the increase in mindfulness the greater the improvement in reading and the greater the decrease in impulsivity the greater the improvement in reading.


Hence it appears that MBSR training improves reading, emotional well-being, and sleep disturbance in students. It appears that the training improves mindfulness which improves attention and reduces impulsivity and these in turn, improve reading. These are exciting results that mindfulness training can be of assistance with dyslexia and ADHD produced reading problems in college students. This suggests that mindfulness training earlier in schools may not only help students overall, but also help students with dyslexia and ADHD in their academic progress. This is a ripe area for future research.


So, improve reading with dyslexia and ADHD with mindfulness.


“Mindfulness is a skill that allows one to be less reactionary. Its primary force is teaching self regulation. Mindfulness (meditation) is a way of paying attention, “bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis”. This skill gives the person with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) tools for moment to moment self regulation of emotional, cognitive and behavior responses, essential for effective Executive Functioning.” – Ann Farris


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


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Study Summary

Tarrasch, R., Berman, Z., & Friedmann, N. (2016). Mindful Reading: Mindfulness Meditation Helps Keep Readers with Dyslexia and ADHD on the Lexical Track. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 578.



This study explored the effects of a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) intervention on reading, attention, and psychological well-being among people with developmental dyslexia and/or attention deficits. Various types of dyslexia exist, characterized by different error types. We examined a question that has not been tested so far: which types of errors (and dyslexias) are affected by MBSR training. To do so, we tested, using an extensive battery of reading tests, whether each participant had dyslexia, and which errors types s/he makes, and then compared the rate of each error type before and after the MBSR workshop. We used a similar approach to attention disorders: we evaluated the participants’ sustained, selective, executive, and orienting of attention to assess whether they had attention-disorders, and if so, which functions were impaired. We then evaluated the effect of MBSR on each of the attention functions. Psychological measures including mindfulness, stress, reflection and rumination, life satisfaction, depression, anxiety, and sleep-disturbances were also evaluated. Nineteen Hebrew-readers completed a 2-month mindfulness workshop. The results showed that whereas reading errors of letter-migrations within and between words and vowelletter errors did not decrease following the workshop, most participants made fewer reading errors in general following the workshop, with a significant reduction of 19% from their original number of errors. This decrease mainly resulted from a decrease in errors that occur due to reading via the sublexical rather than the lexical route. It seems, therefore, that mindfulness helped reading by keeping the readers on the lexical route. This improvement in reading probably resulted from improved sustained attention: the reduction in sublexical reading was significant for the dyslexic participants who also had attention deficits, and there were significant correlations between reduced reading errors and decreases in impulsivity. Following the meditation workshop, the rate of commission errors decreased, indicating decreased impulsivity, and the variation in RTs in the CPT task decreased, indicating improved sustained attention. Significant improvements were obtained in participants’ mindfulness, perceived-stress, rumination, depression, state-anxiety, and sleep-disturbances. Correlations were also obtained between reading improvement and increased mindfulness following the workshop. Thus, whereas mindfulness training did not affect specific types of errors and did not improve dyslexia, it did affect the reading of adults with developmental dyslexia and ADHD, by helping them to stay on the straight path of the lexical route while reading. Thus, the reading improvement induced by mindfulness sheds light on the intricate relation between attention and reading. Mindfulness reduced impulsivity and improved sustained attention, and this, in turn, improved reading of adults with developmental dyslexia and ADHD, by helping them to read via the straight path of the lexical route.