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Why is writing challenging for ADHD kids?

Writing isn’t easy. Writing well is one of the hardest school skills that we learn. It’s just not straightforward, like math, or relaxing like art. Writing requires effort. This is true, to a certain extent, for everyone. Even writers. For instance, have you ever heard of Math Block or Touchdown Block or French block. Not likely, but there IS writer’s block. It’s when the ideas are stuck and you can’t access them.

In families and in classrooms, there can be arguments about why your tween or teen isn’t working hard on his/her writing assignment. Knowing why people with ADHD can get writer’s block may help you interact and support your children or students more effectively.

REASON #1

Writing is often emotionally taxing. Writing requires us to dig deep and to connect with our emotions. Even if we’re in Kindergarten, writing about the day we got our doggy at the animal shelter, it requires us to connect back to that day.

That’s not easy to do, and for those of us with busy or blocked or compromised thought processes, it’s a real effort. Imagine trying to come up with an idea, whether it’s a new idea or a memory, while feeling apprehensive and thinking, “I’m not good at writing!”

It can also bring up emotions and that can be uncomfortable. Writing assignments often ask us to reveal things about ourselves and this can take some of us on a wild ride through other uncomfortable situations. A writing assignment, through no fault of its own, can send us ricocheting from one bad memory to another, like a ball in a pinball machine. Talk about a painful experience!

REASON #2

Writing is different than thinking; it’s not just a matter of putting your thoughts on paper. Our brain, even if we are logical, linear thinkers, is more like stream of consciousness. You think “World War II Allies” and your brain gives you: Allies, Axis, something about China, Italy, pasta, gluten-free eating, diets, ice cream, summer time, and so on. But you can’t give a teacher an essay on WWII allies that talks about gluten-free eating!

The point is that having great ideas doesn’t automatically translate to writing a good paper. There are skills that need to be developed. Typically called “Executive Functions,” these skills include: putting ideas in logical order, sorting through options and discarding what doesn’t fit, and focusing on the key idea. That’s not easy when your head is chock-a-block with ideas, brilliant or otherwise.

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REASON #3

Believe it or not, for some people writing can be physically painful. The anxiety that may accompany writing can create physical tension. Joints can “lock” and muscles tighten, creating everything from jaw pain to hand cramping (even if you’re typing).

If you are a person who has trouble getting your ideas on paper, you may experience physical pain that further complicates the process.

Imagine trying to write a paper that taxes you emotionally and physically while, at the same time, trying to manage a brain that’s bouncing from one idea to the next.

That’s why super intelligent, wonderful, creative individuals may have trouble with writing.

3 ways to help your writing-challenged ADHD child/student

  1. Work with a writing tutor that is trained to work with ADHD kids and teens. You need someone that understands the writing process and the ADHD thinking process.
  2. Have your child talk out or draw/doodle their thoughts while you take notes. You can even write down what they’re saying, word for word, but the final product is theirs to complete.
  3. Perfectionism can stifle a writer. I tell clients to just “vomit it all out.” I know, it’s gross. The point is that most people think that rough drafts and final drafts are just an invention that English teachers created to waste students time. In fact, authors write many drafts. Just have them get all their thoughts on paper and they can edit them later. Nothing stops a brain like trying to be perfect! For real!

xo, Margit

Copyright 2016 Margit Crane Luria All Rights Reserved

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