3 Best Ways Colored Overlays Work to Calm ADHD

by Pat Wyman on November 15, 2013

Encouraging children with ADHD to read for longer periods of time can be a challenging task but here are the 3 best ways colored overlays work to calm ADHD.

But first, let us examine what is going on when a child is diagnosed with a reading disorder, or is a struggling reader who has ADHD.

Frequently, these two disorders exist side by side as co-morbid disorders but not always. There are subtle differences in the way a child interprets the word on the page when he or she has a reading or visual perceptual disorder. The same goes for ADHD. There is also the possibility that visual problems and eyesight or perceptual deficiencies may be playing a role.

What skills are needed to be an efficient reader?

This is the burning question and it will not really matter whether the child has a reading disorder of some type, dyslexia or ADHD. The important element here is to develop ways of helping them become more efficient readers and to be able to enjoy the pleasures that only the written word can give. Here is a partial list of reading skills that any child will need:

  • ability to process word decoding which will also include phonetic awareness
  • the ability to track their eyes from line to line smoothly
  • see the words clearly
  • exploiting working memory to remember story details to maintain interest
  • reading speed which will depend on a number of factors.
  • relating what they already know to the new information they have processed through reading
  • keeping attention levels sufficiently high to help with all the cognitive demands that reading makes on the child. (Bernstein, Bellinger and Waber, 2009)

How can colored overlays help?

colored overlays

Experts agree that the way a child perceives the writing on a page will have an enormous impact on his or her reading ability. Often, children report that the text on the page seems to move, there is blurring and jumbling of letters and words.

Using colored overlays has helped many children to overcome these problems according to research in The Reading Journal. We frequently read about children who have been able to get their reading speed and comprehension back to near normal levels in a relatively short time using colored overlays and sometimes it’s a quickly as one week!

The main advantage they all reported when using colored overlays was that the print on the page suddenly became much clearer and reading was enjoyable and engaging. The colored overlays are also much cheaper than having to buy specially tinted reading glasses which can run into the thousands of dollars.

The problems ADHD children have in reading

A well known neuropsychologist, Matthew Cruger, has written about the special difficulties that ADHD children have when reading. The problems with a dysfunctional working memory together with slower processing and distractions make reading a challenging activity, to say the least.

But he recommends that if the child is guided and helped to develop several reading skills, then the task is made much easier. Frequent interruptions and exclamations by the ADHD child are typical also when reading. This is where colored overlays can really help to calm the ADHD child while reading.

3 best ways colored overlays work to calm ADHD

1. You can easily discover the best colored overlays that makes your child or student feel comfortable. This is truly about asking your child how they feel when using a certain color. Once the color is right, the child will automatically calm down when the print clears up.

Keep the colored overlays over the full page in the book and store the overlay inside the book if possible so they is easily accessible.

Also, if a child reads anything on the computer, place the colored overlays in a way that they cover the whole screen. You may need two of the same color to do this. You’ll find an ADHD child calm down very quickly when the print does not move around or look differently than it should.

Share reading so that you, the parent, or the teacher, are familiar with the story. Read parts aloud. Encourage silent reading too so that the phonic problems are at least temporarily removed with the colored overlays.

2. Set a time for reading specifically using colored overlays. D.E.A.R (Holt and O’Tuel, 1989) stands for Drop Everything and Read and is used in many schools to encourage kids to read and do nothing else. Reading aloud is also great practice for a child especially if he knows that you are not reading along and you have to listen very carefully. Similarly asking the child to follow along with the text as you read aloud is also very useful. Be sure and use the colored overlays when reading aloud or silently.

3. The third way colored overlays work to help the ADHD child is to picture the scene and explain a few things about the characters. With the colored overlays on the page, and the print cleared up, this helps them to prepare for reading and make connections about what they are reading..  Another great tip is to ask them to try and predict what is going to happen.

If we engage the child in reading by telling them what we think about the various characters, this is a great way of encouraging them. That is why it is so important that we are familiar with what they are reading and how it actually feels to them when they are reading.

As we have seen, colored overlays are a great tool to help our ADHD children develop reading skills at a faster pace and encourage them to really enjoy reading.

Robert Locke       Robert Locke, MBE, is a health enthusiast specializing in children’s health and has written extensively on ADHD, parenting, mental health, anxiety and depression. You can discover more by visiting the Problem Kids Blog.

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