August 23, 2011

Reading, Writing Issues Appear In Many ADHD Sufferers


Children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are found to be more likely to suffer writing problems such as poor spelling and grammar than their peers, a new study is suggesting, and the difference may be especially conspicuous in girls with the disorder, Reuters Health is reporting.

Reading and math problems often cause concern for teachers and parents, but “written-language disorder is kind of overlooked,” said study author Dr. Slavica Katusic, from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

If writing issues are not noticed early on and addressed in children with ADHD, they can suffer long into adulthood, Katusic explained. Writing “is a critical skill for academic success, social and behavioral well-being,” she added.

The current study included close to 6,000 children that Katusic and her colleagues tracked with school, tutoring and medical records to see which kids showed signs of ADHD, as well as how well they performed on writing, reading and general intelligence tests through the high school years.

In total, 379 of the kids fit the criteria for ADHD, which was found to be more common in boys than girls the authors reported in Pediatrics. Of all kids in the study, just over 800 scored poorly on tests of writing abilities. Most of the children who had trouble with writing also had difficulty reading.

For girls, 57 percent with ADHD had a writing problem, compared to less than 10 percent without ADHD. And girls with ADHD were almost ten times more likely to have a combination of writing and reading disorders compared to girls without the condition.

Issues with memory and planning in children with ADHD may affect the writing process, the authors explain, and ADHD has been linked to learning disorders in the past. Annette Majnemer has studied handwriting in kids with ADHD at McGill University in Montreal, Canada and claims that many with the disorder seem to have difficulty with that component of writing.

“It might be partially the fact that they´re inattentive and distractable and hyperactive,” she told Reuters Health. It´s also possible that motor skills and coordination problems are partly to blame, said Majnemer, who was not involved in the new research.

Katusic added that genetics might be behind both ADHD and some writing problems, but that in general, it´s very hard to tease out exactly how ADHD is linked to writing and reading disorders.

Individual education plans and treatments for ADHD can address some of those related difficulties, Katusic said, especially if they´re started when problems first arise. “When parents notice something or teachers notice something, (kids) have to be treated not only for ADHD, but they have to be tested to see if they have other learning problems,” she said.

“Clinicians and the teachers have to emphasize that the testing has to be done for everything, every kind of learning disability,” Katusic said. “It has to be identified early and the treatment has to start early.”


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