If you have a child with ADHD or Learning Disabilities, as school approaches you are likely already strategizing on how to get through the coming school year. One of the biggest issues for kids with executive function deficits is homework, especially when it comes to writing.
Struggling writers are skilled at avoiding writing assignments, putting them off, rushing through them, or simply “forgetting” about them. Difficulty with writing can be one of the most frustrating experiences for elementary, middle, and high school students.The demands for writing increase dramatically as children move forward in school, and the need for getting ideas onto paper, organizing their thoughts, and being able to express themselves in written form can be highly problematic. Parents frequently report that children who have difficulty with writing often spend hours doing homework, become incredibly frustrated to the point of tearing up papers or avoiding writing tasks, or express a desire to give up in school.
Fortunately there are steps one can take to make homework shorter and less frustrating.
Some children who have difficulty in writing may have a Written Language Disability, or dysgraphia. This is seen in many forms, including problems with legible or very slow handwriting, difficulty in getting ideas onto paper, and skills in written expression being below those expected given a person’s age. Intensive training in writing skills may be necessary for children whose dysgraphia goes beyond simple handwriting concerns. However, many of children’s difficulties with writing are related primarily to problems with the act of handwriting, the capacity to take ideas from their heads and put them onto paper in an efficient and timely fashion and/or the ability to organize their ideas when they attempt to write them down. The use of technologies can be very powerful in helping children with these difficulties.
However, simply teaching children to type, use a keyboard, or speak into a voice-recognition system is not enough. Just knowing how to operate the technology is not sufficient for kids to become effective writers. More training is needed, and subsequent practice of that training is also very important.
Here are three steps to make homework shorter and less frustrating with writing assignments.
Encourage children to use a dictation program for generating ideas and brainstorming before starting a writing assignment. It is much easier to discuss our ideas, see them transcribed, and then sort through them than it is to use pencil and paper to do so. Dictation does not involve crossing out of words, crumpling of paper, or illegible handwriting to read. A set of ideas dictated in a list is easy to reorder through copying, deleting, and pasting.
Have children become expert typists. If they are able to fly over the keyboard, they may shed some of the concerns about their frustration with writing. Follow some of my suggestions to get your children to want to become accomplished typists.
Provide your children with training in dictation skills. Enroll them in one of our LW4K programs or teach them yourself. Dictation facilitates faster writing, and once children have the skills to write in sentences and paragraphs, homework that took hours could take minutes. Our training programs teach kids to:
- speak in prose rather than through conversation
- use simple punctuation commands
- use dictation as part of a pre-writing strategy
- use dictation for brainstorming and organizing ideas with word-processing programs
- write sentences
- put sentences together to create paragraphs
- take what is dictated, edit it, and put it into paragraphs
- create graphic organizers that help format
- use dictation for taking notes and studying
- become more efficient note takers and improve study skills/habits