Children with ADHD often have trouble expressing themselves in writing. This can affect their school performance.
Writing problems fall into two main areas:
- composition (putting thoughts into words and putting those words in order) and
- transcription (putting the words on paper). Children with ADHD may need help with both aspects of writing.
Transcription problems may include:
- difficulty writing smoothly and easily
- slow and strenuous and/or fast and careless approach
- poor written spelling
- messy, uneven handwriting
- letters that are reversed, rotated, and generally unrecognizable
- Composition problems may include:
- poor written sentence construction
- poor use of punctuation and grammar
- poor story composition, including lack of organization, missing story elements and details, missing reasons, or missing conclusions
Children with ADHD may have difficulty with writing for various reasons, as shown in the figure. These include:
- weaknesses in executive function and working memory, which may lead to composition problems, poor planning, and disorganization
- language weaknesses, as discussed on the “ADHD and Language” page in this section
- poor fine motor skills, which may cause messy handwriting
- poor orthographic coding, the ability to convert sounds into written words
- poor spelling
Helping children with ADHD and writing problems
Children with ADHD may need help with both composition and transcription.
Some computer programs may help with transcription.
word processing software: If children mainly struggle with fine motor skills, typing may be easier than handwriting. The spell-check features can also help to reduce spelling errors.
speech-to-text software that converts spoken words to written text: It has been suggested that dictating text orally instead of writing letters and words physically may make the task less demanding.
The following teaching strategies may help with composition:
explicit, step-by-step instruction about the writing process, including how to plan, understand text structures, use transition words, and create thesis statements
concrete reminders, such as cue cards or checklists, of the key steps in the writing process; these can be phased out as the child becomes familiar with the steps
graphic organizer software to help outline and organize ideas into written form