My son hates to write--need advice.

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Kathrine, Nov 16, 2008.

  1. Kathrine

    Kathrine New Member

    It's been quite a while since I've visited here, but I always get great advice and so I'm back for more.

    My son, age 8, has ADHD but is not on medication. We have gone through a behavior modification course which has worked quite well for him. He is currently homeschooled, which is something I would be doing even if he didn't have ADHD. My problem is that he is in 3rd grade and doesn't like to write anything that is longer than a word or two. It's not that he doesn't have anything to write. Sometimes I'll have him do the writing assignment orally and he has wonderful ideas, good grammar, and good sentence structure. He is a good speller as well. The problem is with the actual mechanics of writing. My theory is that it is because he has ADHD--in other words, his brain is working fast and writing is slow. I'm worried that he isn't learning to write as much as other 3rd graders. I think there's a point where I'm going to have to figure something out.

    One program I have tried is the Institute for Excellence in Writing. Their writing program is great. Instead of presenting a student with a blank piece of paper and saying "write a paragraph on what you did over summer vacation," the IEW program will give very specific instructions on what to write, how to make an outline, and most importantly there are checklists so the student can check off things as he writes. My ADHD son works well when there is a checklist.
    However, this program hasn't been as successful as I thought it would be with him. Even with the checklists and whatnot he still hates to pick up his pencil and write down what he says out loud. It's such a source of frustration for us that I haven't assigned a writing task in weeks. He will do short tasks, like copying spelling words, cursive copy practice (His cursive practice is immaculate. It's not like he doesn't know how to make the letters), short answer worksheets, etc. He will not write if the answer is longer than one or two words. He will not write an outline or paragraph. He will dictate a paragraph while I write it, but he will not write.
    We tried teaching him computer skills, but 8 year olds are very slow typers and after a couple of weeks he gave up on typing and does not want to try it anymore.

    My question: Could there be something else the matter with him besides ADHD, or is this a common symptom of ADHD? If it's the latter, what can I do to get him to write stuff?
  2. smallworld

    smallworld Moderator

    It is my understanding that writing is the hardest academic task a child must undertake. It is the unusual child who actually likes to put pencil to paper.

    It could be ADHD, but it also could be some kind of learning disability. Has he undergone neuropsychological testing?

    Keyboarding really may be the way to go if you can find a way for your son to learn. Is there a fun computer game he could use to learn to type (Type to Learn, for example)?

    What if you had him write a sentence and then you write a sentence he dictates? That way he is actually writing down half the story.

    Have you thought about getting your son a pen pal that he could send letters to or email back and forth? Or how about a faraway family member he knows and likes?

    Good luck.
  3. Kathrine

    Kathrine New Member

    We have done the half and half thing where I write a sentence and he writes a sentence. That does often work when he's in the right mood. He did email his fun uncle once but then after that it was old news and he hasn't felt like typing in anything else. Today I got him to write a Christmas list to Santa Claus and he filled up the entire sheet of paper with 3 items because he writes very very large sometimes. I tease him sometimes about writing like he's a giant when he does that. I think I will try the email thing again because it's been a while. I might think of other family members he can write to. I haven't heard of Type to Learn--thanks for mentioning it. I'll look into that too.
    When he was still in regular school I used to get papers with one word written on it and a teacher's note that said "this is all he wrote in an hour and a half." {sigh} It would be nice if I could leave his desk and come back 10 minutes later to find he has written 3 or 4 sentences by himself. That would be a dream come true!
  4. smallworld

    smallworld Moderator

    Anxiety can cause a child to take a long time to get words down on ppaer. And anxiety can look an awful lot like inattentive ADHD.
  5. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Sounds like it could be a learning disability of written expression OR he could have trouble forming the letters. My son is on the autism spectrum, and he's 15. Only now can he write his sentences down well, although he prints (I doubt he will ever be able to write) and now he is learning keyboarding in high school. He's pretty good with one finger...:) Has he ever had a complete evaluation? A neuropsychologist evaluation can pinpoint particular learning problems and you can then know precisely what to do about them. ADHD is not usually a diagnosis that stands alone.
    My son had a special grip for his pencils and occupational therapy as well. Does your son have any other fine motor problems? I'd want an evaluation to make sure you caught everything.
  6. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    MWM, I think you're thinking what I'm thinking. Kathrine, my three younger kids all have problems with hypermobile joints - this has meant that, among other things, handwriting hurts. But when it has always hurt, when to his mind it's normal for it to hurt and surely it's like this for everybody? Something I've discovered with my kids (and myself, in some areas) - when it's always been a certain way for you, you tend to believe it's like that for everyone and as a result you don't comment about it, you just accept it as normal and try to make the best of it. Kids get irritable at the end of the day because they're tired, but they never tell us that's why they're irritable; they would really have to self-analyse and my not realise the cause and effect. For example - my two younger kids have partial face blindness but never commented about it because they didn't realise they were different. They just thought other people were more discerning, or somehow cleverer at recognising people. You know how some people say, "I'm no good with names," when in fact it may not be that at all. And you notice - it's rarely little children who say, "I'm not good with names," because you need to be more elf-aware that you are different to other people in this. And younger children just don't see other people as different in such things, not until they're a lot older and have been looking around more at other people to compare notes.

    So I would suggest an Occupational Therapist (OT) assessment to determine how he grips a pencil, if it hurts and if so where, and how soon. Far more than just sore hands when writing, hangs on this - hypermobile joints unrecognised can and do lead to early osteoarthritis, often before the child is out of their teens.

    I also am seeing hypermobility in a number of kids we know who are also on the autism spectrum. I wouldn't say there is a 100% correlation on this - from what I've seen, some kids on the spectrum do not have hypermobile joints and some people not on the spectrum do. However, it is worth considering.

    What do you do? I think you do what you have been doing. On several levels - you need to encourage increasing skill in use of computer. In our case, difficult child 3 CAN handwrite (of course) but chooses not to unless he has no choice. When he uses a keyboard he composes more text. When he has to handwrite, he chooses his text as economically as possible, to keep to as few letters as possible. He never told us it hurts, we could see how his fingertips bent backwards when he wrote (or played piano) and we did our best to help him improve his skills.

    Computer skills can be improved by practice and by allowing him to play computer games on the computer (using the keyboard). A lot of computer tutor games are fun and worth the effort. difficult child 3 is a fast typist but there are times when I give way and allow him to dictate text - nothing wrong with that now and again.

    Think about the world in which we live - increasingly, we use electronic communication almost exclusively. It's not a problem to let him use a keyboard. Copperplate handwriting is a delightful skill but far less necessary than 50 years ago.

    Practice makes perfect. Support improves the quality of the practice. We're having difficulty with some aspects of this now (in terms of difficult child 3 knowing how to complete certain writing tasks, due to his language issues plus the more subtle "reading between the lines" aspects to the curriculum material.

    If an Occupational Therapist (OT) determines that yes, your son has hypermobile joints, then maybe ask for information about ring splints. we haven't got these but for us it's a bit late. But for you it could be worth checking out. They would stop the fingers from bending back and being 'floppy', and so reduce the pain.

    About the loose joints - you aren't always aware of it yourself. If your finger joints tend to bend backwards, even a little, you try to overcome this by tensing your muscles. This increases your accuracy and control but comes at a price - the muscles tire, fatigue and begin to cramp. The degree depends on how bad the problem is.

    Good luck with this one.

  7. Kjs

    Kjs Guest

    My difficult child has an awful time writing. I first thought it was because he was lazy. Then thought it was because he skipped second grade where you learn cursive. We struggled with this until 7th grade. (many years)

    When he was tested in 7th grade by the school, the school psychiatrist told us that in her observation it is actually "painful" for him to write.

    Several things could attribute to this. One is poor eye muscles. Seems strange I know. Other is how he holds the pen or pencil. Try a larger pencel like the fat ones. Another is that he presses really hard when he writes making his hand tired.

    Fortunately for us, he can type. In 6th grade he took keyboarding and he could type 110 words a minute. (on the computer where you don't have to hit return like in our days). On his IEP he has written that any free form writing assignment can be done on the computer. He has the use of the class computer. Also the alpha smart if he chose, which he does not want.

    Another thing they did (school), is on some of the longer assignments that could not be done at home, the Special Education person took him in another room and orally gave him the assignment. He did wonderful. He can elaborate so well when speaking and not well at all when writing. Like you, a word or two. So any assignments that say a full sentence..he always got wrong.

    We fought over this for years, now not so much of a fight. Since your difficult child is so young, is there something that can be written in his IEP (if he has one) that on SOME assignments he be given orally? That would show he knows the material, just difficult for him to write.

    Good luck
  8. Kathrine

    Kathrine New Member

    Thanks so much everyone! Smallworld--I looked at the Type to Learn program and I ordered it. That program looks a lot more fun than the free internet exercises we had found. I might even break down and let him play something on the computer that is more like a video game. Normally I don't allow anything like video games in our house because they make his ADHD worse. But maybe after he's gotten his schoolwork done already it won't make a difference.
    He does have very good handwriting, especially cursive, but that doesn't mean it might not be hurting when he writes. He will only do very short cursive assignments at a time. That's an interesting thing I'll have to keep a watch for and ask him about. He does complain a lot about his hands being tired, but I always chalked it up as being lazy. After all, everyone's hands get a little tired when they have to do a lot of writing. I wonder if his could be something different.
  9. witzend

    witzend Well-Known Member

    I was thinking of this just the other day. M refused to write, all the way through high school. I was never a big fan of writing, either. I went to Catholic school and our class sizes were huge. I don't ever remember anyone just not doing it, though. It was more than your life was worth to refuse to do work. Anyway, the thing I was wondering about was penmanship. We did penmanship from first grade every day. Mine was always awful, said the nuns. But, it gave me a strong base to build upon. I was wondering if the schools (and home schooling) put an emphasis on penmanship practice anymore?

    M never got over being antagonistic about writing. But he doesn't seem to mind word processing...
  10. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    The others have great ideas. I am wondering if your son could have dysgraphia? My kids all have it to some degree, with jess having the least amt of it.

    dysgraphia is a learning disability, like dyslexia, but it is for writing. There is actuall a disconnect between the hand and brain, so that writing NEVER becomes automatic the way it does for most people. My 3rd grader is learning to type, and has the hypermovile joints, and writes as little as possible and NEVER EVER colored ANYTHING. Hated to color, come to find out when he was about 4 it was the hypermobile joints and the dysgraphia keeping his hands from doing what his brain thought they should do. He gets occupational therapy once a week in school to help with this, and I buy special pencil grips that feel good to him (the ones he likes are about $2.50 at an online Occupational Therapist (OT) shop). While this is much more expensive than many other grips, they work for his left-handedness and they have the right "feel" so they are worth every single penny. I originally ordered one of every type of pencil grip they had, so that we could see what he likes. School hasn't ordered them, but I really don't care to fight about it. They think another grip is better, but it feels 'wrong' and he is very very sensory driven (sensory integration disorder). So I just buy about 10 of these grips every couple of months and send them to school when he can't find his. Last year at one point I walked into his class and EVERY kid was using one of thank you's grips - they had been picking them up to try, and liked them! I did mention it to the teacher and she gently migrated them back, as thank you misplaced another one. He misplaces EVERYTHING, inluding the lenses to his glasses!

    Check out dysgraphia, it just might be what is going on.

  11. Kathrine

    Kathrine New Member

    I did check out dysgraphia before I came here (as much as a person can over the internet.) It doesn't sound like that's what he has. His spelling is very good and his handwriting is very good--esp. cursive. Sometimes his printing is really big, but it's not bad. I will totally look into some pencil grips or different sized pencils. That sounds like an interesting idea.

    Penmanship is very popular among homeschoolers. We use copybooks to practice penmanship while writing quality sentences. Some copybooks contain Scripture passages and other wise sayings. We used one like that for a while. Right now we're using one that contains Latin hymns, sayings, and Bible passages, since he is also studying Latin. My son does not mind copying 2 or 3 lines of cursive practice out of this book.
  12. Ropefree

    Ropefree Banned

    Steady does it Mom! My son is also ADHD. When I pushed for the psychiatric evaluation and testing (which you can as well through SEARCH) handwriting was the lowest score. What is the practical problem here is that all academic work requires writing.....
    for the ADHD learner handwriting is the tight constricted channel through which the other wise vast abilities are funneled for recording evidenced learning.
    As I understand it it is in ADHD speak "boring" and these are fine motor skills that require consintrasion and effort and practice. And these need to be mastered
    early for public schoolers because handwriting is not a focus after elementary school (here anyway)
    The key board and even voice can be used to avoid writing but it does behove us parents to put in the effort to be certain our children are not neglegent of what is a very do able skill.
    What did help was limiting the amount of time to aply these skills ...our ADHD boy had a evidenced 10 minutes where he could focus on redundant and putting in minutes of handwriting with other activities between
    may offer a way to achieve the mastery of the formation of the letters.
    Clearly when the formation of the letters is mastered then the oppertunity to learn to write with rapidity enough to complete sentences and paragraphs and papers will eventually follow.
    Where we were shot down was teacher saying that they could read his handwriting and handwriting is not important.
    Since you are homeschooling you can have an advantage of keeping the
    possitive reinforsements going and just take those little ant steps.
    Our kids are born to learn and they will do it. Thank God for mothers like you who are doing what is specificly needed for the learner and not undermining their success by generalizing.
    Think just assuring the child that they are learning, that they are moving forward toward mastering the skill and that they can do it and you know they can do it and just do not get flustered. That is why schooling lasts
    13-15-18-22 years...there is alot to know.
    Offering different ways and tools is engaging for the ADHD they like novelty. And they also are not inclined to do twice what one time can do.
    The match made for ADHD and the computer world is a mixed bag. The
    controled and changing box oriented life does not teach interactivity with others or fine motor skill like handwriting. Although the use of the keyboard is liberating when the skill is mastered then you still have the problem of math and other areas where the handwriting issue is not going to disapear.
    Do not quess...get the testing done and start with insight into how your child is doing and how they are learning. It is a huge advantage. It is a step toward self understanding and acceptance and the results will give you a footing to ask about matters that otherwise might not occur to you.:laugh::laugh:
  13. Critter Lover

    Critter Lover New Member

    It is very hard to get a child with ADHD to sit down to do anything in a length of time. I was always told to not give them more than a 1/2 hour assignment since you will lose their focus after that and without medications as you have said.....he is probably having trouble filtering out all the noises that could be going on it your house or outside your house. It could be as little as the refridgerator running which would not bother the everyday person that does not have it but they do have trouble filtering noise. I did find that when my son had the ADHD like behavior that he thoroughly enjoyed the Reader Rabbit programs. Do not know if you want to explore that or not but it asks them questions about a story that they just read
    with the help of the program. This is just a thought and every child is different in what will work for them and what will not. I do wish you the best of luck in finding what will help him.
  14. trinityroyal

    trinityroyal Well-Known Member


    I think Marg is onto something with the hypermobile joints.

    difficult child, Little easy child and I all have this to a certain extent.

    difficult child (at 19) is starting to get more comfortable with writing. His Residential Treatment Center (RTC) staff do daily writing exercises with him. He's been using an HB pencil (I think you call these #2 pencils in the U.S.) on construction paper, which seems to work better for him. Something about the amount of pressure you have to exert with the pencil on the construction paper seems to work MUCH better for him than the traditional writing paper and pens.

    I went to a very small, alternative primary school where we had to write with fountain pens. Because you have to write more slowly and carefully, my hands didn't hurt as much or get as tired. (In my case, I think piano lessons were also very helpful as I build up considerable strength in my hands over the years.)

    For Little easy child, giant slightly glossy poster paper and coloured markers seem to be the best fit. His handwriting is much neater when he uses this sort of paper. As with difficult child, the typical lined looseleaf and a ballpoint pen is very hard for him. I haven't yet tried him with a fountain pen, because I suspect I'd have a new paint job on my walls from the ink, but I will soon.

    For all of us, small, palm-sized stress balls really help. It's a bit like finger yoga. I keep mine on my desk and roll my hands over it when they get sore. I also have my chiropractor treat them about once a month. He does a manipulation of the bases of my thumb and finger joints that really seems to ease the pain.

    Ring splints, finger grips and other devices are available, as Marg and Susiestar mentioned, and they seem to help a great deal too.

    Hope you find the things that work best for your son.