Writing is frequently a challenge for children with A.D.H.D., as early as 2nd or 3rd grade. These writing challenges continue, and often expand, straight through middle school and high school.
Executive function deficits, most notably working memory and recall issues, tend to impact the quality of content. In addition, the focus and concentration required to sustain writing over time are often lacking due to attentional issues and an increased sense of distractibility.
In the primary grades, the enormous task of writing a cohesive paragraph is overwhelming and can often be a catalyst for stress and anxiety. Sometimes, even just writing two good sentences can seem almost agonizing for a child who is overwrought by the demands and expectations of a writing assignment.
Perhaps what is most bewildering, however, is the engaging and infomative verbal conversations the very same child can have about literature, science, travel, or technology. Ask him or her to write about their experience, however, and you may well have a very different child in front of you.
Here, a nurturing, supportive approach is best. Children and adolescents need coping strategies in order to conquer these assignmens in ways that highlight and honor their advanced intellects, while still maintaining a high level of rigor and including important content.
1. Planning in advance is KEY. As mentioned in our previous blog, finding out about assignments in advance and using hands-on planning tools is truly "half the battle". Getting books and materials in advance, and preparing an outline will go a long way in helping your child with his or her writing assignments.
2. Encourage Expanded Vocabulary - Encouraging the use of index cards or post-its to highlight unfamiliar vocabulary when reading will result in a strategic use of context clues and expansion of vocabulary when writing.
3. Graphic Organizers - Webs and charts are frequently seen as "fun", and as such are far less intimidating than a blank page that requires a paragraph (or "a WHOLE paragraph??!" as I have often been asked!) Modeling the use of graphic organizers taps into the visual-spatial intelligence, and in doing so, appeals to many children and adolescents with A.D.H.D.
4. Note-Taking and Outlining - Taking notes on index cards, and spacing out the assignment over several days, are essential ways to dilute the intensity. Writing a first draft over the course of a few nights will seem more manageable and far less overwhelming. Adding "word webs" (semantic webs for older kids) when planning a writing assignment can be one creative way to add some fun to an otherwise daunting task.
The use of charts and other visual learning tools may reach a child when memorizing a full chapter of content seems insurmountable. Finally, encourage your child or teen to develop a relationship with a learning specialist, preferably one who specializes in A.D.H.D. and executive function deficits. This essential relationship, when successful, will result not in dependency, but in a true partnership, with mutual goals for success.
"I'm not a teacher: only a fellow traveler of whom you asked the way. I pointed ahead – ahead of myself as well as you." ~ George Bernard Shaw
Carolyn Polchinski, M.S.Ed. is a Clinical Professor of Reading and Literacy Education and licensed Learning Specialist based out of Scarsdale. She specializes in supporting children with A.D.H.D. and executive function deficits.
To learn more about the programs she offers, call 914.325.0297 or email Carolyn@ConfidentReaders.com. You can also read .