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How Comics Help With My ADHD
And capture my fragmented attention
Some time ago I mentioned I have been thinking about the special connection between comics and ADHD. You see, I am a very bad reader of text, but an avid reader of comics and I think it has something to do with my ADHD.
So, here are 3 points of ADHD-comics connection. If you have time for a slightly longer read, in my Medium version of this post (click here) I discuss one extra point.
1. To read or not to read?
Reading requires a lot of patience and concentration, which is an unseen luxury in the ADHD world (except for the occasional hyperfocus). Pictures, on the other hand, are fun and exciting, and they can help in interpreting the written text.
Today I also write and create way more than I consume any kind of content. This is a typical ADHD trait of finding excitement in anything new, and not having the patience to give full attention to things perceived as boring (or with the potential to be boring). But when it comes to my ability to read, there is only one reading medium that manages to capture my fragmented attention: Comics!
I have always loved the medium of comics and I could never quite understand why. I never even followed a specific series of comics. As a child and a teenager, I simply loved the fact that I could read them until the end, unlike written books. Only recently have I started to connect the dots and realize maybe all of this is due to my ADHD.
So, what is the special connection between comics and ADHD? My first hypothesis is that many neurodivergent brains (or at least mine) are more visual than verbal.
2. Neurodivergent visual minds
Many ADHDers struggle with verbal instructions, and other neurodivergent conditions, such as autism, can lead to difficulties in communication or even the inability to speak. While I don’t have major problems expressing myself, I consistently have an issue in communicating about everyday tasks.
What happens in this situation is simply the utter lack of interest in finding the word for “scissors”, once the image of scissors has come up in my mind. It’s like my brain is saying: “I know what I mean already, so this person should get it too!” This also ties into a trait often found in autistic children, where they assume that other people know what they know and therefore find it unnecessary to say it out loud (or are unable to say it).
Whether we want to say my mind is visual or just neurodivergent, or both, the truth of the matter is that visual stimuli are so much more exciting and so much easier to process for me, to the point where comics and movies are the only kinds of storytelling I am able to consume. The question is then what is so special about comics that they can capture my full attention?
3. Comics are immersive
Comics allow me to get out of my head and immerse myself in someone else’s story. Maybe I am a bit biased here, but I find comics to be the medium in which it is the easiest to relate to the characters. Drawn in such simplistic ways, they could be anyone: Me, you, someone else entirely…
Look at this character from Spiegelman’s Maus. It is drawn as a mouse and yet, when we read the story, we are compelled to fully identify with the character.
As readers of comics, we get access to both the character’s thoughts and actions. We can also easily change perspectives: we can see the characters from the outside and then jump to seeing the world through their eyes. This is not possible to do so effectively in any other medium.
Being able to see someone’s experience in such a vivid way feels like the closest thing to being able to be another person… And my ADHD mind loves this insane level of immersion.
Until next time,
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