For my topic of study, I chose to learn more about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD. In my 5 years of teaching, this is the most prevalent problem that I notice with my students and the one that I need to address in order for my students to succeed. While I have made accommodations in my classroom, I am a strong believer in always trying to do more.
For this study, I chose to specifically look at the problem of handwriting. Handwriting has been a visible issue that I have noticed with many of my students over the years, and after doing some research I found that this is not atypical. In fact, it seems that many students that have ADHD also struggle with handwriting skills. In Marie Racine's article entitled "Handwriting Performance in Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder", Racine states that in addition to academic challenges, many students with ADHD also suffer from motor skill impairments. In fact, "The prevalence of motor impairment in the ADHD population has been estimated to be approximately 50%" according to a study mentioned in the article. (Racine 2008) This was particularly interesting to me because previous to reading this, I was under the impression that the poor handwriting was caused due to rushing and carelessness more than to an actual physiological factor. While rushing and carelessness can be a factor, is important not to overlook the motor impairments suffered by some students.
As a writing teacher, it is important that I understand the ideas that my students are trying to convey so that I can help them grow as writers. If I cannot read the child's handwriting, I am missing ideas that the student is trying to share with me. There are a ton of technology resources around that can assist students with their writing, the trick is to find something that allows students to be successful, but still hold them accountable for learning what is necessary. For one of my students who struggles with handwriting because of rushing, I let him type his daily writing entries. Typing forces him to slow down and think about each letter he is writing. Not only do I not have to worry about trying to read his handwriting, but he is also spelling more words correctly, using correct punctuation, and self correcting grammar mistakes.
I hadn't considered motor impairments as a cause for poor handwriting in ADHD students before, but it makes sense. For students with handwriting difficulties caused by motor impairments, simply typing may present more challenges than it is solving. One way to address this would be to use speech-to-text software. This would allow the student to speak what they want written and have their ideas to be presented without the distraction of handwriting, typing, grammar, etc... One of my favorite tools that I found is called "Online Dictation". It is online, free, and simple enough for even the youngest students to use as long as you have Google Chrome 11 installed. To operate, simply click "Start Dictation". When the student is finished, you can copy and paste the text, export it to Google Drive, download to your computer, send it to DropBox, or email it. Like any dictation program, it is not perfect, specifically with names, punctuation, and nonstandard speech, so it is important to stress the importance of rereading the resulting text.
I tested Online Dictation for myself using the first two paragraphs of this blog entry (see image below). I was impressed with the accuracy of the dictation, but would need to go back and add punctuation marks and correct words, such as "Russian" before considering it finished. It is obvious that during my speaking, I was clipping the -g from the word rushing. This may also have an added benefit for students that use this program regularly; it may improve the clarity of their speech.
I think that students with ADHD would enjoy seeing their words turned to text and would also be more likely to reread and proofread because they will want to see how well their words were recorded. I would be cautious about overusing this technology however. Allowing a student to become reliant on speech-to-text software could hinder his or her growth in other areas such as spelling, and will obviously do nothing to improve the actual skill of handwriting. Using this type of technology would definitely need to be used in moderation but could be an invaluable tool when you are looking to gauge a students understanding and ideas rather than spelling and/or handwriting.
Racine, M. B., Majnemer, A., Shevell, M., & Snider, L. (2008). Handwriting performance in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Journal of Child Neurology, 23(4), 399-406. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0883073807309244
I'm Edie - wife, mom, teacher, instructional designer, home renovator,
and lover of nature, travel, technology, and vintage campers!