INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Until her mid-30s, Jill Ourai had never read a book.
Not because she wasn’t interested. Quite the contrary. Ourai, a 38-year-old Indianapolis dental assistant, listened with relish when patients would tell her about all the hot new novels they were reading.
She just couldn’t read them herself. Too daunting to consider. Too much focus required.
At 32, she found out why: Ourai had attention deficit disorder.
A doctor prescribed Adderall, which helped her in her daily chores, but reading was still drudgery.
Until she bought an electronic reader for her family, Thanksgiving Day 2011.
She has read 150 books since.
“It’s as if this whole new world opened up to me, a revelation,” the Lebanon mother of two young sons said. “It was so exciting, like I had discovered something new. I ran and told my husband. I could see for myself what all my patients were talking about.”
At a rate of a book every four days, she burned through the “Twilight” series, then devoured works of historical fiction, such as “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett, “11/22/63” by Stephen King and anything by Ken Follett. She read the “Hunger Games” and the “Harry Potter” series.
She is reading “Same Kind of Different As Me” by Ron Hall and Denver Moore and plans to begin reading the classics next, saying she owes it to her newfound ability.
“Now I’m the one telling my patients what they should read,” Ourai told The Indianapolis Star (http://indy.st/175KgNE ).
Her breakthrough, Ourai said, was that the electronic reader has none of the distractions that books do: pages with thick stock, fancy typefaces, colorful book jackets, pictures and graphics.
“It’s just words going by a few lines at a time,” she said.
Experts in the field of ADD said they had not heard of any cases quite like Ourai’s.
“This is the first such testimony I’ve heard,” said Susan Buningh, a spokeswoman for Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD), adding that she was unaware of any research in the particular area.
Representatives from the Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA) also said they did not know of any similar cases or ongoing research.
Todd Harper, a spokesman for Wishard Memorial Hospital in Indianapolis, said none of the doctors who treat ADD and ADHD patients recounted reading comprehension being aided so much by electronic readers.
But Lisa Boestra, who coaches adults with ADHD and ADD in Indianapolis, said Ourai’s reading revelation seemed logical.
“Reading on an electronic device definitely takes down the ‘overwhelm’ people with ADD feel when they pick up a book,” Boestra said. “We are taught that we need to proceed one thing at a time. Holding a book can be too much. It’s hard to let go that there is a whole lot more to read.”
Adults with ADD are distracted easily by minor or unimportant stimuli, preventing them from completing mundane tasks. They have difficulty focusing while reading or listening and are easily bored. They also can be disorganized and forgetful.
Ourai said she was diagnosed after she told her doctor, Kim Gatzimos, of Witham Health Services, that she had made a serious mistake in her dental office because of forgetfulness or lack of concentration.
Gatzimos asked Ourai some questions and gave her a test for symptoms of ADD/ADHD. “She said she had never seen anyone score so poorly and said it was a miracle I had coped this long,” Ourai said.
Gatzimos said she got to know Ourai as a patient and grew curious about some of her tendencies and moods. At the time, Ourai’s husband, a member of the Indiana National Guard, was deployed in Iraq.
“I found that her underlying anxiety and depression weren’t really improving like expected with the treatments we had initiated,” Gatzimos said. “I thought she was very bright and a bit of an underachiever.
“That, along with some disorganization in her personal life, made me wonder about the diagnosis of ADD. I gave her a tool used for ADD/ADHD screening.”
Gatzimos said e-readers might help ADD patients sharpen focus.
“The reader is nice in that it is lighted beneath, has one page appearing at a time,” she said. “A person with ADD is probably not tempted as much to skip all around and be distracted by other pages, tattered pages, end of book text, reviews in the front, etc. That is just my thinking.
“I am not surprised with her 150 books read. I suspect her comprehension is also excellent.”
Ourai revels in her e-book epiphany. But, she said, “There’s a long list of books I need to catch up to.”
She also wonders what might have been had she been able to resolve her reading difficulties earlier.
“When I was a junior in high school, I was diagnosed with a reading disability,” she said. “It was really a little late to do anything about it, and it was really heartbreaking. It, at least, explained then why I couldn’t concentrate, but there was nothing I could do about it.”
Ourai said she simply couldn’t retain what she read. “I would have to read one page five times to remember what I just read,” she said. As a result, she never even tried reading for pleasure.
“I didn’t read books, I didn’t read magazines or even the newspaper,” she said. “I sometimes think: If my grades were better, would I be doing something else right now?”
When Ourai bought the electronic reader, a Nook by Barnes & Noble, it was a gift for her family and not because anyone suggested it might be easy for her to read on it.
“I bought it for the kids; I had no idea it would work,” she said. “I tried it for the heck of it, and after a few paragraphs I noticed I was remembering everything I just read. So I kept going and going, and I don’t think the kids got to touch it for a couple days.”
Ourai said she not only comprehends what she is reading, but she reads fairly fast.
After reading 100 books the first year, she has slowed down at the request of her two sons, ages 10 and 13.
“They said all I ever do is read,” she said.
Information from: The Indianapolis Star, http://www.indystar.com
This is an AP Member Exchange shared by The Indianapolis Star.