Electronic books can make reading possible for people with executive dysfunction

Electronic books can be an important disability accommodation for a lot of people, including some people with normal vision. If you’re having a lot of trouble reading, or not reading as much as you’d like to, it might help to use electronic books.

There are a lot of steps involved in reading a print book. Some of these steps can be difficult or impossible for people with impaired executive function, autistic inertia, fatigue, chronic pain, or other conditions. Some difficult steps can be eliminated with electronic books. 

In order to start reading a print book, you have to be able to do all of these things:

  • Have the book in a place where it’s available to you when you have time to read.
  • (Which can involve remembering to bring with you somewhere.)
  • (And keeping track of the book and not losing it.)
  • Decide to stop what you’re doing and do a different kind of task.
  • Figure out where the book is.
  • Go get the book.
  • Avoid getting distracted by other things as you find the book or get the book.
  • Figure out where you are in the book.
  • (Which can involve things like remembering the place.) 
  • (Or using a bookmark, which comes with its own multi-step challenges like remembering that bookmarks exist and having one available.)
  • Open the book to the right page.
  • Avoid getting distracted by other parts of the book.
  • Get into a position in which you can read, which you can also sustain long enough to read for a significant among of time.
  • Actually start reading the book.
  • If you want to take notes or highlight, you also have to gather all your note-taking tools.
  • And not get distracted and forget what you’re doing.
  • And not forget where you put the book in the process.
  • That’s a lot of steps, any one of which can sometimes be difficult or impossible.
  • Using electronic copies can eliminate some of these steps, or make them easier.
  • This can be game-changing.

Some ways in which electronic copies can eliminate steps:

  • You can store your entire electronic library on one device (or synced to multiple devices). 
  • If you know where your device is, then you know where all of your electronic books are.
  • This can mean you don’t have to physically search for anything.
  • (Electronically searching to remember where you put something can be much easier.)
  • You also don’t have to remember to bring a specific book. You just have to remember to bring one device.
  • (Which can be a device like your laptop, phone, or iPad which you’re in the habit of carrying with you anyway).
  • If you’re already using your computer, you don’t have to get up to go get your book.
  • You also don’t have to change positions.
  • Being able to stay in the same position and location can make it much easier to start reading.
  • It can also be easier to remember your place. A lot of software will leave the book open to the same place as when you were last reading it.
  • Searching can be easier, faster, and less distracting than flipping through a print book. (This isn’t true for everyone, but it’s true for some people).
  • Electronic bookmarks may also be easier to use than physical ones.
  • You don’t have to look for highlighters, pens, pencils or notebooks, all of that is right there in the book-reading software.
  • Eliminating these steps can make reading a lot easier. 
  • Making it easier can make it possible.

This isn’t the right strategy for everyone; computers, phones and other devices have their own executive dysfunction pitfalls. But for some people, it makes reading much more possible. 

Tl;dr Some people have trouble reading print books, even if they have normal vision. Sometimes the reason for this is that executive dysfunction (or another disability) makes some of the steps involved in starting to read a print book difficult or impossible. (Eg: people with ADHD might get distracted looking for the book.) For some people, using electronic books instead of print books can make reading much more possible. Scroll up for some specific reasons that electronic books can help.