Writing With LD & ADHD: Countering the Perfect Storm

September 07, 2011

In a recent post,  we discussed the perfect storm of ADHD/LD and writing.  I noted that at the heart of ADHD and LD issues are deficits in active working memory.

Open-ended writing can be dreadfully difficult to school-struggling children because of these issues with active working memory. They find the task  of writing to be overwhelming on all levels. Typically, schools will recommend occupational therapy to address the issue.   While OT is a valid approach to start with, it really addresses the lowest level of the process—the fine-motor/motor-planning aspects of writing.

Highly structured methods that target the mastery of one skill at a time would be recommended.  With structured approaches you start at the smallest possible sentence level, such as two-word sentences. Children are trained to see that every sentence has at least a triangle  (noun) and a  square (verb).

Dogs run

Kids would practice mastering two-word sentences such as this. When they have this skill down, they would move on to other skills, adding other elements to the sentence, such as an article (circle) and adjective (diamond):

The 	         lively	          dogs 		run.

These visual anchors help children who are not intuitive with their writing. This level of sentence would be practiced in many different ways and with some variation. From there, more complex sentences would be introduced.

Once sentences are mastered, then the child is to work on the concept of a paragraph, with a topic sentence and four or five supporting sentences.

This is a highly sequential, skill-mastery approach to writing development. Such an approach is contrary to the more popular “open-ended” approaches that are the  norm in  many classrooms. It may not be quite as glitzy or as much fun, but it is an approach that  the struggling school population can understand.

Practicing such simple sentences as “Dogs run” or “People walk,” and building on them in a scaffold-like approach, gives struggling children with  ADHD, LD  or dyslexia a greater sense of  confidence and skill mastery.

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