18 strategies for better school writing
Studies suggest that more than half of children with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) have difficulty writing. These students may have an overflow of creative ideas, but often struggle to put those ideas on paper.
Children with ADHD have a hard time getting started – and keeping up – with essay writing because they struggle to choose essay topics, find appropriate resources, retain and manipulate information in their memory, organizing and sequencing the material and putting it on paper – all before they forgot what they wanted to say.
But these obstacles should not prevent them from writing. Discuss the following writing strategies for ADHD with your child’s teacher so that you can work together to alleviate the difficulties ADHD children have with writing.
Classroom Solutions: Guide the Writing Process
—Set up a rating system. Have the student write their notes on a topic on individual sticky notes. She can then group notes that present similar ideas so that she can easily identify the main concepts of the topic from the groupings.
—Start small and build your skills. Have students with ADHD write a paragraph that is only two or three sentences long. As their skills improve, students can begin to write several paragraphs at a time.
[Free Download: 18 Writing Tricks for Students with ADHD]
– Demonstrate writing an essay. Using an overhead projector, write an entire paragraph or essay in front of the class, explaining what you do at each step. Students can help you by adding more sentences as you go. Students with ADHD are often visual learners and tend to do better when they see the teacher working on a task.
—Give write prompts. Students with ADHD typically don’t generate as many essay ideas as their peers. Help children with ADHD increase their options for essay writing assignments by collecting materials that stimulate choice. Read a poem, tell a story, show pictures in magazines, newspapers or books.
If the student is still having trouble getting started, help them by sitting down and discussing the assignment with them. Review her brainstorming notes and ask, “In what ways could you write the first sentence? If he doesn’t have an answer, say, “Here’s an idea.” How would you write this in your own words? “
—Encourage a colorful description. Students with ADHD often have difficulty “dressing” their written words. Help them add adjectives and use stronger, more active verbs in sentences.
[How Teens with Learning Differences Can Defeat Writing Challenges]
—Explain the editing process. Students with ADHD have difficulty writing in detail and often produce essays that are too short and lacking in detail. Explain how the use of adjectives and adverbs can improve their composition. Also show them how to use a thesaurus.
Classroom solutions: use accommodations where necessary
– Allow enough time. Students with ADHD, especially those of the inattentive subtype, may take longer to process information and should have more time to complete homework.
“Do not write down the early work. Sensitive students are discouraged by negative comments as they develop their writing skills. Wait until the article is finished before giving it a rating.
—Do not deduct points for bad writing or bad grammar. Unless an assignment specifically measures handwriting and grammar skills, when a child works hard to remember and communicate, let some things slip away.
—Use a graphic organizer. A graphic organizer organizes the material visually to help recall memory. Distribute blank, pre-printed essay forms that students with ADHD can fill out, so that they save their efforts for the most important task – essay writing.
—Test items limited in scores. To encourage mastery of writing and avoid overwhelming students, write down only one or two items at a time. For example: “This week, I write the subject-verb agreement in the sentences. A tighter focus on grading directs students’ attention to one or two writing concepts at a time.
– Encourage reviews. Have your child write down their thoughts on going to the movies, visiting parents, or visiting museums. Add fun to the activity by having your child email their thoughts to you or text you from their cell phone.
– Help in the selection of essay subjects. Children with ADHD find it difficult to narrow down their choices and make decisions. Help your student by listening to all of their ideas and writing three or four of their strongest topics on cards. Then go over the ideas with him and have him eliminate each topic, one by one, until only the winner is left.
-Idea of genius. Once the topic has been identified, ask him for any ideas he thinks might relate to it. Write the ideas on sticky notes, so he can group them into groups that later become paragraphs. He can also cut and paste the ideas in a logical sequence on the computer.
– Stock up on books, movies, games. This material will introduce new vocabulary words and stimulate thinking. Explore them with your child and ask questions about them to solicit their perspective.
—Be your child’s “scribe”. Before your child loses their idea of the great American novel or their next English homework assignment, have them dictate their thoughts to you as you write them down or type them into the computer. As his skills improve over time, he will need your involvement in this process less.
– Go digital. Children with ADHD often write more slowly than their classmates. Encourage your child to begin the writing process on a computer. That way, she’ll keep her work organized and won’t lose her essay until it’s finished. Plus, while working on the computer, she can easily rearrange the order of sentences and paragraphs in a second draft.
—Remind your child to proofread. Let your child know that they can spot errors if they proofread their draft before handing it in.
High-tech writing aids for children with ADHD
Portable word processor
These battery operated devices look like a computer keyboard with a small calculator screen. Lightweight and durable, portable word processing software can be used in school for note taking and homework writing. Back home, the files can be transferred to a PC or Mac. Base models cost around $ 20.
Speech recognition software
Also known as text-to-speech software, these programs allow students to read aloud into a microphone and see their words appear on a computer screen. Good programs include Dragon NaturallySpeaking, for PC and Dragon Nuance, for Mac.
Word prediction software
Software like Co: Writer Solo ($ 325) helps with spelling and builds vocabulary, providing a drop-down list of words a student can choose from. It also fills in words to speed up composition. Some programs read sentences aloud, so that the author can hear what he has written and detect errors as they occur.
Electronic spell checkers and dictionaries
Enter a word phonetically, and these portable gadgets define the word and provide the correct spelling. Talking devices read words aloud. Franklin Electronics offers models starting at around $ 20.
[The Common Problems that Lead to Writer’s Block]
Chris Zeigler Dendy, MS, is a member of ADDitude’s ADHD Medical Review Board.
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