Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
(ADHD) is one of the most common childhood disorders. It can continue through
adolescence and adulthood. Symptoms include difficulty staying focused, paying
attention, and controlling behavior, and hyperactivity.
The percentage of children diagnosed with
ADHD is on the rise. According to the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 7.8
percent of American children were diagnosed with it in 2003. This number had risen
to 9.5 percent by 2007 and 11 percent by 2011.
puts the average age of diagnosis for ADHD at 7 years old. When it comes to
children with severe ADHD, the average age of diagnosis is 5 years old. For those
with mild ADHD, it’s 8 years old. That’s right about the time that parents and
teachers are focusing on children’s penmanship.
There are many signs and symptoms of ADHD.
Some are rather subtle, while others are quite obvious. For example, if your
child has poor behavioral skills, academic difficulties, or problems with motor
skills, it might be a sign of ADHD. Poor handwriting has also been linked to
How can ADHD affect your child’s
According to an article published in Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, many studies have linked ADHD with poor
handwriting. This may reflect the fact that children with ADHD often have
impaired motor skills.
“Motor skills” describe your child’s
ability to perform movements with their body. Gross motor skills are large
movements, such as running. Fine motor skills are small movements, such as
writing. Researchers in the journal Research in Developmental Disabilities report that more than half of children with ADHD
have problems with gross and fine motor skills.
If your child has problems with fine motor
skills, such as “jerky” movements and poor hand control, this can make it hard
for them to write quickly and clearly. As a result, their teachers may label
their work as sloppy or messy. Their peers may judge them too, especially
during group projects that require your child to work with others. These
experiences might lead to feelings of frustration and low self-esteem, which
can negatively affect your child’s performance
at school and in other areas. Among other
issues, they may start to avoid assignments that require lots of handwriting.
If your child is experiencing a lot of
trouble with handwriting, make an appointment with their doctor. It may be a
sign of ADHD or another disorder. If your child has already been diagnosed with ADHD, ask their doctor
about treatment and training strategies that might help them write more easily
How is ADHD diagnosed and treated?
There’s no single test available to
diagnose ADHD. To check your child for ADHD, their doctor will start by
conducting a complete medical examination. If your child shows signs of six
or more symptoms related to inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, their
doctor will likely diagnose them with ADHD. Those symptoms must be evident at
home and school. They must last for six months or more.
If your child is diagnosed
with ADHD, their doctor will recommend a treatment plan. It may include a
combination of medications, behavioral therapy, counseling, and lifestyle
changes. Some treatments may help improve their handwriting skills, as well as
other symptoms of ADHD.
study published in the Journal of Attention Disorders suggests that stimulant medication may help improve handwriting
legibility and speed among children with ADHD. But the authors caution that medication
alone may not be enough. Children who had poor handwriting at the beginning of
the study continued to have problems at the end. In other words, their
handwriting got better with medication, but there was still room for
Another study in the journal CNS & Neurological Disorders examined the effects of medication and motor
skills training on children with ADHD. Children who received motor skills
training alone, or in combination with medication, showed improvements in their
gross and fine motor skills. In contrast, those who received medication alone
showed no improvements.
Special motor skills training, with or
without medication, might help your child develop better handwriting skills.
What are other causes of poor handwriting?
ADHD isn’t the only condition that can
cause poor handwriting. If your child has poor penmanship or struggles to
write, it might be a sign of another development disorder, such as:
Developmental coordination disorder
Developmental coordination disorder (DCD)
is a condition that causes motor difficulties. If your child has this
condition, they will appear uncoordinated and clumsy. They will likely have
poor penmanship too. It’s possible for them to have both DCD and ADHD.
Written language disorder
Written language disorder (WLD) is another
condition that can cause poor penmanship. If your child has WLD, they will be
developmentally behind their peers in reading, spelling, or writing skills. But
the condition won’t affect their overall intelligence.
A study published in the journal Pediatrics
found a link between ADHD and WLD. The investigators also found that girls with
ADHD are at higher risk of WLD and reading disabilities than boys.
Your child might also have a learning
disability known as dysgraphia. This condition will affect their ability to
organize letters and numbers. It will also make it difficult for them to keep
words on a straight line.
Other causes of handwriting issues
- vision problems
- sensory processing
- dyslexia, a language
- other learning
- brain injury
Your child’s doctor can help you identify
the cause of their writing challenges.
What’s the takeaway?
Even as our reliance on technology grows,
handwriting remains an important element in early education. Strong handwriting
can help your child succeed in school and in life. It requires a wide range of
skills, including thought organization, concentration, and motor coordination.
All of these skills are affected by ADHD.
If you suspect that your child has ADHD,
make an appointment with the doctor. If they struggle with handwriting, certain
treatment or training strategies may help them improve their fine motor skills.
Improved handwriting skills may lead to better overall school performance and
higher levels of self-confidence.