ADHD Help With the Writing Process

Cognitive writing process:

People with learning disabilities, like ADHD, might have difficulty organizing a written project, identifying themes or ideas, structuring sentences or paragraphs, or identifying and/or correcting grammar errors.

  • Use Inspiration software, a computerized graphic organizer
  • Use Texthelp Read & Write Gold, a software program assisting with spelling, reading, and grammar
  • Provide electronic/talking dictionaries and spellcheckers
  • Create written forms to prompt the writer for information needed
  • Allow the individual to create a verbal response instead of a written response
  • Permit use of reference books such as a thesaurus or dictionary

This information was provided by the Job Accommodation Network Website.


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The last semester of 2005, I took Comp I in college. The whole course was about writing essays. I graduated high school in 1996 and that was almost a 10 year gap. I could not remember how to write one.

The assignment on our first day was to write an essay. I couldn't even finish 1 paragraph. It was very upsetting. I was about to start crying because I was so upset and frustrated.

I was in class fighting with myself. The battle was over leaving and never coming back or staying and explaining to the professor about my ADHD problem.

I spent more time with this battle than with the writing process. I went and talked to Dr. Margaret Dickerson, the Comp I Professor, and told her that I have ADHD.

She told me that she understood ADHD because she studied special education and disabilities in college. I was shocked. She understood ADHD. The pressure fell off of me fast.

She told me that I would be ok and that I could do it. The essay was a preliminary to find out where each student's writing ability was. Since I did not complete much, it was ok because she could see where my ability was.

Even thought I couldn't complete the writing process, I was relieved.

She let me know that she would work with me through out the semester and that if I wanted an A, I could earn one. I didn't believe her about the A but I was feeling good.

I couldn't believe I wanted to run away from this.

Throughout the semester, I struggled and fought with myself to write essays. It took me 3 weeks to write one and they were always 2 pages to many. I shed many tears and beat the pillow many times. I stayed up in agony quite often trying to put something on paper.

My wife Erin, suffered with me. She supported me everytime I had to write. At times she was up all night with me going through the writing process.

I was not an easy person to work with.

There were times when I did not have my essay finished in time. I beat myself up over this and I knew I was going to get an F. When I talked to Dr. Dickerson, she said that it was ok and asked me what I needed to finish. Many times she gave me an extension on time and helped me at the parts I was stuck.

At the college, there is a writing center to help people write. There are notebooks with student's writings that were exceptional. These notebooks are for other students to use as examples if they need an idea.

From the semester in Comp I, I have 3 or 4 essays in the notebooks. In my class, I think only a couple people had 1 of their own placed in it.

To end this story about myself and writing, I earned an A in Comp I. My Last essay that I wrote was completed from start to finish in 1 day.

I gained confidence through this experience and I also learned that I need to let others know what is going on instead of running.

My Tips on Helping an ADHD Person with the Writing Process

  • Be supportive and encourage (Have this kind of person around you)
  • Just put your thoughts on paper and come back later and organize it
  • Vocalize your thoughts to a audio recorder and play it back
  • Be at ease and take many breaks as needed
  • Encourage yourself and tell yourself that you can do it
  • Know that it doesn't have to be perfect
  • Let the person that you are writing for know if you need more time
  • Let the person that you are writing for know if you are having difficulties
  • Let others help you
  • Go to a college (Community College) with small, intimate classroom settings

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