Monday, September 13, 2010

ADHD + Reading = Skimming!

The ADHD Debate Is Over Apparently

It's that time of year again. ADHD Awareness Week. Thankfully, my Twitter stream reminded me since it had completely slipped my mind. Again. You'd think I had ADHD or something.

Yes, Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder is real. More real than a fishnet filled with Nessie. More real than world peace. Even more real than Obama's $500 rebate check. Somewhere an adult with ADHD you know is quietly suffering because he put the milk in the cupboard again, impulsively told his Jewish boss that one about the Rabbi and the Priest and the brothel, or purchased 27 tins of Liquorice Altoids because it seemed like a good idea at the time. Now when you throw your hands in the air and exclaim at your forgetful coworker, "What on earth is wrong with you?!" you may be surprised to learn there is an answer. 

You can learn more about ADHD Awareness Week at They claim the debate is over. I'm not sure that's the best approach to take with skeptics. We all know how well declaring "the debate is over" worked with anthropological global warming deniers. They went and dug up facts, funny emails, and flaws in the studies faster than Al Gore could earn a second Nobel Prize. Silencing debate is a foolish way to convince people that ADHD is real. It would be better to set up a webcam in my home and let people watch me barely function throughout the day. I'd have them convinced it's real within an afternoon.

Do You Skim When You Get Bored?

SkimmingSpeaking of ADHD, I was having a conversation with some friends the other day about skimming while reading. I skim all the time. Can't help it. It's the ADHD. When I hit a passage that bores me—usually large concrete setting details about this, that, or the other thing that only tangentially relates to the plot—I instantly skip down the page, skimming the paragraphs for keywords until I come upon where the story picks up again. In fact, when reviewing manuscripts for peers, I have to wrestle my attention to not do that. 

What makes this an attention disorder is that the very nanosecond my mind becomes bored, it's off like a rocket looking for something else interesting to do. When reading books, I won't even be aware that I started skimming. 

Neither of my friends skim, however. In fact, they seemed quite horrified that I do. They don't want to miss any key pieces of information, so they read it all. If a story is boring they'll stop reading it, but otherwise they take in every word the author put down. They also enjoy reading hard military science fiction. I'm not sure if there's a correlation there, but I'd rather have my attention span bludgeoned with a box of Windows Phone 7 phones than read that genre. 

Curiously, Jo Walton also discussed skimming recently over at She doesn't do it either. Thinks it's weird. But her blog post is filled with dozens of kindred spirits who do skim. Many feel guilty about it, but others, like me, are unabashedly proud of it. I wonder how many of those skimmers have ADHD, and how many of them were reading hard military science fiction at the time?

Do you skim, or do you feel it's disrespectful—or even unthinkable—to do so? I'd love to know how my readers weigh in on this.

Follow me on Twitter for my ADHD escapades at @SplinteredMind or my novel writing project over at @DouglasCootey. And if you're a glutton for punishment you can friend me on Facebook as well.