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ADHD and Handwriting Problems

LD and ADD/ADHD Expert Advice from Eileen S. Marzola, Ed.D.

Q: My seven-year-old son was diagnosed with ADHD three years ago. After trying all the other methods of modification, we turned to Ritalin nine months ago. My son's teacher has informed me on several occasions that his handwriting skills are not up to grade level, he's sloppy, he retraces the letters repeatedly, etc. He's left-handed, if that has anything to do with his messiness. I asked his teacher to have him evaluated by the language arts counselor at school. I believe that he just hasn't made the cognitive connection yet with handwriting. Should I get him extra help? Should I consult his pediatrician about these difficulties? Is ADHD a common cause for this problem?

A: Many children with ADHD have handwriting difficulties and, for some of them, this problem improves when they begin medication. But others need direct instruction in the formation of the letters. Children who are left-handed often have additional difficulties when they're taught by a right-handed teacher. If an occupational therapist is working with children at your school, I would contact that person first. If that's not an option, perhaps your pediatrician can give you a referral.

The use of a pencil grip to reinforce proper positioning of the hand can be helpful. Also use a well-sequenced writing program like Handwriting Program for Printing by Phyllis Bertin and Eileen Perlman (they also have one for teaching cursive writing that's written just for lefties), published by Educator's Publishing Service 1-800-225-5750. Or Handwriting without Tears by Jan Z. Olsen, an occupational therapist, (website is www.hwtears.com; phone 301-983-8409) can be very helpful.

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For more than 20 years, Eileen Marzola has worked with children and adults with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders, and with their parents and teachers. She has been a regular education classroom teacher, a consultant teacher/resource teacher, an educational evaluator/diagnostician, and has also taught graduate students at the university level. Marzola is an adjunct assistant professor of education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and Hunter College of the City University of New York. She also maintains a private practice in the evaluation and teaching of children with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders.


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