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Story Comprehension and the Impact of Studying on Recall in Children with ADHD

A classroom scene where a teacher is asking a thoughtful question to a young boy with ADHD, who is standing near his desk, looking pensive. The teacher is leaning slightly forward, offering gentle and supportive encouragement. The classroom is bright and colorful, adorned with educational posters and a chalkboard in the background. Other children are seated at their desks, attentively observing the interaction between the teacher and the boy.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) affects many aspects of a child's life, including their ability to comprehend and recall stories. A study by Elizabeth P. Lorch and colleagues examined how studying impacts story comprehension and recall in children with ADHD compared to their peers without the disorder. This blog delves into the study's findings and discusses potential implications for educational strategies tailored to children with ADHD.

Understanding the Study

The study involved 36 children with ADHD and 43 children without ADHD, aged 7 to 11. Participants listened to one of two folktales and were asked to recall the story both before and after studying a written version of it for up to 10 minutes. The stories were divided into individual events, each with varying numbers of causal connections to other events in the story. This allowed researchers to assess how well children recalled events with more or fewer connections.

Impact of Causal Connections:

For both groups, children recalled more story events that had a higher number of causal connections. This indicates that events deeply integrated into the story's plot are easier to remember.

However, the effect of causal connections on recall was stronger for children without ADHD. This suggests that children with ADHD may struggle more with integrating and remembering complex story structures.

Effectiveness of Studying:

No significant differences were found in the studying behavior between children with ADHD and those without. Both groups spent a similar amount of time studying each event.

Studying significantly improved recall for all children. However, when considering initial recall ability, studying was more effective for higher IQ children without ADHD than for higher IQ children with ADHD. This was particularly evident for events with the highest levels of causal connections.

Implications for Children with ADHD:

The results suggest that children with ADHD may benefit from tailored academic interventions that address their specific difficulties with story comprehension. Traditional study methods might not be as effective for them, especially when dealing with complex narratives.

Educational Implications

These findings highlight several important considerations for educators and parents working

with children with ADHD.

Customized Learning Strategies:

Given the challenges children with ADHD face with complex story structures, educators should consider breaking down stories into simpler, more manageable segments. Visual aids, story maps, and repeated readings can help these children better understand and recall the material.

Focus on Causal Connections:

Helping children with ADHD understand the causal connections in stories can improve their comprehension. Educators can use guided questioning techniques to emphasize how events are linked, aiding in deeper integration of the story.

Interactive and Engaging Methods:

Interactive activities, such as role-playing or using digital storybooks with interactive elements, can engage children with ADHD more effectively than traditional studying methods. These approaches can make learning more dynamic and retain the child's attention better.

Frequent Assessments and Feedback:

Regular assessments and immediate feedback can help children with ADHD stay on track and understand where they need improvement. Short, frequent sessions of studying and recall practice can be more beneficial than longer, less frequent sessions.

Parental Involvement:

Parents can support their children by reinforcing these strategies at home. Reading together, discussing stories, and using multimedia resources can complement school-based learning and help improve comprehension and recall.

The study by Lorch and colleagues underscores the unique challenges faced by children with ADHD in story comprehension and recall. While studying helps improve recall for all children, those with ADHD require more specialized approaches to achieve the same level of comprehension as their peers. By implementing tailored strategies that emphasize understanding causal connections and engaging learning methods, educators and parents can better support children with ADHD, enhancing their academic success and overall learning experience.


Lorch, E. P., O'Neil, K., Berthiaume, K. S., Milich, R., Eastham, D., & Brooks, T. (2004). Story comprehension and the impact of studying on recall in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 33(3), 506-515. doi:10.1207/s15374424jccp3303_8


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