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 he likes summer, he can start by listing ideas about the joys of summer. He 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, he can then highlight the three or so points he plans to include in his writing.
After your child has selected the points she plans to elaborate on in her paragraph or essay, she should brainstorm these ideas in an organized fashion. While there are various formats she can use for brainstorming, a web diagram is a useful tool. She 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. Computer-based programs, such as Kidspiration (for younger students) or Inspiration (for older students) can also serve as engaging multi-sensory options for brainstorming.
Once your child has listed his ideas and then created a brainstorm diagram, he can turn those boxes and bubbles into complete sentences to form his paragraph. Have him turn the “topic” box into a topic sentence, such as “There are many fun and engaging activities one can do during the summer.” Next, he 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, he should turn the bottom box into a conclusion sentence, which can express his 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 her write the COPS acronym vertically at the bottom of her essay with a check box next to each letter. Once she is done writing her paragraph or essay, encourage her to go back and check for each individual item on the check list (one at a time) and check off each one once she makes 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 he will be well on his way to academic success.