ADHD and writing challenges

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If you have ADHD, there are tools to help you express your creative ideas in writing.

People with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can be easily distracted, lack concentration, and have short-term memory, which makes writing difficult. Approaching a writing assignment may require patience to find the strategies and routines that best support you.

It can be difficult to organize your thoughts on paper, but you can take small steps towards completion.

The resources can help you learn to manage your symptoms and overcome any challenges you may face.

The signs and symptoms of ADHD center on inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. So, when presented with a writing task, the following symptoms may hinder your progress:

  • difficulty organizing tasks
  • difficulty maintaining attention
  • inattention to detail
  • procrastination
  • easily distracted by unrelated thoughts or stimuli

Studies show that students with ADHD are impaired in writing tasks that require organization and attention to detail.

For example, a study of middle school students found about 1 of 5 had a writing disability. The same impairment was also found in reading and math, as these areas also require focus and organization.

A 2017 study suggests that ADHD may affect writing performance due to deficits in working memory and attention. Similar studies also show a direct relationship between ADHD and poor writing skills.

But people with ADHD have no shortage of creative ideas. Research published in 2020 suggests that ADHD may be associated with increased creativity, but more research is needed to substantiate this information.

If you are having difficulty writing, there are many strategies that can help you organize your ideas on paper or electronically.

Rating system

Consider a writing topic that interests you. You can then brainstorm using small individual sticky notes to jot down your ideas and thoughts.

This system will allow you to categorize your messages into similar themes. If you like, transfer your brainstorming notes into an outline to better organize your writing.

Start slowly

It can be overwhelming if you try to tackle everything at the same time. Consider focusing only on the first paragraph.

You can write a few sentences and see how it goes. Then move closer to the task, adding more sentences each time until you hit the desired stopping point.

Use a graphic organizer

A graphic organizer, such as a Venn diagram or concept map, can help with memory recall and organizational skills.

Using a graphic organizer can allow you to categorize important topics and break your writing down into manageable steps.

The composition of a paragraph has several layers. It can be helpful to visually organize your creative ideas.

Write in a journal

Writing in a daily journal can be a great way to coordinate your thoughts and practice writing. Plus, brainstorming your ideas for the day can get you started in writing.

Use speech recognition software

Instead of using a keyboard to write down your thoughts, you might find it easier to dictate them.

For example, using text-to-speech software can allow you to speak the sentences that then appear on your computer screen. Then, once your thoughts are on paper, you can build the flow and align similar ideas.

Word prediction software

Word prediction software, such as Grammarly, is great for spell checking, finding the right words, and finding sentence structures. Think of it as a personal writing assistant that makes sure you use correct punctuation and grammar.

Managing your ADHD isn’t always easy. But, while specific tasks may be more difficult for you, such as overcoming procrastination and being organized, they are not impossible.

Consider taking your time when getting started and doing more research to find the tools that are best for you. If you’re not sure where to start, you might find comfort from a trusted friend or loved one to help you put your ideas on paper.

A mental health professional can also provide support and identify a variety of approaches to help you overcome the challenges of writing. You’re not alone.


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