Improving Written Language in ADHD Children

Written language skills are often an area that is in need of development for children with ADHD. As an Educational Psychologist working with students that attend Hong Kong International Schools, I meet a great many teachers and parents seeking strategies for improving this area of a child’s functioning. In my continuing series on non-medical interventions for ADHD, the next few articles will focus on developing written language skills.

The study outlined in this article was published by Graham Harries in the Handbook of Learning Disabilities. The technique utilised was called Self Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD). There were three children in the study with ADHD who scored below the 20th percentile on written language tests and they were all taking medication. The target of the study was to measure increases in number of story parts and words and whole quality.

Students were taught goal setting, self monitoring and reinforcement. The intervention was implemented for nine weeks with the emphasis on effort and strategy use in learning as well as making the improvement visible through self monitoring and graphing. Mnemonic devices were used such as “POW”, “Plan my Ideas”, “Organise my Notes”, “Write and Say More”. The instruction was provided by teachers and teaching assistants and strategies and responsibility were slowly shift to the student at their pace. Basically the students were taught to self monitor the number of story parts and number of words they used in written expression tasks. The results were graphed as they moved along so that they had on going performance feedback. This helped the students learn to write more independently and automatically and they could have guided practice until they achieved mastery.

Results suggested that two out of three students in the study showed increases in their written expression skills and there was also some decrease in overall inattention symptoms based on teacher ratings.

Studies such as these using behavioural interventions for ADHD help to provide further evidence that non-medical interventions can be useful in helping these children cope with their difficulties. Interventions such as the one described above are certainly not a quick or inexpensive fix, but if schools are willing to put a bit of resources into these sorts of interventions it can likely provide short and long term benefits to children with ADHD.

For more information, feel free to check out these resources.