Why kids with Dysgraphia, DCD, and ADHD should learn dictation skills

Should kids with certain learning disabilities learn dictation skills ? Children diagnosed with ADHD are five times more likely to have a written language disorder than children without ADHD. Specific difficulties in writing seen in children with ADHD include problems with grammar, punctuation, organization, spelling, and handwriting quality. It’s no wonder that these children also experience difficulties in sustaining attention to tasks involving writing. Kids with ADHD often find that putting their thoughts down on paper demands too much of their working memory and processing skills, and when they feel unsuccessful with writing tasks their ability to persist is limited. If your child has severe ADHD, rather than struggle to improve his or her handwriting, focus on helping them learn dictation skills.

Children diagnosed with Dysgraphia, a disorder of written language, and Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), marked by fine and gross motor skills that are substantially lower than expected, will also experience problems with handwriting and written language issues. Both ADHD and Developmental Coordination Disorder are accompanied by a high incidence of illegible handwriting and difficulty with written language, making it necessary that educators and parents de-emphasize the importance of handwriting skills and find alternative methods for written expression.

Interestingly, about 50% of children who are diagnosed with DCD also have a coexisting diagnosis of ADHD. Many children diagnosed with ADHD tend to be very talkative and verbal, which makes sense considering “too much” talking is considered to be one form of hyperactivity. Using those verbal skills as a tool for self-expression, and specifically written expression, should be the goal of teachers. Unfortunately, readily-available technologies for dictation are rarely suggested, and when they are, children with ADHD are not given appropriate support about how to use these tools to become effective writers. Most children will need training in order to become proficient at the dictation skills that allow them to speak in sentences, construct paragraphs, and put together a cohesive writing piece by speaking. For children with ADHD who have difficulties with planning, organization, and sustained attention, it can be a particular challenge to learn how to effectively use dictation skills.

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If you really want to encourage the child with ADHD to develop effective writing skills via dictation, it will take some work. But this work will be well worth it. Even the modest goal of reducing frustration with written assignments or learning how to brainstorm a list of ideas by talking out loud will be helpful to many children.

Here are a number of strategies for effectively using dictation in children with ADHD and Developmental Coordination Disorder:

  1. Make it fun. Kids with ADHD generally pay more attention to technological tools than papers and pencils. Start off by playing some games with your dictation software. This could include having a conversation during which the microphone is passed back back and forth. Another engaging activity is to complete and dictate a “Mad Libs,” which can be found at a number of online sites such as FunBrain.com.

  1. Prove that dictation is faster than writing or typing. Engage a child in a contest in which he will copy (by handwriting) a two paragraph essay on a topic of interest and you will dictate it using Dragon Dictation. Keep track of how long it takes you to dictate and how long it takes him to hand write it. There is no question that dictation will go much faster. This will help your child see the benefits of learning dictation software.

  1. Start off by using dictation to generate ideas and not for formal writing. Dictation can be a very powerful tool for overcoming the inertia that is evident in many struggling writers. Dictation software makes it easy and fun for them to record a list of ideas separated by lines or paragraphs. Teach them to separate thoughts with simple commands such as  “next line” or “next paragraph.” Later, the content they generate can be organized and used to construct a finished piece.

  1. Use the question and answer method to learn how to speak in sentences. Teach them how to use the words in your question to formulate their answer in the form of a complete sentence. For example when you ask them, “What was your favorite part of the movie?”  their answer should begin, “My favorite part of the movie was…..”
  1. Set your goal for writing a rough draft. Even experienced “dictators” such as myself require a lot of editing before completing a polished paper. Dictation (which is what I am using to create the rough draft of this post) is best utilized as a tool for creating drafts rather than the finished product. Finished products require editing, reorganization, and checking for grammatical and typing errors. For kids with ADHD and other learning issues, I suggest that you help with editing, so that they can experience the benefits of dictation to get their ideas onto paper and avoid frustrations that they have long had with writing.

Read our Dragon Dictation review to learn more about this dictation software and how it can work for your child.


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2 thoughts on “Why kids with Dysgraphia, DCD, and ADHD should learn dictation skills

  1. My son is 9 years old and we have been struggling with my son ability in reading English and Maths since year 1, it has now been recognised that he has poor processing and working memory skills. Can you advise on any learning tools for me to support and guide my son. He is Key stage 2 maths book and he can only work on sections A

  2. My son is in Year 11 with similar issues. The only thing that worked was using A3 paper and lots of garish colours to make mind maps, revision notes and games. I started by leaving out letters in key words for him to fill in or leaving out words and giving him a word bank. The writing needs to be big. Use lots of images e.g copy from text books and remove labels but draw in arrows. You can then provide the labels on strips of paper and ask him to put them in the correct places. This works well for science. Highlighters are needed to pick out key information in questions or texts. You should ask for a scribe for school exams. Insist that you get copies of PowerPoint presentations and make sure he never has to copy from a board. Let him use a fidget spinner or stretchy toy as this can help with concentration. Let him dictate his homework and allow him to walk around while he thinks. Again, this can help. Only work for 20 mins and then have a break so his brain recovers. Give him comic books to read or graphic novels. Books need to have colorful pictures. Teach him to type and to use dictation software. Have faith in him and ignore any predicted gcse grades as they are not based on reality. With hard work at home you can overcome the lack of support in school.

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