Writing a well-organized paragraph or essay is a task that can be daunting for many students. Yet for students with ADHD, the writing process – one that involves coming up with a topic, creating a plan, structuring ideas, writing well-written sentences, and spelling words correctly, amongst other skills, can be downright grueling. In fact, research indicates that over half of children with ADHD struggle with writing. Yet as students progress through school, the writing demands increase exponentially. The ideas detailed below can help your ADHD child develop stronger writing skills.
For some students, even initiating the writing process can be challenging. They often feel overwhelmed and intimidated by the thought of having to compose a well-written paragraph or essay.
To combat these fears, encourage your child to start by simply jotting down ideas about a given topic. For instance, if your youngster is asked to write a paragraph on why they like summer, they can start by listing ideas about the joys of summer. They might write in list format, for instance: one can play outside, spend more time with family and friends, go to camp, swim, travel, and lay at the beach. Once these ideas are on the page, they can then highlight the three or so points they plan to include in his writing.
After your child has selected the points they plan to elaborate on in their paragraph or essay, they should brainstorm these ideas in an organized fashion. While there are various formats they can use for brainstorming, a web diagram is a useful tool. They can, for instance, brainstorm for a basic five sentence paragraph by writing the topic in a rectangular box at the top of the page, then connecting it to three circular bubbles beneath it (for the three key points, such as playing outside, spending time with family, and swimming), and finally ending with another rectangular box at the bottom for the concluding sentence.
Once your child has listed their ideas and then created a brainstorm diagram, they can turn those boxes and bubbles into complete sentences to form their paragraph. Have them turn the “topic” box into a topic sentence, such as “There are many fun and engaging activities one can do during the summer.”
Next, they can turn each detail bubble into full sentences. For example, “You can play outside at a park or playground. You can spend more free time relaxing with friends and family. You can also swim in a pool or at the beach.”
Finally, they should turn the bottom box into a conclusion sentence, which can express their opinion on the topic, such as “I love summer” or “Summer is my favorite time of year.”
Many students with ADHD have a tendency to speed through their work to “get it over with” and often neglect to self-check their writing. Rather than telling them to simply “check” their work, teach them specific tools for how to go about doing so, such as the COPS acronym, which stands for Capitalization, Organization, Punctuation, and Spelling. Have them write the COPS acronym vertically at the bottom of their essay with a check box next to each letter. Once they are done writing their paragraph or essay, encourage them to go back and check for each individual item on the check list (one at a time) and check off each one once they make the relevant corrections.
As students progress through school, the writing demands increase rapidly. Help your ADHD child learn to effectively express his ideas on paper in an organized, well-structured manner and they will be well on their way to academic success.